The University Catholic Center was first established as a Newman Club by the Paulist Fathers, in 1924, when the Newman movement reached UCLA five years after the founding of the University. When the UCLA campus relocated from the site on Vermont Avenue (now Los Angeles City College) to Westwood, the UCLA Newman Club relocated as well. From 1928 through 1941, the UCLA Newman Center facilitated its liturgical services and activities in the original University Religious Center Conference building, which has since been demolished.
In 1941, the then-Diocese of Los Angeles purchased the Theta Phi Alpha sorority house on 840 Hilgard Ave, which was the site of the Newman Center for 58 years. During this time, the Center became known as the University Catholic Center. Retreats, Sunday and weekly Masses, adult education programs, and social events continued at the new site. As enrollment at UCLA and student participation at the UCC increased, it became clear that the Hilgard location could no longer adequately accommodate the large populations of Catholic students attending Mass or provide the space necessary to host events. Liturgies had to be held at the University Lutheran Chapel on Strathmore Drive in order to accommodate everyone. Thus, plans and fundraising efforts to find a new location for the UCC began in the early 1990s.
As UCLA’s master plans of the early 1990s emphasized the transference of growth and activity to the west side of the campus, and the UCC staff noticed the large space and easy accessibility of the University Lutheran Chapel to the students, efforts were focused on finding a suitable location there. A private fund-raising campaign for the building began, aiming to achieve a goal of $7 million.
After much prayer and research, a breakthrough was made when an old apartment complex at 633 Gayley Avenue was available. With the help of Cardinal Roger Mahoney and Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the property was purchased. The apartment complex was demolished and the construction for a new UCC began. The 13,000 square foot, four-story building that became the current location of the UCC was officially opened and dedicated on December 4, 1999. It was named the Cyril C. Nigg University Catholic Center in honor of the man who was the first President of the UCLA Newman Club prior to the move to Westwood. The current building includes a beautiful chapel that holds a capacity of about 300 people for each Mass and features a dramatic elevated ceiling and balcony, along with a meditative terrace. Below the chapel is the Community Room, where weekly events and meetings are often held, and a state-of-the-art kitchen. The floor above the chapel contains the main offices, a library, and a terrace.
Since then, we have continued to provide a spiritual presence to the UCLA community, which has been made easier now that we are situated close to residence halls and near the majority of off-campus student housing. We continue to welcome all to our Sunday and weekly Masses, establish community through weekly Student Dinners and other social events, help other develop their faith through weekly Bible Studies, promote service to others through our mission trips and weekly service to the poor with Saint Vincent de Paul at UCLA, and connect with students on-campus at Bruin Walk and large campus-wide events such as the Enormous Activities Fair and Bruin Day. All of this is still made possible by the generosity and support of our donors, community members, alumni, students, and our Student Leadership Team.
In 2018, the UCC will celebrate its 90th anniversary. Here’s to many more years of service for future generations of leaders in the Church and the world to come!