SHARING HER FAITH
It isn’t easy being a Roman Catholic on a college campus – especially if you are trying to live out your beliefs.
After intolerance and insensitive jokes against her religion, Laura Temons, of Loyalsock Township, brought back the Newman Club at Eastern University.
During her freshman year at the suburban Philadelphia school, Temons was preparing to take a test about the Old Testament when another student lamented that he had to learn all the books. Temons joked she already knew them because of her Catholic upbringing, prompting him to tell her she was going to Hell. She’s seen posts against the pope.
Worst of all are the jokes about molesting children.
Eastern University was founded as a Baptist institution, but later became simply a Christian campus.
“There’s still a lot of Baptist overtones,” Temons, a psychology major, said.
In response to all of the slurs against Catholics, in her junior year, she brought back the Newman Club.
According to a story on Temons’ efforts on the college website, the name “Newman” originates from Cardinal John Henry Newman, a prolific writer and educator. It was created to signify the Catholic Church’s presence on non-Catholic campuses. The first Newman Club was established in 1888 at Oxford, England. A few years later, in 1893, the first American Newman Club was established at the University of Pennsylvania.
Eastern University had a Newman Club but it went on hiatus. It was created around 2005-2006 by Shawn Machia, along with a few other students, and began as a way for Catholic students to meet other Catholic students. When Temons restarted it, she modified it to be a club where students can learn more about the Catholic religion.
At the meetings, held for an hour Wednesday nights, the group meets to discuss Catholicism, such as the Eucharist or the differences in Sacraments for Catholics and Protestants.
Perhaps surprisingly, the group mostly is comprised of Protestants.
“There are three full-time Catholics,” Temons said. Other members include Presbyterians, Lutherans and Orthodox. “It’s a good mix. … When it comes down to it, we’re all Christians.”
About 7 percent of the campus is Roman Catholic, yet she said she can count all of the Catholics she knows on one hand.
“We’re in hiding,” Temons said.
Each meeting opens with a prayer and then a saint is celebrated, whether the patron saint of the day or a saint that relates to the day’s lessons.
Temons, president of the club, then moves forward with the lesson, including answering questions she foresees the Protestants having and welcoming any others she might not have considered.
The meeting ends with a prayer and ideas for the next meeting.
One of the lessons that drew people from outside the club was about exorcism, in which Temons brought a priest in to teach. Some of the attendees were surprised to learn that the group meets weekly.
“You can come,” Temons told them. “We don’t bite.”
Since Temons is a senior, the club will change again.
The rules currently state the president and vice president must be Catholics, but Temons plans to modify that because there aren’t enough Catholics on campus. She hopes if she attends graduate school nearby, she’ll be able to come to meetings to assist.
The reason she wants to help after she leaves is because she considers it important for people to know Catholics are not the stereotypes people sometimes hear about.
She is excited because her university now is offering a class about Catholic and evangelism conversations, but disheartened it took so long to happen.
Still, having the club helps fill a need.
“It’s nice to be around people who learned about the traditions you grew up with,” Temons said, saying it also was nice to have “people who want to learn about something that’s important to us.”