There appears to be an explosion of wonderful Newman Centers in the upper Midwest these days. I just discovered the John Paul II Newman Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Among their neato nifty things they have there is the Integritas Institute for Ethics, which helps students at UIC become properly formed in Christian ethical decision-making in business, the health care. I've recently added the St. John's Catholic Newman Center at UI in Champaign to my list of Higher Ed sites. They have a wonderful St. John's Institute for Catholic Thought that co-sponsored the debate between D'Sousa and Loftus that I posted on recently. Finally there is the St. Paul's University Catholic Center, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with its wildly successful evangelization efforts. I discovered this Center one winter day while I was attending a Junior Classical League Convention. I was walking down State Street, saw the sign, and thought, "Oh no! A Newman Center!" My limited previous knowledge of Newman Centers had been that they were anemic at best in their presentation of the Catholic faith and misleading at worst. I walked in and found myself in the midst of a beautiful exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. It was like entering heaven on earth--the peace of the chapel vs. the sometimes demonic chaos of State street. It is wonderful that Jesus is there.
What a lot of the new breed of Newman Centers have in common is a dedication not only to the spiritual, ethical and devotional life of the students, but also the intellectual formation--especially in the Catholic intellectual and cultural tradition. I think a Newman center that does not do this in a robust manner for its students at a secular university is failing miserably.