April 22, 2019
It was Saturday evening, April 13… Our UNO Senior texted me from the JPII Newman Center to update me that he and his twelve-year-old sister were busy playing Smash Bros (a video game, he explained) and enjoying root beer floats. It is “Sibling Night.” What a blessing! His love for his youngest of four siblings was on display as this 22-year old young man, just weeks from graduating from college, wanted to include her in one of the special activities of his home away from home. He could comfortably show her around the patio with the gas firepit, the beautiful oratory chapel and the social areas. And, he would be happy to have her meet the many friends he has made while living there.
Five years ago I had often knelt in prayer after this, our oldest, son decided to attend UNO. I prayed for wisdom, wondering how to best prepare him to face the world of a large secular university campus. I prayed that he would find holy friendships to support him in his faith. It was at this same time I was invited to attend a presentation on the planned Catholic dorm associated with the UNO Newman Center. When I heard about the oratory and learned the meaning behind all the designed spaces, my eyes filled with tears of gratitude to God that this place would be built in time for our son’s sophomore year.
My husband and I are tremendously thankful to Archbishop Lucas for his leadership and vision along with Father Joe Taphorn and to all the generous benefactors who help make JPII Newman possible. We have continued our on-going monthly financial pledge because we want to do our part to support this beautiful place. We hope to see many more college students blessed with the opportunity to live in this campus “oasis” that invites them to take off their headphones and put down their cellphones to engage and become part of a community surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ.
JPII Newman’s community has given our son the opportunity to be involved in a men’s prayer group, leadership trips with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) and the prolife efforts of the Abortion Dialogue Academy. He has also had plenty of “College Fun,” too; activities that range from forming a band and having jam sessions on the rooftop patio to city-wide scavenger hunts to a formal dance.
He has made great college memories and lifelong friendships at JPII. This community is different from secular fraternities and sororities. I like to think that the students attracted to the Newman Center dorm are similar to those holy men and women who, at times in world history, were drawn out of the world and into monastaries or religious orders in order to live and grow surrounded by friends who shared a similar spirituality and a deep love for Jesus Christ.
Our oldest son graduates this spring from UNO and will move out of JPII. As his college chapter closes, we are so happy that our family will write another chapter that includes the Newman Center. Our son who graduates high school this spring will be attending UNO, and he will move into JPII this August to begin his college days.
Lynn deMayo | Parent & Supporter, St. John Paul II Newman Center