Diocesan News

UNL’s Catholic Community Celebrates Fraternity Ribbon Cutting, Newman Center Groundbreaking

LINCOLN (SNR) - The Catholic community of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln marked two milestones July 15.

Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity celebrated the opening of their house doors with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the newly constructed fraternity at 17th and Q streets.

Immediately following, leadership of the Newman Center – St. Thomas Aquinas Church officially broke ground for the new church and facilites.

Following years of remarkable growth in the number of students involved at the Newman Center, its leadership undertook a massive, multi-year expansion effort in 2010. The growth in student involvement has been attributed to numerous factors, including the reestablishment of a Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity Chapter on UNL’s campus. Father Robert Matya, pastor, reorganized the local chapter of Phi Kappa Theta, a national Catholic fraternity, in the fall of 2005.

Attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony were Bishop James Conley, Bishop Emeritus Fabian Bruskewitz, chapter president Matt Keller, chapter treasurer Travis Barrett, alumni and former chapter president Matt Litt, Father Matya and members of the Newman Center’s leadership board.

Also helping to commemorate the ribbon cutting were Lincoln’s Mayor Chris Buetler, project architect Kevin Clark, Bart Thomsen of Kiewit Building Group, and Jude Werner, director of development at the Newman Center. The group represented many of the individuals and entities who collaborated, over the past three years, to help plan and construct the chapter house.

"I was really struck with the beauty of the building, and I know it will be a place where young Catholic men will grow and deepen in their faith and charity," Bishop Conley said after the ceremony.

Chapter president Matt Keller described his reaction to the event. "So much time, work, love, and prayer has been put into creating an environment where men coming into college can find true brotherhood," he said. "The fraternity house will help foster this environment and give younger guys great role models to live with and learn from."

Since its reestablishment at UNL, Phi Kappa Theta have achieved many of their goals, including having the top GPA for all fraternities on campus and being recognized by UNL’s Greek Affairs Office as the fraternity that most consistently lives out its ideals. The dream of having their own chapter house became a reality with the ribbon cutting ceremony of their chapter house.

"The men of Phi Kappa Theta have prepared and patiently waited for this day," said Father Matya, "and so it is a great joy to be able to open this house for them."

The influence of the fraternity has always been envisioned to go beyond the walls of the chapter house and impact other areas of UNL’s campus.

"The new Catholic fraternity is an exciting new chapter in the great mission of the Newman Center. These men will have a huge impact on the life of the university for decades to come." Bishop Conley said.

Following the fraternity’s ribbon cutting, a blessing and groundbreaking ceremony was held for the future Newman Center – St. Thomas Aquinas Church. Like the fraternity’s chapter house, planning for the new Newman Center has been underway for several years. Originally planned as a renovation of the existing facility, it became apparent that the growth of student ministries and those participated would outpace what a renovated facility could provide.

"Given the amount of asbestos removal that needed to be completed, incorporating an elevator and upgrading the antiquated mechanical systems, a renovation no longer became a viable option," said Mr. Werner "We were better served with a clean start."

The new facility also provides Father Matya and the Newman Center’s leadership team the opportunity to design and construct a traditional, Gothic-styled church, something Catholic students at UNL have overwhelming agreed they prefer.

During his blessing of the ground and construction project, Bishop James Conley described the importance of the beauty in art and architecture which draws people in and leads them to truth and goodness. Father Matya reiterated that the church’s design and the numerous ministries, which will be held within the Newman Center, are designed to accomplish just that.

"As we break ground to build a new Church and Newman Center, we do so with the great hope that the students who will come here for generations will be drawn deeper into the life of God" he said.

Construction of the Newman Center and St. Thomas Aquinas Church began in June with the demolition of the previous building and is expected to last into the fall of 2014. The current construction schedule anticipates that student ministries will begin in the new Newman Center during the fall semester of 2014. Completion and dedication of St. Thomas Aquinas Church is expected during the spring semester of 2015.

Summarizing the overall impact that the Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity and Newman Center have had on him personally, and will likely have on generation of future college students, Matt Litt said, "the Newman Center and Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity shaped my college experience and prepared me for life after UNL. It is a tremendous blessing to be a part of the PKT House ribbon cutting and witness the Newman Center ground breaking."

For more information, visit www.huskercatholic.org.

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