During 2008 and 2009, the Rock Hill Oratory celebrated its 75 years of ministry and community. From the early days of the Oratory, Campus Ministry at Winthrop University has been part of the Oratory Mission. As the Catholic Church changed during those eight decades, so did Campus Ministry.
Today, Campus Ministry for Catholics at Winthrop serves under the aegis of the “Newman Community.” This is a network of gatherings for students, faculty and staff at this state university of seven thousand graduate and undergraduate students.
During the academic year, students, faculty and staff join local families and friends at the Oratory for Sunday Word and Eucharist. They join in the ministries both for the liturgy and for the local community. So, we see students serving as lectors and Eucharistic ministers and also joining local service ministries such as the Children’s Attention Home and writing letters for Amnesty International.
Melissa Parker, a member of the Oratory parish in Lake Wylie (All Saints) is the Campus Ministry assistant who directs our student programs and coordinates their gatherings. She organizes their weekly Bible study on campus and provides several retreats each semester both for our campus and with the Charleston Diocese campus ministry. Melissa also meets with individual students, joins in the activities of the Winthrop Cooperative Campus Ministry to coordinate our ecumenical activities, suchas as annual CROP Walk and our participation in orientation activities. Students today are “wired,” or electronically connected. Melissa contacts them regularly through email and our campus ministry web site. Currently, there are 350 Catholic undergraduates; nearly half of those are commuters.
Our faculty and staff not only participate in the local Oratory parishes and at the Oratory, but also share a weekly Bible study on Wednesdays at noontime. This 30-minute gathering begins with a shared reading of the Sunday Scriptures and discussion. Over the years, faculty friends from other denominations have joined in to make this an ecumenical gathering. Newman also hosts a monthly faculty/staff lunch with the Presbyterian Campus Ministry to encourage interdepartmental sharing and fellowship. Over the years, our faculty friends have been extremely generous in leading programs and helping with retreats for our students. They are at the center of our Sunday Liturgy as lectors, Eucharistic ministers and music ministers.
Fifty years ago, on the eve of Vatican Council II, Father Richard Wahl of the Oratory led the “Newman Club” at Winthrop. Several dozen Catholic women in an all women’s state college known for education, music and home economics were our forerunners in faith. In those days, Father Richard had lay leadership from Mrs. Carroll Johnson and Mrs. Frances England who served as “house mothers” for the students. They continued the tradition of the first American Catholic campus ministry at the University of Pennsylvania, the “Melvin Club.: After Vatican II, The Newman Federation evolved into Campus Ministry.
The Newman Community at the Oratory and at Winthrop has the blessing of sharing the charism of John Henry Newman. Newman, a 19th century English scholar and also the inspiration for the Oratory in England, serves as our patron as we minister together to blend the gifts of the Spirit that he treasured: truth and faith.
You can find more information about the Catholic/Newman Ministry at Winthrop University on its web site, and also on Facebook.