Celebrating over 100 years and planning for the next Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Monday, Oct. 25, 2010 -- 1:00 PM

MADISON -- St. Paul's Catholic Center has been central to the UW-Madison Campus and the State of Wisconsin for over 100 years, has positively affected the lives of countless students, and will continue to do so for many years to come.

Because its mission is for the students, for the larger Church, and for the future of both, it is one of the most important ministries we support as disciples of Christ, in this diocese.

Rendering of St. Paul's Catholic Student Center

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About St. Paul Catholic Student Center

As the nation's oldest Catholic chapel ministering to a secular campus, in the model of the now-Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, St. Paul's is an example for campus ministries throughout the country and will, by the grace of God, soon be writing a new chapter to its distinguished story -- that of expanded worship and learning opportunities, campus outreach, and an onsite residential college.

St. Paul's past

The first St. Paul's Chapel was built in 1909, and was the first Catholic chapel built specifically to serve students at a public university. While the chapel and student center were renovated in 1967 to fit the expressed mission and needs of the campus community, a new, 21st-century facility is now needed to allow St. Paul's to continue serving the community's evolving needs well into the future.

The present

Bishop Robert C. Morlino, Bishop of Madison:

I simply could not be more excited and hopeful with regard to this St. Paul’s project and the future of the program which it will allow.

St. Paul's Student Center has and will continue to provide a diversity of pastoral services and ministries to the entire population of the university campus. It is important to note that student involvement has increased dramatically over the past 10 years and continues to grow each semester.

A variety of university- and parish-related meetings and social events will still take place at St. Paul's, and the faithful will be invited everyday to fully and actively participate in the sacramental life of the Church. But the need is greater and priests and faithful of St. Paul's hope to do so much more, and with God's help, they know it is possible.

The future
Dr. Robert Enright, PhD, Professor of Educational Psychology at UW-Madison, recent recipient of the UW's prestigious Hilldale Award for excellence in research, teaching, and public service and founder of the International Forgiveness Institute:
The vision for a new St. Paul's Catholic Center on the UW campus integrates the celebration of the Mass with a community of students living at the center. This vision, once realized, should help students to support each other as they live out an authentic Catholicism on campus. Even the physical structure of this new vision reflects a beauty of our faith that will inspire students and their families as they visit campus. The St. Paul Catholic Center will be a shining light for Catholic formation.

Recently, filed plans with city commissions and offices outline a "residential college" concept "combining the residential, faith, community and academic aspects of the university experience," explained Father Nielsen, pastor of St. Paul's.

The proposed building will include a chapel featuring reclaimed elements of the current St. Paul's sanctuary, a large student center with enhanced study and gathering space, offices, and residential rooms and apartments for students. Fr. Eric added, "Our rooms and apartments will be open to all students, regardless of faith, who wish to live in a community that is actively pursuing the integration of faith and reason into their intellectual and academic efforts at the University of Wisconsin. The residential college concept is gaining hold at universities across the United States, and we believe our project will be a wonderful addition to the UW campus community and downtown Madison as a whole."

Mary Rouse, Dean of Students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1987-2000):

I was privileged to meet, learn and work with undergraduate and graduate students from Wisconsin and across the nation and around the world--a truly diverse, talented and exciting population. I also enjoyed a very strong ongoing relationship with the University Religious Workers where large numbers of our students worshiped and attended programs and services at their churches, synagogues, temples and mosques in the campus area. With 40,000 students, there are a hundred, if not a thousand, ways for students to learn and live together on campus and in our community during their years here. There is nothing inherently good or bad about size, but rather how it is handled. To make our large, complex University small, students need to find their "niche(s)" as soon after their arrival as possible. The building plans underway at St. Paul's Catholic Center are a wonderful example of a new "niche" being created because a residence hall for 170-200 students will soon be built; renovated and expanded student meeting space will translate into more faith-based and social programs and events. Beginning in a few years, Catholic and non Catholic students will have this new option available to them. This project carries my strongest personal endorsement, although I no longer represent the University . Please be sure I receive an invitation to the opening celebration.

Already, community support for the proposed St. Paul Catholic Center has been extremely promising, and Scott Hackl, director of development for St. Paul's, knows it will grow in the coming weeks and months ahead.

He noted, "We have worked hard, based on the feedback of many, to develop a plan that will truly benefit the students and community we serve. The significant and increasing demand for St. Paul's programs and services, along with the center's venerable history and its important location at the gateway to the university, has driven the new design and residential college concept.

"Inside, we'll be able to offer more programs, provide a positive housing option for students, and serve more people well into the future. Outside, the new structure will be an attractive architectural complement to the surrounding university buildings and Library Mall while respecting the uninterrupted, scenic expanse between Bascom Hill and Capitol Square."

Cost of the new facility is estimated at $45 million and is expected to come from a small group of benefactors who have long supported projects like this.

St. Paul's hopes to break ground on the project in the next two to three years; plans must first be approved by the Landmarks Commission, the Madison Urban Design Commission, the Madison Planning Commission, and the Madison Common Council.

Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, pray for this project and may God's will be done!

Brent King is director of communications for the Diocese of Madison.

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