September 24, 2018
First impressions. We all have these! Meeting new people? Experiencing a new restaurant? We can’t help but have first impressions of them. The fascinating thing about first impressions is that oftentimes they stay with us; they often have the effect of imprinting something of themselves into our memory and even forming our sense of the whole—hence our desire to make good first impressions on others!
My name is Fr. Jake Anderson and I arrived here from the Twin Cities in mid-August as the new associate pastor of JPII Newman. Needless to say, upon arrival, I was not immune to having first impressions of the place! Almost immediately, I experienced JPII Newman as a parish unlike any other.
While many parishes have a strong sense of community, far fewer parishes have a community that lives on the actual premises! As the students began arriving on campus to inaugurate the fall semester, one of my first impressions was witnessing right away the beautiful sharing of life among the students: meals, study, recreation, prayer, and leisure. Much of this shared life was unplanned and unscheduled and “flowed” spontaneously. What was more, there is a noticeable atmosphere of friendship and familiarity, positivity and unity. JPII Newman certainly seems to be not only a place to excel in being a serious student but also a privileged place to be truly human, to be immersed in a culture and community of beautiful vitality.
I will not soon forget my immediate first impression upon walking into the JPII Newman Oratory. Seizing the center of attention, was the strikingly beautiful stained-glass image of Christ with the words of John 10:10b: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” What occurred to me was that this image was a concrete answer to the questions I had been asking: “What is the source of the beauty of this shared life in common here at JPII Newman? What is the source of this ease of friendship that is so evident among the students?” It seems so evident to me that just as this image of Christ is at the center of attention in this physical space, Christ is at the source of this experience of the abundant life.
This experience and first impression of the abundant life seems all so fitting considering our patron—St. John Paul II, a man so deeply known and revered among young people for being so full of this kind of vitality and thirst for life marked by Christ. While many students are too young to have encountered the living person of St. John Paul II, they seem to have learned of him through the spirit of osmosis as there is an unmistakable presence and “mark” of St. John Paul II everywhere. Certainly I see his spirit in the architectural of the oratory and the naming conventions of the various rooms, but even more so in the spirit and atmosphere of the whole Newman center. There is the old adage about patron saints: “sometimes you find the saint and sometimes the saint finds you.” My impression is that even though JPII Newman is founded in his name, in an equilateral sort of way, St. John Paul II has “found” the Newman center.
It certainly seems that no student in residence is here by accident! There is so much life here, a life truly marked by Christ. My first impression is that JPII Newman is truly a parish but a parish unlike any other!
Fr. Jake Anderson | Associate Pastor, JPII Newman