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Father Joseph Taphorn, pastor and director of the St. John Paul II Newman Center, and Father Andrew Roza, associate pastor of the center, inspect the finishing touches in a student apartment. Photo by Mike May/Staff.

Newman Center opening to students

Aug. 16 and 17 are move-in days for students preparing to take up residence and share faith and community at the archdiocese’s nearly completed St. John Paul II Newman Center near the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO).

Philip Wier, a senior and resident adviser from Wasta, S.D., said he is excited.

"The JPII Newman Center is going to be a very special part of college life in Omaha as well as the life of the Archdiocese of Omaha," Wier said.

"I’m very excited to be one of the first residents to be moving into the brand new facility and really having the opportunity to build up the community from scratch," he said.

The facility includes student apartments, a commons area, multi-purpose and meeting rooms, community and study lounges, indoor-outdoor fireplace, courtyard, rooftop deck, rectory and a chapel.

Located at 71st and Pacific streets near the UNO campus, the center will house up to 164 students and serve their spiritual needs, said Father Joseph Taphorn, the center’s director and pastor, and moderator of the curia for the archdiocese.

It will provide many opportunities for informal gatherings in the sitting rooms and around the fireplace in the commons, which will be important as students get to know one another and build community, he said.

A centerpiece of the facility will be the chapel, or oratory, which will be under construction through the fall and completed in January, with a dedication planned for Jan. 22, Father Taphorn said.

In the meantime, Masses will be held in Karol’s Commons, a multi-purpose room named for St. John Paul’s given name, Karol Wojtyla.

"I’m very impressed with seeing the whole vision come together," Father Taphorn said. "It’s a beautiful, welcoming, hospitable place that’s going to be a great environment to build community and share life together."

"The appointments are beautiful, the apartments are beautiful, and the finishes are very nice. The place exudes a sense of quality," he said.

Father Andrew Roza, associate pastor of the center and the archdiocese’s vocations director, said the center will provide "a great gathering place and hub for our Catholic students and a place to really make their own, and will be a huge source of encouragement and a momentum builder for the Catholic community at UNO."

Several students from nearby College of Saint Mary also will live at the center, including Sydney Svehla, a senior and resident advisor from Lincoln.

"I’m eager to live at the Newman Center for the chance to be in an intentional, Catholic community," she said. "I believe both residents and visitors will enjoy this place to grow and experience the fullness of life, centered on our identity in Christ."

To open the center, Archbishop George J. Lucas will lead a ribbon cutting at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 15. The event also includes a reception and tours of the building.

And on Aug. 24, the entire UNO community is invited to a welcome barbeque from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., featuring live music, tours, games and prizes. Archbishop Lucas and Curtis Martin, founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), will speak and welcome students, Father Taphorn said.

Students who have not finalized housing plans still have time to apply, he said. More information and an application form are available by clicking here.

Want to go?

WHAT: Ribbon cutting, reception and tour

WHEN: Aug. 15, 9:30 a.m.

WHERE: Southeast corner of 71st and Pacific streets

WHO: Archbishop George J. Lucas; Father Joseph Taphorn, director and pastor, St. John Paul II Newman Center; Nebraska Lt. Gov. Mike Foley; Chancellor John Christensen, University of Nebraska Omaha; University of Nebraska regents; Newman Center supporters and Leadership Committee members; high school presidents, principals, guidance counselors; Aksarben Village merchants.

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