By: Lorelei Kenny, Morin Mawhinney, and Elizabeth Iwunwa
* Edited to include video
The second annual Blessed John Henry Newman Dinner held on the twenty-first of October brought together members of the UPEI Catholic community, the Saint Dunstan’s University Board of Governors (SDU), the Sisters of St. Martha and Catholics from all over the island. They gathered to celebrate Catholic education and honor Blessed John Henry Newman and his contributions to higher education. Before his death in 1890, Cardinal Newman founded the independent school for boys called the Catholic University School in Dublin and the Catholic University of Ireland which has evolved into University College, Dublin. This renowned college is Ireland’s largest university. Throughout his life, Cardinal Newman remained committed to the intellectual and social development of minds. In his honor, societies have been founded at universities all over the world.
The night was organized by the Newman committee which was made up of UPEI Catholic studies students. It was headed by fourth-year student Grace McCarvill and the chair of the Catholic Studies program Dr. Robert Dennis. UPEI’s campus minister Sr. Sue Kidd, as well as the hands of many others, went into ensuring the success of this night.
The dinner took place in the School of Sustainable Design Engineering, in a space named after graduating class of engineering of 1954. Although SDU closed its doors in 1969, its legacy continues to live on as SDU continues to provide financial support to the Catholic studies program in the religious studies department and to island Catholic youth. Many SDU scholars who are students at UPEI shared in the joy of the night.
The event began with the celebration of Holy mass with the Bishop of Charlottetown, Bishop Richard Grecco in the Chaplaincy Center. Thereafter, guests moved to the concourse of the Engineering building for cocktails and chats. The much-anticipated dinner began at seven.
Before the more scholarly portion of the night ensued, all attending were treated to a delicious, Autumn dinner. To tease everyone’s taste buds, a creamy, rustic, potato chowder was served with fresh rolls. The thick soup gave one’s throat a loving, grandmotherly hug as it went down, warming one’s entire body. After everyone had scraped every last drop of soup out of their bowl, the main course was laid out. Personally, the baked potato imported directly from Heaven was my (Morin) favorite part of the meal; however, it may have only been so lovely because it was complemented by the delicately sliced Pork Roast and Apple Puree. These flavors combined created a blend of sweet and savory that put everyone instantly in mind of an Autumn breeze sweeping through an apple orchard. Finally, to finish off the meal as the guests listened to Father Tom Rosica, a perfectly prepared puff pastry overflowing with caramelized banana slices was served with coffee. (Credit of this culinary creation goes directly to Chartwells and Impressions Catering.)
Father Tom Rosica, CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and English Language Attaché to the Holy See Press Office, graciously accepted UPEI’s invitation to give a talk at this year’s dinner. This talk was titled Cardinal Newman & Pope Francis on Restoring Citizenship to those in Exodus. He began by giving a brief history of Cardinal Newman, touching on Newman’s contributions to universities and his research and conclusions on the development of doctrine. Fr. Rosica went on to explain why Newman is neither a closet liberal nor a conservative but “simply Catholic. A man firmly rooted in the Church’s Tradition and Scripture who looked to the authoritative Teaching of the Church to teach, guide and decide in doctrinal matters.” (Fr. Rosica)
Fr. Rosica drew an interesting parallel between the ambiguity that surrounded Cardinal Newman in his time and the ambiguity that surrounds Pope Francis today. Catholics and non-Catholics around the world are always trying to pin both men as liberal or conservative. Yet, Fr. Rosica argued that they are neither, that they are simply Catholic. For more of Father Tom Rosica’s talk go to his Facebook page.
The night ended with student reflections on the first Experiential and Global Learning course Catholic New York. Last year a group of Catholic Studies Students traveled down to Manhattan, New York as part of the Experiential and Global Learning course offerings in the Catholic Studies Program. Some of the proceeds of last year’s Newman Dinner went to help fund this course. (Catholic New York). At this year’s Newman Dinner, Laura Mark and Jordan Johnston who both participated in Catholic New York, gave short reflections on their experiences in New York. Both students expressed great nostalgia for the trip. They described the class as being extremely enriching both academically and spiritually– highlights included visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral, spending time with the Sisters of Life, and paying their respects at Ground Zero.
With the turnout on this night as well as many other events of this nature, it is safe to say that there is a strong Catholic subculture committed to faith and education, here at UPEI.
Hope to see there next year!
Be sure to check out this short clip from the wondrous night, as provided by Daniel Brown.
photos by: Griffin Walsh