In 1960, the organization changed its name to the Newman Club. Like similar organizations, the club was named in honor of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, an influential Catholic thinker on university life who encouraged Catholic students to form societies to support their growth in faith.
The club’s chaplain in the early 1960s, Fr. Raymond Kriege, recognized the need for a physical building to house the Catholic community on campus. The archdiocese bought the current building on Downer Avenue, and the permanent chapel was dedicated by Archbishop William E. Cousins in 1963.
In the five decades since its founding, the center has provided students with access to a rich sacramental life and the opportunity for growth in their faith during the formative years of their college education.
Couple called to revitalize program
When the Kinsmans became involved with the Newman Center in 2010, attendance at community center events was down. The Tuesday night student supper, one of the center’s main social events, averaged about eight participants per week.
The Kinsmans felt called to help revitalize the center and its programs.
Their first goal was to renovate the facility itself to provide a more welcoming, comfortable environment for students to gather. Next, they initiated a broad-ranging publicity effort to make the center and its activities known to the UWM student body.
The Kinsmans updated the website and worked with students to publicize Newman Center events. They also began using social media and text messaging to keep in contact with students. Dan said he sometimes sends out more than 200 text messages in a single day, keeping students connected to the campus Catholic community.
Student supper one of most popular events
The weekly student supper has again become one of the most popular events at the center, with attendance sometimes reaching 100 students.
Dawn emphasized events like this, though valuable for their own sake, also serve as a gateway for a richer participation in the sacramental life of the church.
“The point of the Tuesday night dinners is to get students to the real meal, the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our faith,” Dawn said.
Other events include movie nights, Packer game day parties, and community service opportunities. A recent special event was a benefit concert with the African Children’s Choir, which raised money for orphans of the AIDS pandemic.
Couple’s love led to 50th anniversary event
The idea to host a celebration of the center’s 50th anniversary came from the Kinsmans’ conversation with August Mortellaro, a Newman Club member when the facility opened. He remembers painting and doing repairs to prepare the center, which is where he also met his wife MaryAnn through participation in the Newman Club.
When MaryAnn died in 2012, Mortellaro and his family directed memorial donations to the Newman Center.
“MaryAnn and I had been aware of many Newman Club activities over the nearly 49 years of our marriage,” said Mortellaro. “I visited and found that not only had the club grown enormously but in speaking to several students, found that it is still a very meaningful part of student life as it had been for us in the early ‘60s.”
The anniversary celebration will bring Newman Center alumni together for the first time to celebrate the center’s impact on the university and the broader community.
Center’s growth is ‘sign of hope’
The Kinsmans see the Newman Center’s history, as well as the growth and enthusiasm surrounding its ministries, as a sign of hope within the church.
“We feel that we are at the forefront of the new evangelization,” said Dave.
To the Kinsmans, the most effective evangelization the Newman Center can offer is to be a place where students feel comfortable asking questions. They’ve seen Catholic and non-Catholic students alike find community at the Newman Center, leading to deeper exploration of the Catholic faith.
Kimmy McGinnis, a UWM junior, was introduced to the Newman Center by accident. She and a friend were going for a run and were greeted by Dave, outside the center grilling burgers for the student supper.
McGinnis stayed for a burger and came back for other events. She said she was drawn in by the warmth and caring she observed in the Newman Center community.
“Everyone was so welcoming and genuinely cared about getting to know each other,” she said.
McGinnis became a retreat leader, and said it has helped her own faith grow.
“By helping others discover their faith, I have developed a strong faith, and I could not see my life any other way,” she said.
Although the Kinsmans facilitate all of the Newman Center’s activities, they work with student leadership from the two student organizations housed at the center, the Catholic Student Newman Association and the Aquinas Club.
“Our goal is to keep students included in the vision and direction the center is going,” Dave said.
Plans to expand evangelization efforts
Jacklyn Kostichka, a UWM sophomore majoring in dance and psychology, welcomes the Kinsmans’ plans to expand the center’s efforts to evangelize at UWM. She is excited to be part of those plans as a student leader.
“I think that it will be very good for me,” Kostichka said. “It requires me to become more prayerful, to ask for mercy and help, and to find my way of leading in the way he wants me to be,” she said.
She emphasized the importance of the Newman Center in the lives of UWM students.
“There is a lot of diversity and the Newman Center always has open doors and open hearts,” Kostichka said.
“Many kids come to college with the notion of partying 24/7, when there are really so many other great opportunities to spend your time,” she said. “The Newman Center is such an amazing experience, even if you are not Catholic. To spend time with people who have good morals, and genuinely care about one another is something people should treasure.”
Internship program being developed
Dave Kinsman speaks laughingly of a “holy discontentment” that motivates them to continue to come up with new ideas and expand the center’s offerings.
One idea is the Catholic Student Internship program, which is being developed. The goal of this program is to support students in discovering their unique gifts and how they can share those gifts in faith. Participants will be connected with members of the Catholic community who might facilitate their development personally and professionally.
“We want students to find the source of what makes them come alive – as God created them to be,” Dave said.
Ultimately, the Kinsmans hope students’ experiences at the Newman Center will form them to be engaged in the life of the campus and later their communities as servant leaders.
“The mission of the Newman Center can be summed up in two words,” said Dawn. “Love. Serve.” Therese Goode, Special to your Catholic Herald