At Mercer University, students are encouraged to explore all aspects of the world, including religion and spirituality.
One religious organization on campus is the Mercer Catholic Newman Ministry, which provides opportunities for learning more about Catholicism and participating in Mass and other events.
Catholic Newman’s name derives from the name of the founding priest, John Harry Newman, who saw the need for Catholic groups at college campuses so that students might grow in their faith and worship of God.
He began the Newman Ministry to help prevent college Catholic students from becoming less active in their religion while away from home.
The first Newman groups were located in Oxford, England, and the University of Dublin, Ireland. Mercer’s Newman group was founded in the fall of 1991.
“We definitely have an inclination to try to reach out whenever we can, through any means we can,” said the group’s historian and spiritual leader Joseph Jackson.
The group meets on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. in Newton Chapel, where the members gather for Bible study every other week before their meeting in the Religious Life Center at 8 p.m.
“Each semester we do a different series,” said Campus Minister Advisor, Christina Cambre.
“The Bible study meets every other week, and afterwards, we have a guided discussion on the study series.”
This semester, the group will be completing a series on prayer and how to get the most out of it.
“We try to do one far away event a semester. In the past we’ve gone to Savannah and visited the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. This semester we’re going to Conyers, to the monastery,” said Cambre. The group also has two retreats planned for this month.
Currently, the Newman Ministry here at Mercer has about 15 active members, a number that has grown since the group’s last reinstatement.
“I know it has formed and disbanded a couple of times due to not much student involvement,” said Jen Tyra, who is the social chair for the group.
Five years ago, at the last formation of the group, there were only four or five active members.
“For some odd reason, it seems like every other year we get a burst of people,” said Tyra.
“It mainly flows with people’s schedules. Some years are more intensive than others. I run cross country, so balancing that in the fall with this is almost impossible because practice doesn’t end until 7:30 p.m., when this is just starting. It all depends on the person’s schedule and where they’re coming from, major-wise,” said treasurer Robbie Wilkins.
“The pool of Catholics at Mercer is pretty big, but due to outside activities, obviously we have people who don’t have time to meet that obligation right now in their lives,” said Jackson.
On Sundays, the group attends Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church. On the days when they have Tuesday Mass, the group meets for dinner.
The group is led by Father David Kwiatkowski and president Edwin Vazquez, who also serves as the music coordinator for the group.
Though the ministry is targeted toward the Catholic students attending Mercer, Middle Georgia College and Wesleyan College, the organization is open to all college students of any faith to foster and share Christian ideals.