The group of priests who have run the Catholic ministry at Ohio State University for 65 years will be departing at the end of July — a move their director described as “devastating” — following a decision by the new bishop of the Diocese of Columbus.

Bishop Earl Fernandes, who was installed on May 31, has appointed a new leader for the St. Thomas More Newman Center — which serves Ohio State students, faculty and staff as well as community members — and said it will have a new vision going forward.

While the diocese said it was grateful for the service of the Paulist Fathers, an independent order of priests who have led the center for decades, and indicated that they would be welcome to stay on as pastors, the leader of the national order put things differently.

The Rev. Rene Constanza, president of the New York-based Paulist Fathers, who were asked by the Columbus bishop in 1956 to run the Newman Center, penned a letter that was sent to the center’s mailing list Thursday afternoon stating the new bishop “has decided to end the Paulist Fathers’ service at the St. Thomas More Newman Center, effective July 31.”

A separate letter sent Thursday to parishioners by the local center’s director, the Rev. Ed Nowak, said: “Bishop Fernandes has informed us that he no longer wants the Paulists to be in charge of the ministry here.”

Constanza said in the letter the change follows the bishop’s decision to change the center’s leadership and intention to “make significant changes to the nature of the ministry to align with the bishop’s vision for St. Thomas More Newman Center.”

A proposed memorandum of understanding between the diocese and the Paulist Fathers that was provided to the Dispatch stated that the Paulist Fathers and the center would welcome more lay movements. The movements included some already offered at the center — such as the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) — and some that are not, such as Courage and Opus Dei.

… Fernandes appointed the Rev. Adam Streitenberger, the diocese’s director of evangelization, as the executive director of the Newman Center, the diocese announced in a release Thursday afternoon. He will begin on July 12.

Streitenberger will direct and manage the center and implement a student-focused vision, according to the diocese.

Read it all. 

You can read the Paulist Fathers statement here. 

The Diocese of Columbus statement is on the diocesan website here.