A Campus Ministry Monsignor Edward J. Duncan and the Newman Foundation at the University of Illinois in the Twentieth Century

By Hill, Bennett | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2002 | Go to article overview

A Campus Ministry Monsignor Edward J. Duncan and the Newman Foundation at the University of Illinois in the Twentieth Century


Hill, Bennett, The Catholic Historical Review


A Campus Ministry. Monsignor Edward, j Duncan and the Newman Foundation at the University of Illinois in the Twentieth Century. By Patrick J. Daly, Jr. (Champaign: University of Illinois Services. 2001. Pp. xii, 328; 81 photographs. $29.95.)

How does the Catholic historian assess the effectiveness of a university campus ministry? By the opportunities it affords students to sustain, broaden, and deepen their faith at a critical time in their maturing lives? By the number of new converts it receives into the Church? By the number of men and women who through campus ministry opt for the priesthood and the religious life? By the sensitivity the chaplaincy displays to Hispanic, Asian, and African-American Catholic students and faculty? By the level of spiritual counseling and direction the chaplaincy provides? By the prudent financial management of properties and material assets of the chaplaincy? By the simple and edifying life of the chaplaincy staff, especially that of the head chaplain?

The subtitle of this book reveals its contents: it is both a biography of Father Edward J. Duncan (1915- ) and a broad sketch of the Newman Foundation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Because Father Duncan was chaplain at Illinois for fifty-five years, 1943-1998, what one priest has called "a record for almost any (pastoral) assignment in the United States," the story of the Foundation is inextricably tied up with Father Duncan.

He descended from a prominent business family in La Salle, Illinois, received his formative education with the Benedictines of St. Bede's Abbey in Peru, Illinois, then with the Jesuits at Holy Cross. The decision as to a career, whether in business or law, was resolved at a Holy Thursday dinner in 1937 when another guest, Francis Spellman, then Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, "gave" Duncan his vocation to the priesthood. Theological studies, begun at the University of Innsbruck in Austria but curtailed by the Anschluss, were completed at the Catholic University of America. Bishop Joseph Schlarman of Peoria ordained Duncan to the priesthood in June, 1941. In May, 1943, he received a doctorate in theology, having written a thesis in patrology. The following August Bishop Schlarman appointed him chaplain of the Newman Foundation at Illinois.

He inherited a staggering debt, a religious education program in chaos, buildings in disrepair, few resources, and the care of 1600 Catholic students plus 400 military trainees (for the war effort). …

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