Cardinal Newman Symposium Held at Saint Mary’s

College Celebrates the Life of Patron of Catholic Higher Education

Bishop Emeritus Cummins and Sister Mary Peter TravissSaint Mary’s hosted the Newman Symposium II, an academic and religious colloquium celebrating Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman on Thursday, Oct. 27, in the Soda Center.

The religious gathering at the College was the second symposium focusing on Newman’s religious and academic writings following his beatification in September 2010.

The patron of Catholic higher education, Cardinal Newman (1801-90) championed the Catholic liberal arts tradition and the pursuit of truth through faith and reason. Newman’s journey in the pursuit of truth led him away from the Church of England, where he spent half of his life, to the Catholic Church where, along with many other writings, he authored “The Idea of a University,” a series of essays that are regarded as the foundational concepts in support of Catholic higher education.

“ ‘The Idea of a University’ is a kind of primer for what a Catholic university should be,” said Newman scholar and past Montini Fellow Sister Mary Peter Traviss. “What Cardinal Newman did not want a Catholic university to be was a seminary. He wanted it to be an institution of liberal education and learning, and for the seeking of truth.”

Traviss, along with the late Brother Donald Mansir, who died earlier this month at the age of 62, had worked together to coordinate this year’s symposium at the College. A friend for more than 40 years, she said Brother Donald held a deep appreciation for Cardinal Newman and his influence on Catholic higher education. “Donald was in much accord with Newman’s ideals, especially the idea that Catholic universities should create a community of learned young scholars in search of the truth, which is what Catholicism is all about.”

In addition to Traviss, featured speakers at the symposium included Bishop John S. Cummins, Philosophy Professor Steve Cortright, Brother Charles Hilken and Sisters Ramona Bascom and Katherine Jean Cowan. A Mass in the Chapel following the symposium featured Newman-inspired music.

Thomas Traviss said the primary reason this year’s symposium is at Saint Mary’s is because of the College’s remarkable special library collection, “Newman and His Times,” which is one of the best Newman collections in the world. The collected works include more than 5,000 items, including sermons, numerous rare first editions, pamphlets and private editions.

It also includes a 5th century book from Newman's collection that bears his signature and a copy of the first edition of “The Undergraduate,” a magazine founded by Newman when he was an 18-year-old student at Oxford.

Saint Mary’s collection is just remarkable,” said Traviss. “One of Newman’s best-loved works is his ‘Apologia Pro Vita Sua,’ which he wrote in response to attacks on him and the Catholic faith. He produced it as a series of pamphlets, which were later republished as a book. The collection has a rare set of all the pamphlets and a first edition of the book.”

And it’s all accessible online at Hannah Thomas, head of cataloging and special collections at the library, said nearly every work in the collection was scanned and digitized recently as part of an international collaboration led by the National Institute for Newman Studies in Pittsburgh, Pa.  Thomas said the library hopes to be able to digitize its other extensive collection, the Lasallian collection.

Newman symposium attendeesA third symposium on Cardinal Newman is planned for 2012, when Newman is expected to be canonized.

“Newman Symposium II” was sponsored by Saint Mary’s Brother Community, the Bishop John S. Cummins Institute for Catholic Thought, Culture and Action and the Mission of San Jose Dominican Sisters.