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John Christensen, chancellor of the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO), left, Archbishop George J. Lucas, Father Joseph Taphorn, Suzie and Mike Lawler, Lt. Gov. Mike Foley, Jim Stolze and Sydney Svehla prepare to cut the ribbon Aug. 15 for the St. John Paul II Newman Center near UNO's campus in Omaha.

Newman Center opens doors to students, community

With a ribbon cutting and blessing, the St. John Paul II Newman Center opened to students and the community Aug. 15 near the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) campus.

At 71st and Pacific streets, the Archdiocese of Omaha’s $22 million center will provide housing for up to 164 students.

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

“I’m very proud that so many people have been able to bring their gifts and resources together to make this all possible,” said Archbishop George J. Lucas.

“This will be a place where students will encounter Jesus Christ in one another, in prayer and liturgy, and be able to respond to him, and live in an environment of faith and learning.”

The center will help meet students’ academic and spiritual needs, said UNO Chancellor John Christensen.

“What I think is absolutely remarkable is what this does for the students, not only today but in the future, both educationally as well as spiritually,” he said.

Archbishop Lucas and Christensen helped cut the ribbon, along with Father Joseph Taphorn, center director and pastor, Nebraska Lt. Gov. Mike Foley, Mike and Suzie Lawler of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, James Stolze, finance director for the archdiocese, and student Sydney Svehla.

After blessing the center, the archbishop joined students, clergy, donors, neighbors, friends and officials of the Omaha archdiocese and UNO at a reception and building tours. And students began moving into the facility Aug. 16.

“This has been a great dream and I think something the Lord has desired for a long time,” Father Taphorn said. “We’re very grateful to the many benefactors and supporters who helped make this dream possible. We know it will impact young people for generations to come.”

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