Last Friday, professor Howard Rosenberg, introduced the second annual Newman Presentation, a talk and reception created to foster discussions between people from diverse backgrounds and generations. The evening opened at Our Lady of Wisdom to a crowd of 137 religious and nonreligious students and visitors.

Rosenberg, a former regent for the Nevada System of Higher Education, will retire at the end of the spring semester after teaching for 55 years. He came to this year’s and last year’s talks because of his ties to John and Rita Marschall, for whom the Newman Presentation is named. Rosenberg, who teaches film criticism, said he believes strongly in exposing people to new perspectives.

“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, pastor at Our Lady of Wisdom since 2014. Mamo said the annual event is meant primarily for students, and parishioners and those around the Roman Catholic Diocese of Reno sponsored 15 student tickets and welcomed a larger crowd.

This year’s event also raised $534 in a collection that goes to the parish’s Needy Fund. The fund provides food, transportation and other assistance to students, parishioners and local residents.

In addition to Rosenberg, the panel featured Mamo, Richard Siegel, past president of American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, Paige dePolo, UNR Honors Class of 2016 alumna. UNR physics lecturer Kristen Lewis, Ph.D., moderated.

The event, including a panel and dinner themed, “Responding to Reality Distorted,” approached truth from perspectives of politics, science and theological reflection – a conversational process of understanding relationships with God through experiences, history and culture. Rosenberg felt the topic especially relevant with regard to recent “fake news” trends.

Students and parishioners warmly welcomed guests, particularly dePolo, well-known among the Reno Catholic community for her past work as a student coordinator. Former coworkers also returned for the talk.

“The answer is … through media,” said dePolo. “That’s how people get their science.” She stressed the importance of scientists, especially women in science, telling their stories.

Our Lady of Wisdom Newman Center is a place dedicated to providing a space for students from all backgrounds to meet, to rest, and to engage with faith thoughtfully. This year marks the second annual John and Rita Marschall Newman Presentation, created to refresh a tradition of the old Center for the 21st century.

“I don’t think you can possibly talk about the Newman Center without the Center for Religion and Life,” Rosenberg said.

In 1968, the Newman Center started an interfaith council called the UNR Center for Religion and Life. Past University President Joe Crowley, who attended the 2017 inaugural Newman Presentation and was a political science professor in 1968, called the council “an extraordinary operation.”

Our Lady of Wisdom, like many Newman Centers across the country, also offers ecumenical, or non-denominational, prayers as part of weekly evening activities. “One of the things that I love about Reno is that it is a remarkably cosmopolitan city that a lot of people don’t recognize,” Rosenberg said. The Center strives to recognize that diversity.

During the panel, Siegel said John Marschall was one of his closest friends. Rosenberg, who once taught Rita Marschall, admired John’s ecumenical approach to religion. Rosenberg recalls a time around 1973 when he taught film criticism and took a class to the Center to discuss “The Exorcist.” John Marschall was a director of the Center at the time and welcomed the discussion then as the Newman Presentation in his name strives to today.

“If every person takes responsibility for civility, takes the responsibility for patience … and then go[es] back out and do[es] it tomorrow,” dePolo said. “I think that it’s going to get a lot better.”

As for Rosenberg, he plans to retire right here in Reno.

Daniel Lang can be reached at mpurdue@sagebrush.unr and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.