SEATTLE – When lifelong Catholic Clare Beusch of Olympia began her freshman year at the University of Washington, she headed to Prince of Peace Catholic Newman Center across from campus to attend Mass.
That winter, while attending one of the center’s retreats, her faith took on deeper meaning. “I understood the importance of what it meant to be Catholic,” said Beusch, who grew up attending Mass at St. Michael Parish in Olympia and St. Martin’s Abbey in Lacey.
Her involvement at the Newman Center grew, and she eventually became a peer minister. Beusch was one of six students living at the center to help run the ministries for parishioners living on and around the Seattle campus.
To accommodate the growing number of Catholics who attend Mass and participate in its programs, the UW Newman Center is about to undergo a $5 million expansion project. The 9,700-square-foot center will grow by 5,000 square feet, allowing for a larger chapel, a new student resource center and enlarged meeting space.
“We hope we can be a resource not just for the university, but for the greater Catholic community,” said Dominican Father Jordan Bradshaw, the center’s director. The Dominicans, who have had a presence in Seattle for 110 years, also operate nearby Blessed Sacrament Parish.
Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain said the Newman Center provides a place where young Catholics can be nourished spiritually and pastorally, receiving the word of God and the sacraments “to strengthen and guide them” at a critical stage of their lives.
Built in 2001, the Prince of Peace Catholic Newman Center has seen a significant increase in Catholic students and community members who call the center their spiritual home. Ground will be broken in June for a 5,000-square-foot expansion of the Prince of Peace Catholic Newman Center. The $5 million project includes enlarging the chapel, creating a narthex and expanding space for meetings, offices and peer-minister living quarters. Photo: Courtesy Prince of Peace Catholic Newman Center
Space is at a premium
The Newman Center has experienced a lot of growth as it ministers to a university attended by an estimated 8,000 Catholics, as well as the surrounding area, including a large Asian Catholic community, according to Father Bradshaw. The center has more than 800 registered parishioners, including UW students, faculty and staff.
The Newman Center offers four Masses on Sunday as well as daily Mass, confession two days a week, adoration on Wednesday nights and Spanish Mass monthly (twice a month, Mass is celebrated across town for students at Seattle Pacific University). There are programs for undergraduate students, graduate students, young adults and those wanting to become Catholic. The center’s social justice team works with local organizations that serve the poor, homeless, sick and others in need.
The physical space at the Newman Center is at a premium, used by groups such as the Knights of Malta, Legatus and the parish council. On one recent night, a graduate-student group studying papal letters had to meet in a storage room, said David Gill, a UW junior who serves as a peer minister.
“Anytime there’s a third event on any given night, we’re overbooked,” said Gill, who grew up attending St. Charles Borremeo Parish in Tacoma.
And the 175-seat Prince of Peace chapel can overflow, he said, requiring chairs to be put in the lobby to accommodate Mass-goers.
Groundbreaking in June
According to a history on its website, the Dominicans founded the “Newman Club” at the UW in 1908 at the invitation of Bishop Edward O’Dea. Over the years, the center moved to different locations; its current half-acre site began taking shape in 1989 with the purchase of a house just across Northeast 45th Street from the UW campus. Four other parcels were acquired and in 2001, after a $3 million fundraising campaign, the current Newman Center opened.
Now the Dominicans are nearing the end of their fundraising campaign, with groundbreaking for the expansion project slated in June. The project includes enlarging the chapel to hold 275 people and creating space for a reconciliation chapel and a new narthex.
The major piece is a two-story, 4,800-square-foot student resource center that will double the size of the center’s main meeting space, making it suitable for retreats, large meetings and small weddings. The second floor will include a 500-square-foot classroom, three smaller rooms, a large study and expanded quarters for peer ministers. A new pastoral and administrative center will include offices, a library and a reception area.
Members of the undergraduate student ministry surround Dominican Father Jordan Bradshaw outside Prince of Peace Catholic Newman Center in Seattle. Photo: Bayli Hochstein
‘Our young people are counting on us’
Gill, the peer minister, said he started coming to the Newman Center because he wanted to be part of a Catholic community. That community helped him get accustomed to the massive UW campus, but also deepened his understanding of the beauty of Catholicism. (He plans to begin the discernment process for the priesthood soon.) His year serving as a peer minister, Gill said, is a way to give back to the Newman Center and its community.
That community will have to make some adjustments during the construction project, expected to take 10–12 months.
Father Bradshaw said the center’s offices will move to St. Benedict Parish in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, and peer ministers will live in a house near St. Benedict’s. During the first months of construction, Masses will be celebrated on campus (details are still being worked out); once the chapel portion of the project is complete, Masses will return to the Newman Center.
When the expanded Newman Center opens in the spring or summer of 2019, the staff will add programs and Father Bradshaw said he expects more people will use the center.
Beusch, who graduated from the UW in 2017, remains active at the center, helping with the graduate student/young professional ministry. “I don’t know where I’d be in my faith without the Newman Center,” she said.
The sense of community created by the Dominican friars and campus ministers “is essential to the healthy formation of young Catholics,” Archbishop Sartain said. “I am proud of our Newman Center and believe that we must all support its continued growth, expansion and outreach. Our young people are counting on us.”