By: Daniel Brown

The first annual Blessed John Henry Newman Dinner took place this past Friday, and it was met with much success. The Dinner was conceived as far back as January of this year, and it was designed to act as an evening of fellowship for Catholic intellectuals across the island, with many professors, students, and lay people in attendance. It will also act as a pivotal fundraiser for various Catholic Studies programs, which occasionally collaborate with the recently ratified Canadian Catholic Student Association on campus. The event took place in UPEI’s very own McDougall Hall.

Professor Peter Erb
Image Courtesy of Dr. Robert Dennis

In its inaugural year, the dinner featured keynote speaker Professor Peter Erb, the founder of the SDU Visiting Scholar of Catholic Studies professorial position at UPEI. As the dinner is named after the famous 19th century Catholic figure, Cardinal John Henry Newman, Erb delivered an exceptional presentation on the topic, “Newman’s University and Ours; The World of the Past and the World to Come.” The evening also featured student reflections (given by Grace McCarvill and Bernadette Chevarie), time to socialize with Catholic colleagues, a choir, a silent auction, and as implied, a delicious meal. Dr. Robert Dennis, current title holder of the position Erb created, helmed the initiative, along with his class of ten students partaking in next semester’s Catholic New York class. The proceeds of this dinner will go towards the aforementioned class, as it is the first step in a journey towards pioneering experiential learning opportunities in the UPEI Catholic Studies realm.

Each table seated ten individuals, and several tables at the event were donated to the cause by associated institutions. Rather than simply send representatives to attend, most of these organizations offered up seats to students who pursue Catholic Studies at UPEI, which helped to influence and support the tone of it being a gathering of Catholic scholars. Donors include St. Dunstan’s University, the Congregation of Notre Dame, the Centre for Christianity and Culture, Cavendish Farms, and the President of UPEI. The location at McDougall Hall had room for nine tables, but a last minute tenth table was added in, thanks to a last minute donation. The final count showed 102 people in attendance because of this, with an initial cap of ninety.

Overall, the event was very well received, and quite triumphant as a fundraising effort. The classy atmosphere had a certain appeal to it, and seeing the young and old interact over common beliefs helped to visualize the vitality of the Catholic intellectual community at UPEI. Dennis and his students were very pleased with the turnout, and are confident that there is only room to grow.

Make sure to check out the video above, containing links at the end to the three presentations given by Erb, McCarvill, and Chevarie.