SPEARFISH — It’s been a dream for more than a decade, and every day, the 16,000-square-foot, $3.75 million Newman Center at the corner of King and University streets in Spearfish gets closer to completion.
“It’s a far cry from our small, converted space to this,” Kristin Thompson, development director of the BHSU Newman Center, said, comparing the new building to the small house adjacent to St. Joseph Catholic church’s parking lot about a mile from the BHSU campus that has served as the St. Joseph Newman Center since 2004. “The students are very excited to have a much larger space that is close to campus. They are looking forward to the opportunity to have more events and being able to walk from campus to the center.”
Since the 1950s, the Newman Club has been a recognized student organization at BHSU, and it is estimated that approximately 15 percent of students on campus, or around 700, identify as Catholic. The Newman Center has the mission “to bring students and faculty of Black Hills State University to Jesus Christ through the Gospel and full participation in the life of the Church, challenging them to be faithful disciples and preparing them for their Christian mission in the world.”
Thompson said that the students have had a chance to tour the space as it is taking shape and are very excited for the new space, which will provide a place for students and faculty to worship and find spiritual direction, religious education, a quiet place to study, community service, socialization, and recreation close to campus.
“It will be a mecca of activities, I’m fairly certain,” she said.
The motto of the Newman Center is “A home away from home,” and the center is an ecumenical space, open to all students and faculty.
“I think it’s going to be a great space — open to all students, of all faiths, all the staff and faculty, anyone who can draw anything from what we do — doors are going to be open to them,” Thompson said.
Conceptual designs for the building were started in 2007 by Williams and Associates Architecture, Inc., of Spearfish, with a traditional look incorporated into the two-story building.
The center is funded/underwritten through St. Joseph Catholic Church, with the Catholic Diocese of Rapid City having committed $1.25 million to project, and the remainder of the funds coming through local parishes, private donations, and some grants.
The Newman Center includes a basement with a fellowship hall, rec rooms, classrooms, kitchen, and restrooms, with a chapel on the main floor, that, including its balcony, can seat 175, as well as a narthex/gathering area and meeting rooms. Williams and Associates designed the Newman Center at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, as well, and found that not only do students utilize the space for Mass on Sunday evenings, but members of the greater community also use the chapel, so more space was devoted to the chapel to increase the seating capacity in Spearfish after seeing that trend.
The building also includes residences. Its second floor includes an apartment for two Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionaries, as well as two dorm-like rooms for students who could apply to live for reduced rent in exchange for basic facility maintenance, cleaning, and hosting assistance. Thompson explained that FOCUS missionaries are sent in teams of four, generally, two men and two women, to college campuses across the country to be able to provide outreach to meet students where they are, offer programs and activities, etc., so their presence, as well as the expanded space, will allow the Newman Club and users of the space to do more.
Once complete, the building will include amenities like wifi, big-screen TVs, fully-stocked kitchen/dinning room, games, ping-pong table, grill, fire pit, and more, to allow students and staff a place to have Bible study, or have a study group, or give a presentation, or host a retreat, or socialize – the building was designed to be multifunctional to allow for a variety of uses. Thompson said students and faculty are already coming up with new ideas for how the space could be utilized.
“Seeing this space full of students is going to be awesome,” she said.
She added that venues in the facility, including the large fellowship hall and kitchen area, would be available to the community to rent for events, speakers, etc.
The groundbreaking for the Newman Center took place in March 2017, and the plan is for the building to be complete and open when the fall semester begins at Black Hills State University in August.
“Construction has gone very well, and we are grateful to our contractor, CVD Construction and all of the subcontractors, who have been working diligently on the building,” Thompson said, adding that she’s heard a lot of positive feedback from the community as the building has taken shape. The building was also featured in a video presentation at the Spearfish Economic Development Corporation annual meeting as part of the record-breaking building valuation in Spearfish in 2017.
“We are excited to share this space with the community soon,” Thompson said, adding, “The enthusiasm the students are showing about the building is really wonderful to see. With the new center’s close proximity to campus, we know that more students, staff, and faculty of BHSU will be able to draw from what we provide, and that is very exciting!”
Monsignor Michael Woster, pastor of St. Joseph, St. Paul, and St. Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic churches in Spearfish, Belle Fourche, and Newell, respectively, described that it has been awesome to see the project come to fruition after envisioning it for more than 10 years.
“For me, what’s really exciting, is when the doors are open next fall, we’re going to begin to minister to a group that’s eventually, over time, going to become thousands of young people,” he said, describing that the Newman Center would be present as long as the campus exists. “That’s a great gift to the community, a great gift to the church, a great gift to the campus, so it’s a win-win, I think, for everyone.”
Thompson said that there would be a ribbon-cutting celebration with tours for the community to check out the space once the center is complete.
For more information about the Newman Center or Newman Club, visit bhsunewman.com/index.php or its Facebook page.
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