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Priest leaving campus church after 10 years of service

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Rebecca Marie Sasnett
The Rev. Bartholomew Hutcherson gives communion to churchgoers during Easter Mass at St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center on Sunday. Hutcherson will soon leave his post at the Newman Center after serving there for 10 years.

The Rev. Bartholomew Hutcherson had a sizable turnout for the Easter Vigil Mass, which was held in the St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center on the UA campus Saturday night. He preached at the Mass, baptized and confirmed several students, and also received a student who is an adult convert.

This will be the last time Hutcherson gives communion for Easter in the church located next to greek row. Hutcherson, known by parishioners as Father Bart, will be leaving his post as the head pastor of the Newman Center after 10 years serving there.

A Newman Center is a Catholic community on a university campus, and there are Newman Centers at college campuses across the nation, according to Hutcherson. The proximity to campus allows Hutcherson and the entire staff to maintain a strong relationship with the university community.

“It makes no sense for there to be a parish on a university campus, except that it’s here to serve the university,” he said. “Our mission is specifically tied to the university community.”

To further connect the church to the campus, Hutcherson designed the cross that has become the symbol of the Newman Center at the UA to closely resemble the block “A.”

In Hutcherson’s time at the UA, he has developed numerous programs, especially ones targeting freshmen at the beginning of their college careers.

“If you don’t get people involved when they are freshmen, they won’t get involved later,” Hutcherson said.

Enhancing the Newman Center’s presence at freshman orientation is important to Hutcherson, he said, as he hopes to welcome them into the university community. Since the summer of 2004, when Hutcherson began working at the Newman Center, the freshman retreat was an event that was very important to him. He said he hoped to create a home base for students who come to the UA from out-of-state.

Stacey Webb, a UA alumna who received her bachelor’s degree in 2010, has known Hutcherson for eight years.

“His work at the Newman Center gave me a community I can trust, a faith I can rely on and a home away from home,” Webb said.

Michael Fritz, a geosciences junior, has worked with Hutcherson on the leadership team at the Newman Center for the past three years and said he has enjoyed learning and working alongside him.

“He always has energy, always is thinking of the students, and puts them number one,” Fritz said.

During his time at the Newman Center, Hutcherson said, he worked constantly to connect to as many different groups at the university as he could. He has participated in several social justice programs, connecting students with diverse backgrounds and beliefs.

“He gives ideas to build the community and make it stronger,” said Rachel Carnicle, a biology senior who has worked with Hutcherson on the leadership team for the past year.

For the past two years, Hutcherson has been celebrating Mass with the Catholic members of the Arizona football team on home game days.

“This was always something I wanted to do,” Hutcherson said. “The previous coach wasn’t open to it, but [head] coach [Rich] Rodriguez was.”

Hutcherson previously worked at the University of Washington, University of Utah and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Hutcherson explained that even though the University of Utah has a special place in his heart, as it was his first college assignment where he served for four years, the UA has been his favorite.

“I think I’m a Wildcat for life,” Hutcherson said.

As part of his duties as a pastor, Hutcherson took a “vow of obedience.” This vow ultimately means that wherever Hutcherson is called to serve, he must go. After serving the university community for 10 years, he said he will dearly miss the friendships and relationships that he has established.

After visiting his family in Alabama for a few months, Hutcherson said he will travel to Israel for four months to study scripture, and continue on to Spain, where he plans to study Spanish for six months. While in Spain, Hutcherson will walk the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage, from the Pyrenees Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean.

“There will never be enough words to thank him for the role he has played in my life or in those of other Newman parishioners,” Webb said. “We won’t be the same without him.”

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