The Penn Newman Center, the pastoral center for Penn’s Catholic ministry, is moving to a different location for the first time since 1970.
The Center, currently located at 3720 Chestnut St., will be moving to the basement of St. Agatha-St. James Parish at 3728 Chestnut St. this August. The Center will eventually expand into the adjoining building and former parish school building at 111 S. 38th street in the fall of 2019.
According to an emailed statement from Father Carlos Keen, the pastor of the St. Agatha-St. James Parish that the Newman Center is a part of, the move was prompted by an offer to buy Newman’s current space that the Philadelphia Archdiocese received from EPG Urban Multifamily, an arm of Exeter Property Group.
“The proceeds of the sale will all be used to develop the Newman Center on the property of St. Agatha and St. James,” former director of mission advancement for the Newman Center and St. Agatha-St. James Scott Bucko said.
Father Keen also wrote that one of the main goals of the move is to physically redevelop the Center in order to “better meet the growing programmatic needs of the university community.”
St. Agatha-St. James Parish has leased 111 S. 38th St. to Penn since 2013 and it is currently used as office space for the Netter Center, Penn Design, and the Graduate School of Education. According to Father Keen’s statement, construction will begin on the former parish building in January 2019, when Penn’s lease ends.
Heidi Wunder, assistant director of communications for FRES, said in an emailed statement to the Daily Pennsylvanian that they are in the process of relocating the tenants.
Founded in 1893 by Penn medical student Timothy Harrington, the Penn Newman Center is part of the Newman Club, which has expanded into many centers for Catholic students at secular universities.
Currently, the Penn Newman Center services about 500 Catholic students at Penn and Drexel, director of campus ministries Patrick Travers said.
College junior and Penn Newman Center student secretary John Ortega said that the Center is “a space to foster Christian living” and hosts many events and activities to foster student encounters and prayer on campus. Ortega said the activities hosted by the Newman Center include dinners every Thursday night and gatherings for holidays, such as a Thanksgiving potluck and a Superbowl party.
College senior Emily Hancin said that she’s sad to see the center move to a different location.
“It’s weird because I associate that building with the Newman Center,” Hancin said. “When I walk by it in the future I’ll remember that it used to be the Newman Center.”
Bucko believes that the move is a positive opportunity for the Center: “People don’t like change, but we’re really going to take advantage of this redevelopment -- this opportunity to have new facilities, this opportunity to create excitement around campus ministry.”
Campus minister Carolyn Shields agreed, adding that the move will also provide an opportunity to hold some services on campus.
Newman president and Nursing senior Marya Lieb concurred.
“In the interim between what we have now and what we will have as of August 2019, that it’s going to be a really awesome opportunity for us to do more outreach on campus—to get into campus spaces, ARCH buildings, spaces like Harnwell lounges, that kind of thing, to really reach more people, so overall, I think it’s really exciting," she said.
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