By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published October 27, 2011
During Georgia Tech’s homecoming weekend, Oct. 28-30, the school’s Catholic Center will be hosting a dual celebration of 85 years as a presence on campus and 25 years in its building on Fourth Street.
Kicking off with a Mass and open house reception on Friday, Oct. 28, the weekend will be full of events, including Mass and a tailgate celebration before Tech’s football game against Clemson University on Saturday evening and an alumni and donor appreciation brunch following Mass on Sunday morning.
“Our Catholic Center, at the heart of East Campus, is here to help students to draw close to God during their college years,” wrote chaplain Father Kevin Peek on the Catholic Center’s website.
The history of the Catholic Church’s presence on the Tech campus reaches back much further than the current building on Fourth Street. A Newman Club was established on campus in the mid-1920s, when the Catholic population in Atlanta was significantly smaller than it is now.
At that time it was called “Cor Ad Cor Loquitor,” or “Heart Speaks To Heart,” after the personal coat of arms of Cardinal John Henry Newman. The club remained a small and relatively insignificant part of the college’s makeup until the group acquired its first meeting place in a house on the east campus of the school in the early 1950s.
By the early 1960s, nearly 200 students were members of the Newman Club, earning it the “best large Newman Club” award at the Southeast Newman Convention in Tallahassee, Fla., in 1963. Just three years later, the Catholic population at Georgia Tech reached 800.
Franciscan Father Mario DiLella arrived as the chaplain in 1970, becoming the fifth Franciscan to lead the Catholic students of Georgia Tech. As the number of Catholic students increased over the next decade, Father DiLella eventually approached then Atlanta Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, expressing the need for the Catholic Center to expand to meet the growing community.
Archdiocesan officials approved the building of a new Catholic Center at Tech and made the project one of four major programs to be funded by a special $7.2 million archdiocesan Capital Funds Drive in the early 1980s. The new Catholic Center at Georgia Tech cost more than $1 million at the time and was dedicated at a Mass on Oct. 20, 1985.
Currently, during fall and spring semesters, the Catholic Center offers daily Mass for students at 5:30 p.m. and Eucharistic adoration every Tuesday at 11 a.m. and Thursday at 9 p.m. During the summer semester, Mass is offered every day except Wednesday and Saturday. A Communion service is held every Wednesday night. The students are also encouraged to participate in the many ministries offered by the Catholic Center, including retreats, Bible studies and rosary groups, in addition to social activities like tailgates, monthly dinners and more.
The Catholic Center has been self-supporting for many years but still relies on donations and the support of alumni and volunteers. Its focus is to serve as a rock of faith during the often trying times of college-aged kids.
“I hope that all of you who are engaged in the college experience will allow your years at Tech to be a time of growth in faith, even as you grow in knowledge,” Father Peek wrote to students on the center’s website. “Whatever your background or interests: sports, music, technology, Bible, Greek, salsa, etc., there are students here who will help you to live your life in faith.”
Georgia Tech Catholic Center
Friday, October 28
5:30 p.m. Mass
6-7:30 p.m. Open House and Reception
Saturday, October 29
4:30 p.m. Vigil Mass
5:30 p.m. Tailgate—$5 a person for all-you-can-eat burgers, hot dogs, chips, a drink and dessert. Best spot to watch the band and team come down Yellow Jacket Alley.
Sunday, October 30
11:30 a.m. Mass for Alumni and Friends
12:30 p.m. Alumni and Donor Appreciation Brunch. Meet students, hear about what’s happening at the Catholic Center and share stories.
RSVP to any event to firstname.lastname@example.org or (404) 892-6759.