After my post on Father Ian Ker's upcoming visit to Wichita for the Cardinal Newman Week lecture at Newman University, I wanted to share more about the Newman School of Catholic Thought. These conferences, held at the Newman Centers at Wichita State University and Pittsburg State University during the 1970's and then revived at WSU during the 1990's, and now moribund.
The first Newman School of Catholic Thought I attended had been organized by St. Paul's Parish-Newman Center chaplain Father Joseph Gorentz. He was not able to be there, however, because he was hospitalized with brain cancer. It was held in January of 1979 and Bishop David Maloney from the Diocese of Wichita spoke briefly at the beginning of the five days of conferences by four great speakers. Father Stephen Almagno, Mr. Lyman Stebbins, founder of Catholics United for the Faith, Dr. John Crosby, then at the University of Dallas--these three presented on aspects of Newman's life and works; Father Charles Taylor spoke about the Newman Center movement in the United States.
Those five days were probably the most formative of my life, setting me in the direction of trying to obtain the best liberal arts education possible at a secular university without a theology department (pace Newman's Idea of a University model), informing my dedication to studying Church history and understanding Church doctrine and dogma to be faithful to it, and sparking my interest in the English Reformation. From those January 1979 days to the upcoming Cardinal Newman Week lecture, I've attended many presentations about Blessed John Henry Newman--and given a few myself.
Two high school friends (who were attending the University of Kansas) and I went to Pittsburg, Kansas for a Newman School of Catholic Thought at the St. Pius X Newman Center there one summer a couple of years later, and then the Newman Schools endured a hiatus for a time. When I worked at the Gerber Institute for Catholic Studies at then Kansas Newman College, I helped organize a Newman School in 1997 with Dean Hudson, the Visiting Chair of the Institute, and David B. Warner, then with the Denver Archdiocese (who has since died). Perhaps the Newman School of Catholic Thought will revive again at WSU!