Samuel Northrup, Editor-in-Chief
The Newman Community Center, located between Alumni and Bell halls, has been a meeting place for faith-based organizations and events for decades, all while serving as the home for Rev. Paul Drobin’s congregation.
Drobin, who served Utica College and his congregation for 20 years, officially retired prior to the start of the fall semester, causing an uncertain future for the Newman Center and how it will serve the campus community. Most notably, Drobin’s departure marks the end of Sunday services, as weekend masses will no longer be held inside the Newman Center, per a July 17 email to faculty and staff sent from the Office of the President.
The Newman Center was previously owned and operated by the Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, while the piece of land the building has laid on since its creation was leased by UC as part of a more than 50-year partnership with the Catholic church. Now, ownership of the building itself has officially been transferred from the Diocese over to Utica College.
“It is only fitting that we now look to the future and assess how to best serve the spiritual needs of the Utica College community,” according to the email.
While these changes represent a new chapter for faith-based activities and gatherings on campus, according to Kim Lambert, vice president for institutional planning and senior executive assistant to the president, the idea for UC to take on the old building was actually introduced by the Diocese.
For UC, Lambert explained, the proposed plan to purchase the building made sense as the appearance and upkeep was controlled through Diocese.
“It (the building’s condition) didn’t reflect nicely on the College, and yet it wasn’t our building to maintain,” Lambert said. “It was a nice opportunity to sort of rethink that.”
With the departure of Drobin’s congregation, the Newman Center will serve as additional space for student groups and organizations on campus while Lambert and other college administrators decide the fate of the structure.
“At this point, it’s kind of a bookable space, just like any other space on campus,” Lambert explained. “It’s not really appropriate for every type of need right now because it’s not really big and there’s pews in there, the space is pretty limited, but for an extra meeting space it’s nice to have a little wiggle room.”
To fill Drobin’s place, Deacon Paul Lehmann, the current director of mission and chaplain for Mohawk Valley Health System, will assume the position of Utica College chaplain. Lehmann, who previously served as director of student activities at UC for 12 years prior to his ordination, sees himself as a faith-based resource for all students, regardless of their faith.
While Sunday masses at UC have been discontinued, Lehmann explained he is open to creating new faith-based programs and activities on campus at the direction of interested students, Catholic or not.
“If there’s a group students so that enough are interested and want to start a group to follow a certain religion, I’ll help them do that,” Lehmann explained. “If there’s a group that wants to explore what different religions are about, if you want to come into a safe space where you can come and ask any question about religion you wanted to ask so you can understand it more, [we want to create] a place where you can.”