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Blessed John Henry Newman is pictured in an 1865 photo. He will be made a saint on Oct. 13. CNS photo/courtesy Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory

Newman legacy alive and well

  • October 13, 2019

It will be a delayed celebration, but a celebration nonetheless at Toronto’s Newman Centre when the Catholic chaplaincy’s namesake is elevated to sainthood.

While Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman is being canonized Oct. 13, campus ministries bearing his name around the world will be marking the occasion. However, a number of realities have come into play to force the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto to have its own celebration a week later, on Oct. 20, at the centre on the University of Toronto’s downtown campus.

One of the realities is that the school campus becomes a bit of a ghost town on Thanksgiving weekend as many students leave town to join their families at home. Another is  that Cardinal Thomas Collins, who will lead the celebration, will himself be in Rome for the canonization, said Fr. Peter Turrone, pastor and executive director of the Catholic chaplaincy.

The Newman Centre has received permission from the archdiocese to move Cardinal Newman’s feast day back a week, which will allow Collins to join in the Mass and celebration at 11 a.m.

The Newman Centre is using the canonization this school year to introduce students to the theologian and poet who was a significant figure in the religious history of England and beyond, first as an Anglican priest before joining the Catholic Church where he would eventually be created a cardinal in 1879. 

The Newman Centre embodies his teachings which fit nicely with its vision statement that seeks “to inspire in every person a spirit of leadership that embodies the integration of faith and intellect, and the mission to share Christ with the world.” 

“The younger generations are not very familiar with Newman’s writings. Anything like this canonization is an opportunity for grace for the community,” said Turrone, who has felt an excitement building around Newman and the canonization. “This is giving us an opportunity to re-present Newman as an important figure, an important voice for the Church.”

The centre launched its “Who Do You Say I Am?” series, a 12-session apologetics course that delves deeper into the faith in this year of canonization, while also continuing to host its annual Newman Lecture, its Faith and Reason lecture series and two annual retreats.

Turrone himself takes much inspiration from Newman and often “draws upon his wisdom for homilies.” The Newman community, likewise, draws on his legacy to integrate the faith and reason Newman espouses.

“We draw our inspiration from him. Those heart-to-heart relationships are helping our students grow in faith,” he said.

The canonization and the inspiration from it can only help the students and the Church itself down the road, Turrone believes.

“To be able to have good and well-reasoned dialogue with people within the faith and outside the Church, that they can do it in a way that’s intelligent and respectful and charitable,” he said.

“That will help even many priests and religious who are not familiar with him at least gain some understanding of who he is.”

The Newman Centre celebration will also include Collins consecrating an icon commissioned by the Newman Centre of Cardinal Newman.

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