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John Christensen, chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), left, views floor plans March 2 of the St. John Paul II Newman Center with Archbishop George J. Lucas, Father Joseph Taphorn, Newman Center director and chaplain of campus ministry at UNO, and Jim Stolze, archdiocese finance director. Below, Archbishop Lucas visits with Maddy Buettner, a UNO freshman and future resident, as they tour the facility.

JPII Newman Center on track for fall occupancy

Against a backdrop of metal studs, stacks of drywall and insulation, and workers busy at their tasks, Archbishop George J. Lucas donned a hard hat and entered a construction zone for a glimpse of the future.

He was joined for a March 2 tour of the new St. John Paul II Newman Center by the chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), John Christensen, other archdiocesan and UNO officials and students.

The tour highlighted significant progress toward completion for the fall semester, when 164 UNO students will move into their new home.

The facility will include student apartments, common area, multi-purpose room, meeting rooms, community lounges, study lounges, indoor-outdoor fireplace, courtyard, rooftop deck, rectory and oratory (or chapel).

With the building in various stages of construction, painting and cabinet installation already is underway in some student rooms, while the steel work for the center’s oratory is being assembled.

Father Joseph Taphorn, director of the center and chaplain of campus ministry at UNO, said the student housing and the rectory will be completed in August, and the oratory will be open in January.

"It’s going to be a wonderful place to share life together," he said. "The bricks and mortar are beautiful, but it’s more about what’s going to happen within it."

"I think it will be a great community for Catholic students," Archbishop Lucas said. "They’ll be able to encourage each other to study and to live virtuous lives ... to pray and worship together. It’ll be a great opportunity, both for the Catholic students who live here and other Catholic students on the UNO campus."

"I’m excited to see the progress," he said. "You can really see the residence and the other facilities taking shape. The framing is going up for the chapel, and it’s beautiful to see that taking shape too."

Christensen said the development and its amenities will serve students at a high level. "It’s going to be a phenomenal facility," he said.

"And it’s going to help UNO tremendously," Christensen said. "We always end up with waiting lists for housing where parents would prefer that their 17- or 18-year-old not be living in an apartment, but have an opportunity to make connections, friends, take part in social activities that are part of campus life, and this is going to be part of that bigger picture."

Adam Ybarra, resident manager, said the response by the community and prospective residents has been strong.

"I’m excited the more students we interview," he said. "We’ll be doing another push in the Catholic high schools and some of the youth groups here in Omaha and in the rural settings."

Maddy Buettner, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk who this fall will be a sophomore at UNO, said she is signed up as one of the center’s first residents.

"I’m super excited just to move into a community of my fellow Catholics," she said. "It will be a home where I can come and share faith and be friends – and family ultimately."


A student/parent tour of the facility is planned for April 9, noon to 2 p.m., beginning with lunch at Aksarben Senior Living, across the street from the center. Go to to sign up.


To apply to live at the Newman Center, visit and download the application form. Completed forms should be printed and mailed with a non-refundable $75 application fee to Adam Ybarra, JPII Newman Center, 100 N. 62nd St., Omaha, NE 68132.

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