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The Newman Center at Penn is the oldest Newman Center in the nation.

Credit: Isa Skibeli

The Penn Catholic Newman Community celebrated its 125th year anniversary last weekend. The festivities included panels, conferences, and mass and were attended by hundreds of Penn and Drexel students, alumni, and faculty as well as local community members.

“We had several things that we were celebrating together, one of which was the new building, one of which was the anniversary, and then another is the namesake of the Newman Center,” said Patrick Travers, director of the Newman Center. 

The center has recently undergone a series of redevelopment plans, according to Newman's website. The lower level of the St. Agatha-St. James Church was renovated last winter, and the renovation of the three story building on the parish property was completed in August, which currently serves as the new Newman Center, complete with a courtyard. 

The facade of the church is being repaired and there are plans to make a small park out back to replace the parking lot, Travers said. 

“It has been beautiful to see how many people for whom this place is very special and has been like a home," Travers added. "As I also went to a Newman Center at the University of Illinois, I’ve known of them and how important they are to students.”

The Newman Center at Penn is the oldest Newman Center in the nation, and was founded in 1893 with the intention of creating an organization to provide Catholic college students a religious community away from their local parishes, Travers said. Ten years ago, the center entered a partnership with Drexel University and serves students from both universities. 

Credit: Isa Skibeli

The center has recently undergone a series of redevelopment plans.

“Because this was the Penn Newman Center before Drexel was merged into [the center], it has not been so easy for Drexel students to feel at home here. We have worked to make them integrated,” said Travers. He added that members of the center have worked hard to ensure that “both groups were being represented” at the celebration. 

“I feel like I received something from Newman that I wouldn’t have been able to receive anywhere else on campus,” said College seniorJohn Ortega. 

Ortega has been highly involved with the center throughout his years at Penn. He currently serves as the vice president for the Undergraduate Leadership Team at the center and also works as an intern doing a combination of communications and development. Ortega is also one of the heads of a Catholic men’s house on campus. 

Wharton sophomore Katie Donovan, who serves on the Executive Committee at the center, said she has found spiritual fulfillment and involvement through the Newman Center. 

“I was born and raised Catholic, and my faith has been part of my life since the beginning. Going into college, I knew that I wanted to continue to have my faith and to not lose it while I was here,” she said. 

Donovan said she first became involved when she took part in "NOVUS," a pre-orientation program for freshmen. 

She attended the dinners that were held for the celebration this past weekend as well as the gala. Donovan said it was great to see how lots of alumni still held the Newman Center “so dear to their hearts.” 

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