Earlier this month, former University of Nevada, Reno, President Joe Crowley joined a group of guests for the Newman Presentation, a night dedicated to creating unity and connection between people from diverse faith backgrounds and generations. The evening opened at Our Lady of Wisdom to a crowd of 125 religious and nonreligious students and visitors.
“My purpose in doing this was to revive the Catholic intellectual tradition and to reconnect with people … [who were] here 50 years ago,” said Rev. Nathan Mamo, the pastor at Our Lady of Wisdom since 2014.
Besides Catholics, attendees included Methodist and Lutheran ministers, as well as those from Jewish communities.
The event was the first of an annual speaker and reception series at Our Lady of Wisdom and raised $729 in ticket sales that went to their Needy Fund. The fund provides food, transportation and other assistance to students, parishioners and local residents.
Next year, Mamo hopes to expand the audience of the interfaith speaker series with a larger venue.
In addition to Crowley, Mamo identified Richard Siegel, past president of American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, Howard Rosenberg, past member of the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents, and Randolph Calvo, Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Reno, as guests at the event.
Our Lady of Wisdom Newman Center is a place dedicated to providing a space for students from all backgrounds to interact and have fun while sharing their faith. This year marks the first John and Rita Marschall Newman Presentation, created to refresh a tradition of the old Center for the 21st century.
In 1968, the Newman Center started an interfaith council called the UNR Center for Religion and Life. Crowley, a political science professor at the time, called the council “an extraordinary operation.”
Newman Centers gained their name in honor of Blessed John Henry Newman, who sought to create a religious place where all were welcomed.
During Newman’s lifetime, Catholics had few opportunities to express their faiths at public universities. In 1888, a Catholic Club at Oxford University was renamed in his honor. Over 2,000 Newman Centers exist around the world at public universities today.
“‘Heart speaks to heart,’” was his motto, said Fr. Jack Ryan, pastor of the University of Hawaii Newman Center in Honolulu. Our Lady of Wisdom invited Ryan as the first speaker for the Newman Presentation, held on Feb. 10.
“The more people you can give hope to, the more you’re living the Lord’s mission,” Ryan said.
As a whole, Newman Centers are known for being more progressive in their teachings than traditional church communities. Like Our Lady of Wisdom, many offer ecumenical, or non-denominational, prayers as part of weekly evening activities.
Vatican II, or the Second Vatican Council, were meetings during the early 1960s of bishops and leaders from around the world, which reformed the modern Catholic Church.
The Vatican II, “[allows] for Catholics to pray with other Christian denominations, encouraged friendship with other non-Christian faiths, and opened the door for languages besides Latin to be used during Mass,” said NPR in a report.
“Father John [Marschall] was deeply committed to such re-visioning [of Vatican II],” wrote Larry Marshall, in a program distributed at the Newman Presentation.
In the program, Marshall wrote that Rev. John Marschall and Reverend Dr. John Dodson of the Methodist church created an ecumenical [religiously inclusive] plan for Reno.
With approval from the Protestant community and Catholic Bishop Michael Green, who attended Vatican II, the historic UNR Center for Religion and Life began.
Yet the actions of Green’s successor, Bishop Norman McFarland, an “arch-conservative” according to Crowley, led the group to disband. McFarland spent his ten-year term trying to free the diocese of its debt, reported Press-Telegram. However, by 1977, financial burdens plagued the nonprofit, despite McFarland’s efforts, so he withdrew from funding. By limiting support, the diocese “… strained relations between the center’s Catholic and Protestant supporters,” reported the Reno Gazette-Journal. The ecumenical group ended after a nine-year run.