Diocesan News

Lincoln Residents from Argentina Share Insight On Pope Francis Larger Church to serve Growing Number of UNL Catholic students

LINCOLN (SNR) - Construction of the new 650-seat St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church will begin immediately with completion expected in late fall 2014.

The new church will be built at the same location, 16th & Q streets, which is becoming the front entrance to a growing UNL City Campus. Last Masses at the current church were the Easter Vigil and Easter morning Masses, March 30 and 31.

A final open house is scheduled for Saturday, April 6, from noon to 1:30 p.m., prior to the NU spring football game. Liturgies and ministries will be moved to a temporary location on campus - 640 N. 16th St. - during construction.

"From the beginning of our discussion to expand our facilities at the Newman Center, the focus has always been to serve the students in such a way that they may encounter Christ and live their lives in union with Him," said Father Robert Matya, pastor and chaplain.

"To meet that goal, it became obvious early on that we needed a larger chapel to accommodate the many students who attend various liturgies at the Newman. And so it is with great excitement and joy that the time has come for us to begin construction of this chapel. I am grateful to Almighty God and to all of our benefactors who through their encouragement and support have brought us to this moment. I ask for your continued prayers that as we finalize the plans, we will not only build a chapel that will accommodate more students, but more importantly will foster their encounter with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."

Construction of the St. Thomas Aquinas Church is the second phase of a comprehensive expansion effort by the UNL Newman Center. The first phase includes the construction of a 68-bed Phi Kappa Theta Catholic fraternity house at 17th and Q streets, which will be finished for the 2013 academic year.

Along with the church, it is hoped that construction of the student center can be completed concurrently. The new 30,000 square foot Newman Center will provide increased ministry space, a social hall, offices and enhanced student technology services. Building the Newman Center can begin once an additional $1.3 million campaign contributions are committed.

A final phase of the Newman Center’s expansion efforts includes the construction of the Pi Alpha Chi Catholic sorority house.

Donors from across Nebraska and around the country have committed $13.5 million toward the Newman Center’s "A Great Problem to Have!" capital campaign thus far. A $25 million capital campaign was launched in July 2010 to fund the expansion efforts and will continue throughout construction. Recent anonymous campaign contributions of $2 million and $500,000 helped to ensure that construction of the church could begin as scheduled.

Construction of the new St. Thomas Aquinas Church represents a $12 million construction investment into the City of Lincoln and the University’s campus, with two-thirds of the funds committed to date coming from outside the city.

The Newman Center has served the spiritual needs of college students at UNL since 1906, becoming a "home away from home" for generations of students. The unprecedented growth of student participation in liturgies and ministries over the past 15 years is partially attributed to the FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) program at the Newman Center since 1999. The Newman Center currently counts more than 100 weekly FOCUS Bible studies, including 650 student participants. Striving to meet the needs of 6,000 Catholic students at UNL, the four Sunday Masses offered in the current space are routinely filled to capacity and overflowing. Further, shortages of programming space, as well as an aging and inefficient facility further underscore the need for a new church and Newman Center. To learn more, please visit www.huskercatholic.org.

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