Newman Center reaches a milestone

“The world may be dark. Penn may be stressful. But God continues to delight in us,” says Gabrielle Ramos, the current president of the Penn Catholic Newman Community’s student executive board.

Front facade and stone courtyard of Penn's Newman Center.
Over multiple locations and cultural changes, the country’s oldest Newman Club has helped shape the spiritual and social lives of Penn’s Catholic community. (Image: The Pennsylvania Gazette)

For Ramos, the Newman Center is a refuge where she can draw strength from her faith and inspiration from her fellow students and the center staff, which includes a priest appointed by the Philadelphia Archdiocese and a team of campus lay ministers. Together, they are “building the kingdom of God, here in University City,” she says.

Ramos is the latest in a line of Penn students who’ve found a home at the Newman Center stretching back to Timothy Harrington, a graduate medical student who founded the very first club to bear the name here on campus in 1893. To mark its 125-year anniversary, the Newman community held a celebration in October, which featured panel discussions and speakers, masses and prayers, as well as a beer garden, dinners, and a gala.

Financial constraints, declining attendance at the center, and the renovation of St. Agatha-St. James church in the 2000s prompted church authorities to consolidate Newman programs at Penn and Drexel University, which up until then had been separate. The center’s latest home—inaugurated at the 125th anniversary celebration—is in a renovated space in the former parish school and the lower level of the adjacent St. Agatha-St. James church building.

Mass attendance has rebounded by 20 percent in recent years, according to parish records. 

Read more at The Pennsylvania Gazette.