Archbishop blesses Newman Center oratory
More than 350 people joined Archbishop George J. Lucas at an April 2 Mass to bless the recently completed oratory (or chapel) at the St. John Paul II Newman Center in Omaha.
Gathering on the 12th anniversary of the saint’s death, worshippers included students, staff, clergy, archdiocesan officials and donors. The archbishop anointed the oratory’s altar with chrism and blessed a reliquary containing a first-class relic of St. John Paul II.
Deacons Stephen Luna, archdiocesan director of human resources and pastoral planning, and James Keating, director of the permanent diaconate, placed the reliquary – containing a piece of cloth with the saint’s blood – in a chamber in the floor below the altar.
The 275-seat oratory features a large, stained glass window behind the altar depicting the risen Christ, stained glass side windows with quotes from St. John Paul II’s encyclicals, limestone and white oak construction, white oak pews and trim, bronze accents, statues of the Holy Family, and access to an outdoor courtyard.
In his homily, the archbishop referred to the day’s Gospel reading, which recounted Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead.
"Heaven and earth were joined that day," Archbishop Lucas said. "The God of the universe had humbled himself to come to earth in Jesus. The son of God had become a friend, a companion to those ordinary people there.
"This is a big day for us here and for those who will come to this place after us because the very same thing is possible here," the archbishop said. Every time the Eucharist is offered, heaven and earth will be joined, he said.
"But as beautiful and inviting as this oratory is, and as essential as it is to be here, where heaven and earth are joined at the eucharistic liturgy, we don’t get to live here," he said.
"The doors to this oratory swing out, and out is where we’re sent by the Lord’s commission," the archbishop said. "He frees us from the bonds of eternal death so that we can live in freedom and go out the doors to proclaim, with conviction, our faith in his death and resurrection."
Speaking to the students, he said, "As much as we want you to come here often, we also want you to go and have an effect outside these walls.
"I pray that you will become mature disciples of Jesus during your time here and become well equipped to share the joy of the Gospel with those you will meet in years to come," he said.
The Newman Center opened in August near the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) campus, and is home to more than 100 students from UNO and nearby College of Saint Mary. Completion of the oratory, originally scheduled for the fall, was delayed due to backlogs of limestone deliveries.
"It’s a beautiful day to honor John Paul II, with the community of faith gathered here, celebrating the fullness of the life of the church," Father Joseph Taphorn, director and pastor of the Newman Center, said after the Mass.
"This oratory is here for us to receive God’s goodness and we look forward to many generations to come using this sacred place," he said.