George Weigel to speak at Omaha Newman Center

Nationally-known Catholic author and syndicated columnist George Weigel will be the inaugural speaker in a St. John Paul II lecture series at the Newman Center in Omaha bearing the saint’s name.

The lecture series will include inviting nationally-known speakers each year to reflect on the thoughts and teachings of St. John Paul II, who was pope from 1978 to 2005, and apply them to contemporary issues, said Father Joseph Taphorn, pastor and director of the center.

Weigel, whose column "The Catholic Difference" appears in the Catholic Voice, will speak March 11 at 7 p.m. His talk is titled "The Souls of St. John Paul II," reflecting the many aspects of the late pope’s life and thinking.

"The purpose of the talk is to help today’s younger generation, who may not have the same lived memory of John Paul II as others who are older, understand the person and why he continues to be such an important figure," Father Taphorn said.

The St. John Paul II Newman Center was named after the late pope because he is such a compelling figure in the life of the church, and he had a deep connection with and love for young people, Father Taphorn said.

"The breadth of his teaching is so big, so the long-term vision for the series is to help us unpack what is really a wealth of magisterial and theological thinking," he said. "We’re excited to get this insight into the person to help us appreciate our patron in an even deeper way."

And as the official biographer of St. John Paul II, Weigel is "uniquely qualified" to serve as the series’ inaugural speaker, Father Taphorn said.

"He spent a lot of time with John Paul and really understood him, not only personally, but also his theology, and can speak from his own personal experience with the pope."

The date of the talk – March 11 – also is the 70th anniversary of a meeting at St. Margaret Mary Church of 22 students from Omaha University, the predecessor to the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), to organize a Newman Club Federation, he said.

After decades of Catholic ministry on the UNO campus, the archdiocese built and opened the Newman Center last August.

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