Blessed Cardinal Newman

John Henry Newman was born on February 21, 1801 the eldest son of a London banker. As a young man, he studied at Trinity College, Oxford and came under the influence of other colleagues who taught him to think critically about theology. He was a successful student and very well-read. He was elected to a coveted Fellowship of leading Oriel College. He was ordained an Anglican priest and worked as a curate and later a Vicar of the University Church Oxford and had a charismatic influence on his parishioners and members of the community. He worked as a tutor and later began to research many theological works which put him at the forefront of religious writers. His studies of the Church Fathers led him to contemplate conversion. He withdrew from Oxford and for three years led a very strict religious life, praying for light and guidance. In 1845, he knew his path lay within Catholicism and on 9 October, he was received into the Roman Catholic Church.

His choice to convert to Catholicism ostracized him from family and friends. Undeterred, he set out to study for the priesthood and was ordained a priest in Rome. He returned to England and founded the first Oratorian Congregation in Birmingham, with a second in London and established the Oratory School in Birmingham. In 1851 the Bishops of Ireland decided that there should be a separate University for Catholic students. Newman became its founder, establishing what is known today as University College Dublin.

In 1879, Pope Leo XIII made John Henry Newman a Cardinal in tribute to his extraordinary work and devotion. At his death in 1890, it was said that he had done more than any other person to change the attitude of non-Catholics towards Catholics. 20,000 people lined the streets to pay their respects at his funeral. Newman's beatification was officially proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI on September 19, 2010 during his visit to the United Kingdom.

In the 1800s, Newman wrote that “religious truth is not only a portion, but a condition of general knowledge.” Catholics who attend non-Catholic university are likely to have encountered one of these centers inspired by the 19th-century Catholic intellectual.

The “Newman Movement” in the United States began in 1883 at the University of Wisconsin to help Catholics live their faith on campus. Newman Centers have been places for ecumenical and interfaith dialogs and rallying posts for social justice efforts.