The Paulist Fathers have been serving The University of Texas community since 1908. The Paulist Fathers, formally known as the Missionary Society of Saint Paul the Apostle, was founded in 1858 in New York by the Servant of God Father Isaac Hecker. The mission of the Paulist Fathers is to evangelize the people of North America by attending to the whole human experience, transforming cultures with Gospel values and promoting justice, all the while recognizing that this originates and culminates in the preaching of the Good News.
At the time the Paulist Fathers were invited to serve, central Texas was a part of the Diocese of Galveston. Bishop Nicholas Gallagher invited the Paulist Fathers to found St. Austin Catholic Church, the Austin’s third parish, and to minister to the Roman Catholic community at The University of Texas.
By 1913 the Newman Apostolate had a clubhouse adjacent to the church. In 1946 the corner of 21st and University Avenue was purchased to meet the growing needs of the Paulist Fathers’ ministry at the university. The existing building was later demolished to build the Catholic Student Center, which was dedicated in 1965 when the bishops of Texas met in Austin. Nearly forty years later, the Catholic Student Center was renovated and reopened in 2002 as the University Catholic Center.
Over the last century, the Paulist Fathers’ pastoral ministry has cultivated the spiritual, intellectual, and social lives of the Roman Catholic community at the university. Today the University Catholic Center continues to manifest the fruits of this cultivation. In addition to offering daily Mass and Eucharistic adoration, students have many more opportunities to learn about the richness of the Catholic faith and grow as leaders.
A key component of the continued success of the Paulist Fathers’ ministry is the commitment to partnerships in ministry. From programs like the semiannual Longhorn Awakening retreat and annual alternative spring break trips to the over 20 student groups focused on spirituality, service, and fellowship, the University Catholic Center continues to be the spiritual “home away from home” for students because students are invited by the Paulist Fathers’ ministry to make it their home. Since the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) joined the Paulist Fathers’ ministry in 2011, the University Catholic Center has been able to further the evangelization of the thousands of Catholic students who are not currently engaged in their faith.