Diocesan News

UNL Catholic Fraternity Breaks Ground on Campus

LINCOLN (SNR) - On Saturday, Sept. 15, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln chapter of Phi Kappa Theta hosted a groundbreaking ceremony and blessing for its first chapter house on campus.

The 20,000 square-foot building on the corner of 16th and Q streets in downtown Lincoln will be completed in time for the 2013-2014 academic year.

"To finally see the old credit union building coming down and the fence with a banner of our house going up has really excited the men," said Tony Duren, president of Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity.

Phi Kappa Theta has been on the UNL Campus for seven years. Building a house near the other fraternities and sororities on campus has been a long-standing desire.

 The new three-story structure will house up to 60 members. Plans also include a suite for house parents, a library, commons area, communal dining room, kitchen and recreation room.

Designed by architect Kevin Clark of Clark Architectural Collaborative3 and built by Kiewit Building Group, it is the first Greek house on campus to be fully accessible according to the Americans with Disability Act.

It’s ideally situated to the east of St. Thomas Aquinas Church-Newman Center, with a shared green space between the two. Across 16th Street, a UNL parking garage will provide easy access for members.

The Nebraska Pi chapter of Phi Kappa Theta has a history that stretches back to 1925. That’s when the chapter was originally founded at UNL, but it closed during the Depression.

The chapter was restarted for the 2005-2006 academic year. Within two years, the group had enough brothers to become a fully active member of Phi Kappa Theta National.

The fraternity exists to "actively develop men to be effective leaders who passionately serve society, Fraternity and God." Their five areas of development include leadership, brotherhood, intellect, social interaction and spirituality.

Father Robert Matya, pastor and chaplain at St. Thomas Aquinas Church – Newman Center, said that the men who have joined Phi Kappa Theta during the last seven years have embraced these principles whole-heartedly.

"The efforts of these men, working to build such a great foundation, make it very rewarding to undertake the work of building a house for them," he said.

"There is an overall feeling of pride and accomplishment in being part of an organization that has been able to have such great success in what seems so little time," added Mr. Duren. He expressed his gratitude to Father Matya, Newman Center Director of Development Jude Werner, alumni, parents and other donors who helped finance the project.

Currently, there are 41 returning "Phi Kaps" and 17 new recruits. The Nebraska chapter routinely ranks among the top fraternities in academic performance at UNL. Members of the fraternity have been well represented in the university’s interfraternity council, student government, and honorary societies.

"The Phi Kappa Theta motto is to ‘Be a beacon, not a bunker,’" said John Miller, board member of the Phi Kappa Theta Housing Corporation. "In just the few short years since their inception, the fraternity has gained the respect of the whole university by its leadership, grades and commitment."

He added, "When the fraternity house is done, this common home for all of them to live together will be very powerful to their formation as strong Catholic men."

The fraternity’s Catholic identity is fostered through weekly Bible studies, retreats, and international mission trips.

Ten members of the fraternity have gone on to seminary studies for their home dioceses. In addition to the Diocese of Lincoln, these men are discerning priestly vocations for the Archdiocese of Omaha and the dioceses of Kansas City-St. Joseph (Missouri), and Sioux Falls (South Dakota).

Two other men have entered religious life, and five graduates have become FOCUS missionaries.

"Phi Kappa Theta surrounded me with men who wanted to enjoy college life at the University of Nebraska without forgetting to hold strong to our Catholic faith, to foster our devotion to Christ and to share that light with the rest of campus," said Phi Kap alumnus Trevor Downey. Mr. Downey served as a FOCUS missionary for two years and is now a seminarian for the Diocese Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo.

His enthusiasm was echoed by Les Mach, whose son is a Phi Kappa Theta alumnus.

"This new chapter house is one of the greatest blessings to come to our campus," Mr. Mach said. "The fraternity has provided both dependable friends and a good Catholic influence to all the young men in the fraternity. I am truly grateful to all those who have had a hand in building this fraternity!"

 Ed Jaros, alumnus and founding president (2005) of the Nebraska Pi chapter said, "The construction of our chapter house is an exciting event… Now that we have roots and a sturdy foothold, it is more vital than ever that the brothers of Phi Kappa Theta turn outward toward the campus community to accomplish our mission."

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