The Newman University and ASC Connection
The history of Newman University is inextricably intertwined with the history of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, the religious community which founded and sponsors the university. That history began in Italy on March 4, 1834, when Maria De Mattias, a young woman from the mountain village of Vallecorsa, Italy, founded the congregation of the Sisters Adorers of the Divine Blood.
In 1855 the young religious order received papal approval. Maria De Mattias made a public vow of chastity, receiving a gold heart imprinted with three drops of blood. The symbol was given to her by John Merlini, CPPS, her spiritual director who later served as superior general of the Precious Blood Missionaries, and for whom Merlini Hall is named. De Mattias Fine Arts Center is named for the foundress of the religious order. The heart, now silver, is still worn by the sisters around the globe.
Maria De Mattias was a champion for the poor and taught women and children. The religious order was founded as an apostolic order, an active teaching order, rather than a monastic order. In 1847 a group of German sisters, who were devoted to the Precious Blood, were affiliated with the Adorers in Italy because of unsettling political conditions in the Germanys. Eventually, it was from this German foundation that the charism of Maria was brought to America. When Bismarck instituted the Kulturkampf, which outlawed religious congregations, another solution was needed; several members of the order, between 1870-1873, came to the United States eventually establishing their home in Ruma, Illinois.
From Ruma, the Precious Blood Sisters, as they were popularly known, came to Kansas to teach in parish schools in 1893. They first settled in Westphalia and this was followed by missions in Herndon, Odin, St. Mark’s, Ost, Aleppo, and Andale. German immigrants established communities and needed teachers to educate their children to be citizens, as well as practicing Catholics. The presence of the Adorers [ASC] was most important to these communities.
By 1902 a central house in Wichita was established because of a large number of sisters teaching in Kansas. Mother Clementine Zerr and three sisters opened that house on what is now Newman University. Two primary ministries emerged, Education and Health Care, the latter primarily in hospitals. These ministries remain today; however, with societal changes and the work of Vatican II, the sisters have moved into new ministries: Religious Education outside of the Catholic school system, Social Outreach and Parish Ministry. One of the distinguishing features of the ASC mission is the goal to work for the empowerment and development of people. Another feature is the ability to respond to the needs of society and individuals.
In 1929 the Adorers in the United States were divided into three provinces. In 1933 the Wichita province, led by Beata Netemeyer, ASC, founded Sacred Heart Junior College, the predecessor of Newman University. Beata Hall is named in her honor. The presence of the ASCs has been a constant in the growth and change of this institution as it first became a four-year liberal arts institution for young women, Sacred Heart College. After admitting young men, the name was changed to Kansas Newman College and the college began programs for the growing adult student population. Finally, the college began offering graduate degrees and the name was changed to Newman University in 1998.
In October, 2000 the three United States’ provinces consolidated into one, the United States’ province. In addition to the university the Adorers sponsor several health and social service ministries. The sisters serve in approximately 50 dioceses across the country. Maria De Mattias, their foundress, was proclaimed a saint by Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s in Rome on May 18, 2003.
Internationally, the Adorers of the Blood of Christ have around 1350 vowed members with over 2,000 associates; they serve on all inhabited continents and in 28 nations. The ASC administrative structure changed from provinces to regions in 2005. Current regions are Italy, northern Europe, southeastern Europe, North America, South America, Africa, central and eastern Asia, and Oceania. The United States presently is called a region with approximately 225 members and approximately 400 associates.