By Joe Willard
The wait for University of Nebraska at Omaha Catholic students to have a place they can call home is coming to an end. According to a press-release from Archdiocese of Omaha June 30 was the groundbreaking ceremony for the John Paul II Newman Center. The facility will provide a residence hall for 164 students in apartment-style dorm rooms as well as residence for two priests and a chapel.
Deacon Tim McNeil, Chancellor of Archdiocese of Omaha, said the most exciting opportunity the Newman Center brings is the opportunity to connect students’ academic lives with their faith.
McNeil says as students go through their academic life, many of them are pushed to achieve more, to focus on their careers and become something.
“What remains most important is their relationship with God. Worship, praise, serving the other has to be part of their life on the college campus,” McNeil said.
While UNO’s 6,000 Catholic students have organizations like FOCUS to support them, currentlythere is no place for them to call home base. Unlike their counterparts in Lincoln, Omaha students have to leave campus to worship or go to confession. With the Newman Center McNeil says students will have access to Sunday worship, confession and a catechesis (faith-forming education).
The Newman Center is not just for Catholic students. Non-Catholics will be able to apply to live in the residence hall as well. This is part of the Catholic Church’s new evangelization which is about representing faith and how Christ has helped students.
McNeil’s biggest hope is that non-Catholics will benefit from seeing their peers boldly and visibly living out their faith.
Adam Ybarra, Team Director of FOCUS at UNO, is also excited about the opportunity for Catholic students at UNO to have a safe place where they can focus on their spiritual growth. His main focus is reaching out to students both on and off campus so they know what the Newman Center will bring. For those who are interested there are a series of events coming up to kickoff the semester and support the new center.
This Sunday, there will be a back to school Sunday night mass at St. Margaret Mary’s on the north side of Dodge Street across from campus. There will be free pancakes for all who attend.
Starting Monday jpiiomaha.org will feature a live stream of the building progress as well as feature opportunities for students to submit blogs and pictures.
On Aug. 29, FOCUS will host a back to school Bar-B-Que at Elmwood Park starting at 5 p.m.
For now McNeil says the building continues to grow.
“Steel is in the ground. The skeleton is coming together,” McNeil said. “The crew is on schedule.”