By Hieu Nguyen
For The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — The Newman Catholic Student Center always has a unique group of students who serve as fellows. These fellows assist the staff with their ministries in many ways and serve as student leaders.
The Newman Fellows oversee ministries of Outreach, Communications, Liturgy, Prayer and Worship, Faith Formation, Service and Social Justice, and Graduate Students and Young Professionals.
Some of the fellows’ responsibilities include attending the servant leadership retreat, outreach and participating in personal faith formation activities such as seminars. The fellows also report to the director of Outreach and Education and work with the Newman staff. They also have lead teams, groups of three to five students, that support them in a specific ministry.
Students apply for fellowships, which are reviewed by a selection committee. Interviews with the candidates follow and then new fellows are chosen. The applicants must be enrolled college students with good academic standing and have a one-year commitment.
“I had been involved at the Newman Center since my freshman year of college,” said Jasmin Tone, a former Faith Formation fellow. “It was already like a second home and I wanted to help it grow in any way that I could. I enjoyed getting involved in that and a fellow position was the next step to being able to help more.” Before becoming a fellow, Tone served on the Service and Social Justice lead team and was in charge of planning service opportunities at the Ronald McDonald House.
Jacob Menster, a former Communications fellow, shared his experience working with Rebecca Sanders, his co-fellow, and on the lead team. The Newman Center’s Communications ministry began in the fall of 2016. “Working with Rebecca was a breeze because she brought in so much experience through her sorority, major and other work experiences that she could mix it in with my Newman Center experience and knowledge,” he said. “That’s why we were such a great team.”
Menster said that while serving with the lead team he focused on bringing the best available talents from the students to get the job done. “Rebecca and I are very proud of our team,” Menster said. “They worked their tails off to make posters, flyers, deadlines, etc. Whatever Rebecca and I threw at them they were able to get the job done in a rather quick time span and they were asking for more things to do. Our team was hungry and they brought this great amount of positive energy that was easy to work with. Rebecca and I could not have asked for a better group than what we had.”
Andy Sherer served as a former Service and Social Justice fellow. “Being a Newman fellow was a great privilege,” he said. One of the values of that ministry was discovering that “I am a fellow of not only my ministry, but I am responsible for bringing people to involvement in the other fellowships as well. I could depend on my lead team and many others when I needed help and I was very pleased with the benefits I gained from this position.”
Participating in the fellowship was like “having a family on campus” because the fellows looked out for each other,” Sherer said. “I acknowledge that my fellowship would not have been nearly as successful without the other fellows helping me,” he added. “We acted as a unit to help each other as we could.”
Zoe Walters, a former Graduate Students and Young Professionals fellow, said her fellowship impacted her in ways she could never imagine. “Through this fellowship, I have grown deeper in my faith and have met the kindest people,” said Walters. “One of my favorite parts about this fellowship is meeting with my spiritual conversation partner. She has been such a blessing in my life.” Walters said among her favorite moments were fellowship opportunities with other Grad Student/Young Professionals at the monthly Holy Hour/Happy Hours and working with other inspiring fellows. “My hopes for new fellows are that they continue to grow the programs and listen to God’s call.”
The Newman Center had eight fellows in the 2016-2017 academic year. Nine new fellows will serve in various ministries for this coming school year.
Fellows gain ministry skills
Father Ed Fitzpatrick, retired executive director of the Newman Catholic Student Center on the University of Iowa campus, and Laurie Harris, the Newman Center’s current executive director, shared these insights about the center’s Fellowship program.
After the Newman Center became financially independent of the Diocese of Davenport in 1997, Ministry Development Fellowships were granted so that students could learn ministry skills and practice them while at the Newman Center, Fr. Fitzpatrick said.
He said the fellows gained ministry skills that they could offer to future faith communities after their graduation. “In the first years, we offer Fellowships in Social Action, Scripture and Prayer, and two in student outreach (undergrad and grad),” Fr. Fitzpatrick said. “Over the years, the topics of fellowships have changed somewhat … and the number has increased.”
Harris said Catholic juniors and seniors at the Newman Center have the opportunity “to gain internship experience in a number of ministries. Besides providing practical experience in church ministry, the purpose of these fellowships is also to help develop programs that serve students at the University of Iowa and to encourage students to get involved in activities, lead teams and advise staff on what’s of interest to students,” she said.
Harris added that the fellows and their teams advance the mission of the Newman Center to prepare “disciples for the church and the world” while becoming leaders. Newman Fellows spend a day of retreat that focuses on “team building, expectations, reflecting on mission and providing servant leadership training” at the beginning of each new semester,” she continued.
“The work of the Newman Catholic Student Center Fellows is vital to the mission and ministry of the Newman Center,” she said. “In learning to serve in particular ministries, students are learning to better serve their fellow students. The effects of being a Newman Fellow at the University of Iowa are far-reaching. It is a great privilege to see the contributions fellows make to the community.”
Harris shared her hope for the fellows. “To make Christ known is the most precious gift we can give to others. Our hope is that our fellows help us build a ‘culture of discipleship’ and leave these fellowships and the University of Iowa with the desire and skills to love and serve God in their local parishes and nonprofit organizations.”