A “liberal” Catholic School in a conservative diocese

By Anthony Hamersky, Staff Writer

About two and a half years ago, I found myself in Warsaw, Poland. This was where I was approached with the question on how well Newman University lived up to the idea of a good Catholic Institution by a gentleman who was with the group I went with and a leading figure at one of our parishes. My response did not do justice towards Newman, but since since then, whether from old high school friends, relatives, some of the friends I’m closest to or even many of our brother and sister Catholics at WSU and other colleges. I found myself noticing a disregard for Newman as a good Catholic institution. This seemed to be a common idea shared by many different circles at many different parishes. This idea became apparent to me after my experience of being asked such a question. I realized that when most individuals within the Diocese of Wichita think of a Catholic College in Kansas, most would immediately answer “Benedictine College” with little to no thought or hesitation. Unfortunately, Newman University is an answer that few of the population would answer. Why is it that Newman isn’t seen as a good Catholic institution of higher education comparable to Benedictine?

Well, the most common answer is found in the idea that too many in the Catholic Diocese of Wichita see Newman University as very “liberal” or straying from Catholic teaching. One can recite many reasons why Newman University would be viewed as a more “liberal” Catholic institution. One might say it’s not necessarily the Newman community, but perhaps the Adorers themself. Others might speak on how the Adorers dress, not the typical habit you see in other orders. Some might question the creation of “the LGBTQ club” known as Kaleidoscope, and others might suggest it’s  that the amount of Catholics found here is below half of the population.

In my final year here at Newman, I am inclined to review my experience at such an institution. I find that every single reason stated above is merely commentary by those who have little to no knowledge of Newman as a whole. As a result, I feel obligated to write as a voice to defend Newman’s Catholic identity.

It is true that the Adorers do not wear the traditional habit as one might see with the order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but that does not mean they do not adhere to Catholic tradition. I have, in my years here, grown to be very fond of and have deep respect for the sisters who lead us, for I have never witnessed any unorthodox actions taken by the Adorers. In my experience as an archival intern for Newman, I have read many articles on the history of the sisters and what this amazing order has done for the world and the Church in and out of this Diocese. To place blame on the Adorers does a severe injustice towards the educational institution and the historic order of sisters.

To say it’s the creation of “the LGBTQ club” (as some of my more “conservative” Catholics groups would say) on campus is a misconception; Kaleidoscope was created under the supervision of the leading Catholic figures on and off campus to verify it could exist without invalidating Newman as a Catholic institution, while aiding in the general acceptance of those who have differences in their approach to life. I remember some of the more “conservative” Catholic students a couple years ago giving one of those leaders flak for even allowing the idea of a “LGBTQ club” exist on campus. It got so bad that I went in the following day to apologize on behalf of those students.

Finally, to say it’s because of the lack of Catholic students is a ridiculous argument. The amount of Catholics doesn’t dictate how Catholic an institution is. Besides, many of those Catholics who make up that “less than half of the population” are passionate, hardworking leaders who do justice towards our Catholic identity at Newman.

It seems that since the creation of the Saint Joseph House of Formation, I have found that the discussion on the Catholic Identity of Newman becoming less common, but still remains present in many circles here in the Diocese. I think the creation of the Saint Joseph House of Formation is a testament to the orthodoxy that Newman has towards Catholic teaching and tradition. Newman University, since its creation, has always done justice towards its Catholic identity and deserves to be seen by this and other Dioceses as a good Catholic institution dedicated to the empowerment of its students.