As the Catholic Student Center at the University of Maryland in College Park continues to expand and grow to best serve the student body, plans for a new center are underway, expanding and renovating the current space.

Cardinal-designate Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, blessed the grounds and the project in a groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 31, 2020.

“Over time you have simply outgrown your space,” Cardinal-designate Gregory said. “You need room to remain the disciples of Christ that you are and that you are called to become.”

The “Centered on Christ” campaign will allow for the Catholic Student Center to double its capacity for seating in the Barney Room to accommodate more than 300 students who attend the weekly Wednesday evening Mass and dinner. New spaces for offices and meetings and other renovations will improve the building. At the center of the new building will be a Eucharistic Adoration Chapel.

Cardinal-designate Gregory commended the Catholic Student Center for its work as a “community of faith” that has “served young people and anchored their lives in Christ for many years.” In a special way he recognized the center’s chaplains both past and present who were in attendance at the groundbreaking -- Bishop-elect Bill Byrne, the pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac, Maryland, whom Pope Francis recently named as the new bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts; Father Rob Walsh, the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bethesda, Maryland; and Father Conrad Murphy, the current chaplain.

“The Archdiocese of Washington has shared with this community for many years now the treasure of its chaplains,” the cardinal-designate said. “They are treasures that have borne much fruit. So thank you.. for investing your lives with these young people and inviting them to invest their lives with Christ.”

Father Conrad Murphy, the chaplain at the Catholic Student Center, addresses those gathered for the groundbreaking and blessing ceremony on Oct. 31. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj) 

Father Murphy said the ceremony was an incredible opportunity to “thank God for all that has been done so far and to ask Him to bless what we’re going to be doing in the future.”

Father Murphy, who joined the Catholic Terps team as chaplain over the summer, said it is the students at the University of Maryland and the Catholic Student Center that inspire hope for the future of the Church.

“They are on fire, they are excited, they are joyful, they are faithful, and they’re the future of the Church,” he said. “The students here are setting fire to the entire archdiocese, and they really are the future of our parishes and the future of our archdiocese. It is such a joy to be here with them.”

Father Walsh began the work of the campaign while he served as chaplain. At the groundbreaking ceremony, he also spoke about the students who were and are formed at the Catholic Student Center, a few of whom work and teach at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and School. In recent years, more than a dozen students who attended the center have become priests or women religious, including many serving now in the archdiocese.

“People that have received formation here are moving into not only positions of leadership in the Church, but leadership in faith, and that’s the great gift of this place,” he said.

Catholic Student Center alum Christian Johnson, who graduated from the University of Maryland in 2017, gave his testimony of his experience at the Catholic Student Center. Unlike everything else Johnson experienced as a college freshman, he said, “You come to a place like this where the theme is ‘Centered on Christ’ and it is a revolutionary term for an undergraduate student to hear.”

“What better cornerstone to build that foundation on than the Catholic Student Center,” Johnson said.

Barry Gossett, one of the lead donors for the project, said that he and his wife, Mary, saw their investment in the Catholic Student Center as an investment in the young people there.

“Mary and I were always about the students, and we look at this investment in the Catholic Student Center as an investment in the students and a place where they could seek comfort and seek guidance when they need it,” Gossett said.

In closing the groundbreaking ceremony, Cardinal-designate Gregory said, “We know that the most important success and the measure of success is the role of the Catholic Student Center in developing faithful disciples, faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus.”

“The seeds of the new evangelization in the parishes that these students attend and will attend after graduation as they go forward will be a great tribute to all that this Catholic Student Center has done and will do tomorrow,” he said.