JPII residents share ‘care packages’

Wrapped in white tissue paper with red ribbon and packed with hot chocolate, candy canes, cards of encouragement and even a stress ball, 100 college care packages were randomly handed out to students on campus for finals week at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO).

They came from fellow students at the St. John Paul II Newman Center, in random acts of kindness that surprised and pleased recipients, said Abby Brown, a UNO sophomore from St. Patrick Parish in Gretna who lives at the center.

"I have been walking up to random people and saying ‘Hi, good luck on your finals!’ They say, ‘thank you, wow, thank you,’" Brown said of her own effort handing out about 20 of the packages.

In addition to relieving stress and offering good wishes, inclusion of the center’s address, the time of its Christmas Day Mass and other information perhaps will help lead students to the Newman Center as a place of faith to gather, share study sessions, and enjoy some free coffee and a break, Brown said.

Students at the center also are purchasing gifts for people at the Stephen Center homeless shelter in Omaha, using tags placed on a Christmas tree that list specific needs, said Katie Winkler, the archdiocese’s coordinator of college apostolates.

"I think a lot of what college is about is learning to step out into the rest of your life," Winkler said. "It’s an attribute and a muscle we want to work – acts of charity."

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