In his 1978 inaugural homily as pope, St. John Paul II challenged the faithful: “Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power.” The mission of the St. John Paul II Newman Center (JPII Newman Center) accepts this challenge by evangelizing and offering Catholic formation to college students, especially to those enrolled at the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO).
Our patron, St. John Paul II, had a special love for young adults and personally invested himself in their lives as a means of fostering in them a love of Christ and a life of committed discipleship. In 1993, at World Youth Day in Denver, St. John Paul II reminded a generation of young people, many of whom have gone on to serve the Church today in the priesthood and in consecrated life, of Christ’s declaration: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10b).
The JPII Newman Center calls young people to live the abundant life embodied by our late, beloved Pontiff by offering and promoting what was vital to him:
- a personal relationship with Christ leading to discipleship;
- a love of the sacraments as privileged ways to encounter God;
- the pursuit of authentic love as the foundation of relationships and community life;
- a solid catechetical formation flowing from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition;
- a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, her spouse;
- a life of personal, contemplative prayer from which flows the discernment of one’s vocation, apostolic action and service to the poor;
- and an appreciation of music, the arts and nature that opens us in wonder to the beauty of God.
Inspired by the witness of St. John Paul II, we are called to be bold, to be faithful, and to be not afraid.
At the JPII Newman Center, students will have an opportunity to participate in campus ministry programs, which will encourage them to be leaders during their college years and in their future parishes and communities. Parents will be reassured knowing their college students have a place on campus to continue their faith, to be positively influenced by peers and to have a second place to call home.
The JPII Newman Center will be a beautiful new space near UNO for young people to celebrate their faith and build an even greater and more connected community. While experiencing the JPII Newman Center through programming, worship and new relationships, students will discern their vocations.
By centralizing the Catholic community on prime property adjacent to the Pacific Street campus, the JPII Newman Center will enhance the student experience, provide quality student housing and support the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, recently created by the UNO Wellness Center. The quality of students that will be attracted to this Catholic community also will benefit UNO and its programs. The JPII Newman Center is not only an asset to the UNO campus, but also is an extension of the area Catholic community and will serve as a benefit to the city, state and region. As a part of the Catholic presence in Omaha, it also will be a place the entire community can be proud of.
The beautiful new structure is designed with elements representing the early life of St. John Paul II in Poland and his appreciation of the outdoors and natural beauty. Structural elements include natural limestone, white oak and brick foundations. The oratory, or chapel, will feature pale, stained glass windows that will filter natural light to create warmth and beauty in the sacred space. The commons area will feature tall windows, enabling residents to view an outdoor courtyard and the tree-lined Little Papio Creek and Keystone Trail.