By Peter Bradley
Recently, Bishop Gerald Barnes dedicated the new Newman Center at California State University, San Bernardino. It will be a place of gathering, prayer and sharing for the students at CSUSB.
Campus Ministry is sometimes called a “special works ministry” because it is away from regular parish life. It is the presence of the Church at the university or college, relating to the students, faculty and staff. This article in the Heritage Road Series reviews the progress of campus ministry since the 1970’s.
When the Diocese of San Bernardino was founded in 1978, campus ministry was already present at several universities and colleges in the area: Cal State, San Bernardino; the University of California, Riverside; the University of Redlands, Barstow Community College, Crafton Hills College, Chaffey College, and Victor Valley College.
The Diocesan Director of Campus Ministry in the Diocese of San Diego in the 1970’s was Rev. Phillip Straling, who would become the first Bishop for the new Diocese of San Bernardino. Fr. Straling was the Campus Ministry Director at San Diego State University for ten years. Later, Bishop Straling brought that commitment to campus ministry in his new Diocese. He often spoke that his time as a campus minister was excellent preparation to be a Bishop in our Church.
The Dominican Order of Preachers came to UC Riverside in 1971. The community would continue its ministry for the next 46 years. Initially, the Newman Center was a small former restaurant in a shopping complex. In the mid-1980’s, a Newman Center and Church was built at the east end of the campus. In 1988, the Newman Center became a personal parish. The Dominicans left the Newman Center in 2017 due to an insufficient number of priests to meet all their community commitments throughout California. Today, St. Andrew’s Newman Center is staffed by diocesan priests.
Some of the Dominicans who served at St. Andrew’s Newman Center were: Revs. Ray Finerty, OP; Michael Sweeney, OP; Robert Christian, OP; Jude Eli, OP; Nathan Castle, OP; Michael Harnett, OP; David Farrugio, OP; Donald Bramble, OP; David Geib, OP; George Matanic, OP; and Michael Augustine Amabisco, OP.
In the early 1970’s, the Diocese of San Diego opened a regional ministry center in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. As part of the plan to better serve the parishes and schools in the northern areas, a Newman center was begun for Cal State, San Bernardino. It was located off campus on 18th Street in the City of San Bernardino.
Some of the ministers that served at Cal State, San Bernardino were: Maura O’Neill, Rev. Christopher Potter, Steve Valenzuela, Rev. Jack Barker, Wendy Valdez, Luz Gonzalez and Sr. Maria Aso Pesio Iosefo, SMSM, who is the current campus minister at CSUSB. The campus ministry both at UCR and Cal State, San Bernardino benefitted from being an approved University club. That advantage gave the ministry access to campus facilities and visibility within the University structure.
The Diocese also had ministry programs at smaller college campuses. The University of Redlands was served by the Discalced Carmelites from the El Carmelo Retreat House and the College of the Desert in Palm Desert was served by the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
Most community colleges do not have dormitories for students to reside on campus. Their students are “commuters” coming to the campus for a class and then returning home. The Catholic “commuters” would belong to a local parish. Young Adult Ministry saw a new opportunity to evangelize the young adult as a student on campus. Over the years, several parishes have developed outreach efforts to the local community college within their parish boundaries.
Campus ministry has been an important part of the Catholic Church in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The new Center at Cal State, San Bernardino is the next symbol of the Church’s commitment to serve the college student, both as a resident on campus and the traveling commuter.
Peter Bradley is Archivist in the Diocese of San Bernardino.