What started as the first religious club on campus has announced its plans to grow via a multi-million dollar project, with church doors opening as early as 2020.
The St. Paul’s Newman Center unveiled a pledge drive to the public Saturday night that hopes to raise an additional $12 million by 2018. Donors have already pledged $9 million to the expansion.
Church leaders made the announcement at a banquet at the Ramada in downtown Fargo.
James Cheney, the campus chapel’s priest, called this project the “biggest event in the history of the Newman Center.”
Growing to keep up
In 1928, North Dakota Agricultural College had almost 1,300 students on campus. Of that population, 36 formed the Catholic Students Club.
Today, North Dakota State University has 14,432 students. Thousands of these students identify as Catholic.
“Let’s build upon this success,” said Cheney, the 14th director in the history of the Newman Center.
This project, which church officials have dubbed #MoveNewmanForward, wouldn’t be the first time the chapel rebuilt itself.
The first EF-5 tornado ever recorded destroyed the student club’s first permanent home in 1957. From the insurance, church leaders began building the chapel that stands today.
Cheney said the building has seen better days, calling it “an asbestos bomb that’s run its life cycle,” with a laugh.
Tyler Losinski, a computer science major and the Newman Center’s Knights of Columbus Grand Knight, said the chapel is “in desperate need of an upgrade.”
The proposed 70,000-square foot expansion would take up the entire block where the current Newman Center stands, on the corner of 12th Avenue North and University Drive. It would include larger chapel and a faith-based housing complex called Roers Hall.
Jim and Sandra Roers were recognized Saturday after pledging a $3 million donation to the project. Jim Roers runs Roers Development and is seeking election in the North Dakota Senate.
Cheney said the expansion will provide a “physical and emotional safe space” where it’s “OK to be a Christian.”
Voices of support
Curtis Martin, the founder and CEO of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, called NDSU’s Newman Center best performing chapel in the nation.
Four women have entered the sisterhood in the last 12 years at the Newman Center. Nine men have joined the seminary just in the last three years.
Martin said it’s hindered, though, by its small size.
Kendra Evans, a freshman studying business administration and a singer in the choir, said the building could use an expansion.
“It gets pretty crowded during mass, and there’s never an empty pew.”
Support ranges from church to campus leaders.
Bishop John Folda called the expansion an “enormously important project.”
“It’s a perfect point of transition between the campus and the surrounding communities,” President Dean Bresciani said Monday on Real Presence Radio, calling it a “win-win for everybody.”
Losinski said he supported the project as well, even though he will be graduated by 2020.
“I won’t be able to enjoy it as a student, but I will be able to come back and see it when I graduate,” he said, noting his appreciation for all the opportunities the center has offered him during his time at NDSU.
“The Newman Center has brought a huge sense of community to my college experience,” he said.
“It takes a herd to move this forward,” Sandra Roers said.