closegradients left_arrowmenuright_arrow

Saint Paul University Catholic Center

Frequently Asked Questions


Why is it necessary to build a new chapel?

St. Paul University Catholic Center was originally built in 1909 and last renovated in 1968. St. Paul’s is located at the heart of one of the top universities in the country and in the center of downtown Madison. Its location puts it at the center of commerce and state government.Some people, most of whom are no longer part of the St. Paul’s community, have strong nostalgic attachments to the renovated chapel, but they were not the ones using it on a daily basis and experiencing its limitations.

The chapel no longer spoke to the students coming to St. Paul’s. They would tell us that St. Paul’s architecture was cold, antiquated, and, most concerning, unwelcoming. It was too small to meet the programming needs. In spite of all of the good things that have happened within its walls, the building had exceeded its useful life.

The current and future students want and need a recognizable Catholic Center located on Library Mall. When attending a large public university, students need to find a visible, welcoming place that enables them to practice their faith and make friends. It also encourages non-Catholics to question their beliefs and invites them to the beauty of the Church in an atmosphere of much moral relativism.

Over the last 50 years, the University has rebuilt and improved its facilities with extensive expansion and renovation. For example, UW Memorial Union has gotten a makeover, and the City has redone Library Mall. St. Paul’s should be congruous with its surroundings.

How is the work going with the students?

The mission and ministry at St. Paul’s is growing tremendously, particularly over the last 10 years. Now there are over 65 Catholic Bible studies across campus and over 500 students involved weekly outside of Sunday Mass. We have a myriad of programs geared specifically toward college students to help them understand their faith, integrate it into their studies, and give them the support they need to take the faith out to the world. St. Paul’s is a nationwide leader in Catholic collegiate evangelization and formation.

How does this project compare to other similar projects in scope and expense?

St. Paul’s conducted a survey to answer this question and found that per capita, our project is well within the norm for other similar projects.

Yale’s center cost $28 million, USC’s new Catholic Center cost $31 million and St. Thomas Aquinas Newman center in Nebraska invested $25 million.

At UW-Madison, other religious groups have recently invested significantly in their facilities, such as $11 million for the Jewish Hillel Center and $9 for the Lutheran Chapel and Student Center.

How did the current design emerge?

The plans need to appeal to a wide variety of people: primarily to students, but also to the benefactors who invest in the mission, parents, prospective parents, students, the City, the University, the neighbors, and the broader Diocese. After several iterations of architectural plans, we now have a design that is functional and that people fully support.

The worship space will be more attractive and welcoming to students. The meeting floors will allow us to host more events and give students a place to gather throughout the week and find a community and a home away from home.

Why the more traditional look? Isn’t that a step backwards?

Students are thirsty for beauty; a recent study said beauty was one of the most significant reasons people come to and stay with the Catholic faith. The facility needs to be large, beautiful, and visible enough for students to notice it. Students tell us that their friends don’t realize that the grey concrete building next to the bookstore is a church.

The design has taken elements from the Church’s architectural history that embodies the beauty of our faith but is also complementary with the downtown Madison streetscape.

When did we break ground?

The campaign officially began in December 2012 we broke ground in February 2016 with a projected completion date of October 2017.

Can I get a look at the plans?

Absolutely! Feel free Senior Director of Advancement Scott Hackl a call at 608-395-1245. You can continue to visit our campaign website often to continue to read about our progress.


Christ the Cornerstone Campaign

Why are we investing in buildings and not in people?

Our entire mission is focused on one thing: bringing students to Christ.

But investing in people requires a building that supports the work of outreach, formation, fellowship, and worship. The current building is not capable of supporting the programming in place, much less the plans for the future, which include a much larger focus on evangelization, catechetical and professional formation, leadership training, faith-based student housing, and many other programs to serve a campus of 43,000 students.

I don’t go to St. Paul’s. Why should I care about this campaign?

Supporting this project will impact not only the lives of students for generations to come (that might include your children or grandchildren!) but also the entire university and home parishes where students will go forth to love and serve Christ. Over 95% of Catholic college students attend public universities and as we grow our investment in this area, we grow our ability to form future religious vocations and strong Catholic families and leaders that extend well beyond campus.

Why should I support this campaign?

St. Paul’s is a unique organization that ministers to a transient student base. There are no working families among the regular congregation and as such St. Paul’s is a vital institution at UW-Madison that needs support like any other UW or collegiate entity from leaders, parents and alumni.

Catholics who have a strong commitment to their faith are stepping forward and investing in St. Paul’s based on their means. It’s a high-impact investment that is deeply leveraged, and for over 1,000 annual donors it’s their way of supporting the university and the future needs of the Church.

How is the campaign doing?

The campaign is on course to meet its financial objectives.

More importantly, we’ve gathered a very committed group of business and civic leaders in regions across Wisconsin to assist with our campaign. We’ve also formed a pastoral advisory committee of priests who recognize the importance of having a strong Catholic presence on campus for the children of their parishioners when they head to UW-Madison.

What are the plans for continuing programming in the interim between demolition of the old building and opening of the new St. Paul’s?

Our programming is continuing as uninterrupted as possible through some exciting collaborations with community religious organizations. During the day, the ministry staff and priests are at Upper | House, located in the University Square building 365 E. Campus Mall. Some programs are also held there as well as at the nearby Luther Memorial Church at 1021 University Avenue. These are conveniently located on campus and have allowed us to continue the level of programming and sacraments during the construction period.



What is the leadership of the Campaign?

For the purposes of the Campaign, the Foundation Board has delegated significant responsibility to the Campaign Executive Committee, a group with unique and particularly relevant skills that meets regularly to oversee the implementation of the fundraising plan and provides guidance to Fr. Nielsen (Director) and Scott Hackl (Senior Director of Advancement) regarding major building decisions.

The campaign cabinet is a widespread leadership group responsible for raising funds and networking on behalf of St. Paul’s.