UNC ministries move, grow to meet mission

tgrubb@newsobserver.comJuly 23, 2013 

The Newman Center, at left, bought the adjacent Wesley Campus Ministry building, right, for roughly $2 million in August 2012. The Newman Center is now in the midst of a $4 million fundraising campaign, and the Wesley Campus Ministry has found a new home on Franklin Street.

TAMMY GRUBB — tgrubb@newsobserver.com

  • Time to Grow

    For more information about the fundraising campaign for the Newman Center and the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, call the Newman Center at 919-929-3730. You also can make a secure donation online at http://bit.ly/130ZbpG.

— One campus ministry’s recent move to Franklin Street has sown the seed for its neighbor to grow on Pittsboro Street.

The Catholic Diocese of Raleigh paid roughly $2 million last year for the former Wesley Campus Ministry building at 214 Pittsboro St., beside the Newman Catholic Student Center and Parish. The United Methodist-affiliated Wesley Campus Ministry had leased the building until its move in early July to a second-floor loft at 157 E. Franklin St.

The Newman Center, located at 218 Pittsboro St., now is in the middle of a $4 million Time to Grow fundraising campaign to pay for the property and a future expansion. Tonya Taylor, the center’s campaign director, said they could be in the 14,000-square-foot building by late August.

The campus ministries have been more than neighbors for almost 50 years. They have prayed together and, more recently, have worked together on social justice issues. In addition, when the Newman Center was remodeled several years ago, the Wesley Campus Ministry offered its building for Mass.

Monsignor John Wall, the Newman Center’s campus minister, said the move could increase the Newman Center’s chapel capacity from 300 to 500 parishioners. It also will include space for a library, music rehearsals, a kitchen and dining area, and rooms for meetings, offices and activities. The building’s exterior won’t change, but they will add new carpet, windows and paint, Wall said.

The Raleigh diocese will benefit from the fundraiser as well, which initially started in 2011 as a drive to raise money for a new Raleigh cathedral. Roughly $450,000 will go to that effort, Wall said. A smaller amount will pay the center’s annual diocesan contribution.

The 2,000-seat Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral is planned for a 39-acre tract of land between Western Boulevard and Centennial Parkway in Raleigh. Its estimated cost ranges from $75 million to $90 million and will serve a growing 54-county Catholic community. Between 2000 and 2010, church officials estimate the number of registered Catholics grew by 42 percent from 152,493 to 217,125. Another 200,000-plus are unregistered and mostly Hispanic, officials said.

The Newman Center parish also is growing, Wall said. It serves about 2,000 students and 500 families, including UNC professors, alumni and visitors. They’ve experienced “phenomenal growth” in outreach, with 60 small faith groups active in religious and social justice issues, he said.

Robbie Bach, a 1984 graduate, met his wife, Pauline, at the Newman Center when he was a sophomore and she a freshman.

The center gives students a strong sense of support and community, and offers a chance to develop faith and be among other believers, he said. The couple has since moved away, but they continue to stay in touch.

“You realize how much the need has grown,” Bach said. “This is a chance for us to give back to something that was important when we were growing up.”

Robin Roche, a Durham resident and 2007 graduate, made some of her best friendships and memories at the Newman Center.

“The community was very vibrant, very special and very inclusive. It was my idea of what God says we need to be to each other,” she said.

Roche works at UNC’s Internal Medicine Clinic and the Newman Center still plays an important role in her life, she said.

Wall officiated at her wedding, and Roche and her husband attend Sunday Mass. She said was humbled when the center asked her to serve on an expansion planning panel.

The Rev. Amanda Dean, Wesley’s campus minister, said the move is also a great opportunity for their ministry.

The downtown loft is smaller but has space for offices, a prayer room, and areas students to hang out and study. They serve about 100 students with Sunday worship on campus and free weekly dinners at University United Methodist Church.

The Wesley Foundation began in the church’s basement in the 1940s and moved to Pittsboro Street in 1965. The name was changed several years ago; in 2009, a four-story expansion was proposed to include student housing.

The plan was thwarted by concerns about dense development in the Cameron-McCauley Historic District.

“This is a very creative and innovative thing for us to move out of a space we’ve had for almost 50 years,” Dean said.

“It will make our presence more visible on campus.”

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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