August 28, 2018
It is the eve of one of the biggest days at JPII Newman. Thirty staff and students gather in the Oratory for Holy Hour; time spent in prayer and with the Blessed Sacrament, the presence of Him who is the source of all life.
Then, at last, it’s here! Move-In Day 2018!
Staff and volunteers gather early in the morning to get the run-down for the day and break into groups. Both current residents and non-residents step forward to show JPII Newman hospitality. The plan comes together swiftly and soon new residents begin to arrive! New residents are encouraged to check in inside while community members unload cars and bring everything to the assigned rooms. Throughout the course of the day, more than 50 new students from near and far fill the hall with life.
Ground rules are covered at the All Hall Meeting, which is followed by our first Community Night of the semester. The Oratory is packed with students representing colleges from all over Omaha, no two alike but all there for the same reason: to be in union with the Trinity, the Source of all Community. As resident manager, I am personally edified by the groups of residents accompanying each other. I can’t help but think of how close the sight must be to heaven.
Students gather in the courtyard after Mass for “Roast and Toast.” The mingling of current and new community members around snacks and a fire is the perfect recipe for a fun spin on this JPII Newman tradition.
And to think this is just day one of Welcome Week!
On Friday, a couple resident assistants show freshmen and transfer students around campus so they can more easily find their classes on the first day. Later that evening, the third annual Newman Hall Olympics provide for some necessary friendly competition and floor bonding. Students compete in a Spikeball tournament, lip sync battle and several messy relays. The Men’s South group wins… again. Their prize? Knowledge of continuing their reign as Newman Hall Olympics champs!
After a couple busy, busy days, more than 60 students take time to enjoy the calm before the storm (literally and figuratively) at a cabin and private lake just outside of Omaha. We are thankful to the Neary Family for inviting us to swim, canoe, paddle board and float the day away.
Sunday we reinstate the Mass schedule we use when school is in session. The 10:30 a.m. Mass is followed by coffee and donuts, and the 8:30 p.m. Mass by root beer floats!
The unimaginable happens on Monday… More than six inches of rain pours down on UNO students trying to get to their first day of classes. Ever poor student comes back from class with a tale of how they fought for their life to make it to class on time. But thankfully everyone makes it out alive!
Prayers are answered when the rain clears up… just in time for our Corn Hole Tournament. More than 20 teams compete in our newly furnished courtyard. It is the perfect way for students to unwind after a stressful first day of classes.
To make the second day of classes a little more bearable, coffee, juice and donuts are distributed to students waiting to take the shuttle to campus. Also on Tuesday, an outdoor showing of School of Rock on the front lawn.
But no Welcome Week 2018 event could beat the Durango Days JPII Newman Kickoff BBQ on Wednesday night. More than 400 people join us for live music, yard games, good food and lively community. This BBQ is always a wonderful opportunity to show hospitality to a plethora of UNO students who are always impressed by our beautiful facility and welcoming atmosphere.
Welcome Week is more than just an excuse to plan tons of events and entertain students so they don’t get bored or homesick. It’s about inviting students to dive head-first into the abundant life. My job is simply to invite students into something I love. I will never tire of doing this.
Every year just gets better and better, and I am so excited to head into this year with the expectation that abundance will reign in the lives of all who partake in our community.
Lauren Hankes | Resident Manager, St. John Paul II Newman Center