May 7, 2018
Hello! My name is Cole Nardini. I am a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Omaha. Let me tell you a little bit about how I arrived here.
I’ve been blessed with a very early conversion experience, happening in middle school through the Blessed Mother, Mary. When the time came for my confirmation, I knew I wanted to be Catholic.
Throughout high school, I encountered ups and downs in my faith. I was involved in youth group, and everyone at my high school knew I was a nice guy, but many didn’t know I was Catholic until my senior year. During the summer, I attended the Archdiocese’s Catholic Leadership Institute and a Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) retreat. These two events were responsible for the first times in my life I had encountered God’s love and His healing mercy. They reignited my faith.
Coming into college, I knew what I wanted: a relationship with Christ. I knew I wanted to go to Mass and receive the sacraments that had been so transformative for me, but I didn’t know how or where.
By sheer grace, I was walking on campus the Sunday before classes started, trying to make sure I knew where to go the next day and ran into one of the girls who had worked a TEC retreat with me. She asked if I was going to Mass that night, to which I responded, “When and where?”
This is how I discovered campus ministry at UNO, then called MavCatholic. I quickly got involved with the Students for Life group, a FOCUS Bible study, and Fireside Chats, a group that met every other week for catechesis on various topics.
For the first time in my life, I was building friendships that grew out of our shared Catholic faith. I had friends that were willing to correct me when they thought I did or said something wrong and were willing to walk with me in my struggles. I look back fondly on late nights spent in cars discussing life problems praying with and for each other because we each held the other’s needs above our own. These friendships were and still are foundational in my call to the seminary and discernment of the priesthood.
I had the opportunity the summer after my freshman year of college to be a Totus Tuus teacher. These were some of the most challenging and rewarding months of my life. For those unfamiliar, Totus Tuus is a summer program where teams of four spend a week at various parishes teaching kids from first grade through high school seniors. It was the first time I understood what it meant to have a good prayer life and the first time I was able to teach the Catholic faith to others. I was going to daily mass, saying three of the liturgy of the hours, and praying a holy hour every day. In this I realized the love God had for me and worked through me. I desired more.
I was attracted to this life of regular prayer. I saw the graces and strength Jesus had given me and began thinking and praying about the priesthood. Through prayer, I knew seminary would wait until after college.
Those next three years were tough, but transformative. I found myself becoming a leader in the campus ministry at UNO. I got involved with FOCUS and began leading a Bible study and discipling other men. I had an internship as a software developer for about a year before deciding that I wanted to focus on campus ministry my senior year at the new JPII Newman Center.
I continued in my leadership roles and prayer habits and turned to focusing on building up relationships with the people I did not know. I was blessed to be a part of a group of men that met regularly to discuss struggles with vocation, virtue, and studies, as well as our graces and friendships. The availability of a chapel connected to the dorm was simply invaluable. I can’t tell you how many times I came back from the day and just sat with Jesus for a few minutes before hanging out with friends or going to bed at night. It was the first place I had lived or visited where when sharing my troubles, I would hear, “I’m sorry” as much as “Can I pray with you?” In cooking, eating, and praying together, I was graced with the ability to solidify both old and new friendships.
The support of this community made it easy to be true to what God was asking of me and to discern the priesthood in the seminary. I am grateful for the friendship and leadership opportunities that I had in my time I had at UNO, and I am hopeful and praying that others will take the same opportunities to pursue Christ’s love in a relationship with Him with the support of UNO’s campus ministry at the JPII Newman Center.
(In case anyone is interested, books on prayer that really helped me when I wasn’t sure what it was are God Help Me by Jim Beckman and My Other Self by Clarence Enzler. Both are short and good.)
Cole Nardini | Seminarian, Archdiocese of Omaha