College is a time in life where many people are trying to discover who they are, what they are going to do with their life, and why they are here. People go to college to grow in knowledge, wisdom, build community, and to experience great things. Most during their college experience will be striving to better themselves, or some go to college to escape a dark or troubling place. They are seeking something that their hearts cannot find anywhere else. Something that will help them grow socially, professionally, and hopefully spiritually. Something that will resonate a special place in their hearts forever. What they are truly looking for is God, fruitful relationships with others, and a place to call home. The JPII Newman Center at UNO is this place to call home as it helps college students experience all of this while encountering Christ at a deeper level.
My name is Johnny Murray and I am a proud alum of the JPII Newman Center. It is with much gratitude that I look back at my experience at the Newman Center and thank God for blessing me with such a wonderful opportunity to grow in my faith while in college. Initially when I started my collegiate career, I was a pretty lukewarm Christian. Not even Catholic and not really practicing my faith. I was pursuing a marketing degree but had no clue what I hoped to do with my life at the time. After my first year and a half of college, I went through many trouble times. I experienced much grief and loss, fell into the wrong crowd, and lost my own identity. But praise God, because He blessed me with a friend who introduced me to a FOCUS missionary from the Newman Center. After being invited and attending a SEEK FOCUS conference, a fire was ignited in my heart and all I wanted to do was run into the arms of Jesus. It was the Newman Center that gave me the place to call home to do exactly that.
At the Newman Center, I found exactly what my heart had been yearning for. That was first and foremost a real relationship with Jesus Christ. There were many bible studies, dinners, talks, influential sessions, and masses that helped fill me with the knowledge and wisdom to grow in my faith. I even felt the call to participate in the RCIA program and become Catholic through the Newman Center. There were so many opportunities to learn and grow in the Catholic faith at the Newman Center. Then the Newman Center also gave me that sense of community that I was searching to have. My friends at the Newman Center were like minded individuals who pushed me in my faith and wanted to see the best for me. These were people that I could have genuine conversations with as they truly cared for my well-being. They are friends that weren’t just “college friends” but became true brothers and sisters in Christ who I am still close with to this day. The Newman Center also helped me discover my purpose in life. Not only am I grateful that the Newman Center was the place where I met and later on proposed to my beautiful fiancée; but the Newman Center also brought out my passions and how I can use them to glorify God in all that I do. From my time at the Newman Center, I really discovered that I enjoy sharing the love of Christ with others; along with having a passion of glorifying God through music. It was from growing in those passions at the Newman Center that have led me to work in the Catholic Church and use my talents of music to praise the Lord. All these things were only able to happen from my experience at the Newman Center. The Newman Center filled my heart with what it was yearning.
Even to this day, I see myself constantly talking about my experiences and time at the Newman Center. The Newman Center helped me become the man that I am today. It gave me so much growth in my spiritual, social, and professional parts of my life. It helped me establish a good and healthy prayer life. I was taught many ways on how to pray. Ways that I am using daily. From offering the sacraments frequently, the Newman Center helped instilled the importance of receiving the Sacraments as much as I possibly can. Daily mass, confession, and adoration were beautiful gifts the center offered. Being in the presence of the Eucharist as often as possible was incredible. It was something that I enjoyed so much that I am still striving for daily mass along with doing confession and adoration frequently. The Newman Center also helped teach me how to share the word of God with others. I was taught how to lead a bible study along with participating in praise & worship. Due to these opportunities, I now feel confident when I do these in my own life, whether it be at my job, with family, or out in public. The Newman Center gave me confidence to live boldly and proudly in my Catholic faith by praising the name of Jesus in every moment with whomever I am with.
When people ask me about my college years, I never tell them about the classes I took, the sporting events I went to, or any clubs I was involved with. Instead, I tell them about my experience at the Newman Center. For it is with much thanksgiving that the Newman Center helped me grow into the man that God created for me to be. It introduced and developed my spiritual life in growing closer to Jesus. It gave me a community of people who will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of time. It showed me my purpose in life and how God is calling me to pursue those passions. Thanks to all these reasons and so much more, I am grateful to be a proud donor and give back however I can through time, talent, and treasure to the Newman Center. I am fortunate to have been part of one of the early groups that saw when the Newman Center didn’t even exist to what it has become now. Seeing what the center has grown into leaves me in constant awe. It is constantly growing too which is so exciting. More students are catching the fire of Jesus and they are doing so through the wonderful opportunities that the Newman Center provides. This is a time that our young adults need Jesus now more than ever. Especially in college, which can be a challenging time, they need a place to go to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. A place that they can call home. That place is the JPII Newman Center, which is why I am, and will always be, a proud supporter in helping light the fire of Christ within these students by giving back and helping grow the Newman Center. Praise God for blessing the University of Nebraska Omaha with the JPII Newman Center!
Join him by donating online today.
Johnny is pictured above with his fiancée Morgan.