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Newspaper illustration from 1960, when the previous St. Thomas Aquinas Church was built.

It initially began as the University of Nebraska­–Lincoln’s “Newman Club” in 1906.

Today, the club has developed into a much larger organization, and provided sacraments, ministries and programs to over twenty-seven hundred Catholic students this year alone, students who may otherwise cease practicing their faith.  

In 1960, land was purchased near the University and the previous facility constructed, creating the Newman Center - St. Thomas Aquinas Church. The building served our staff and students well for over fifty years.  Yet, having outgrown the original facility, the beautiful, new Newman Center - St. Thomas Aquinas Church was constructed in 2015. It is an inspiring addition to the Diocese of Lincoln, the University of Nebraska campus and an investment in the spiritual lives of our students for generations to come.

Since its founding, four previous pastors have served the Newman Center through their leadership, foresight and holiness. The Newman Center’s current pastor, Father Robert Matya, was assigned by the Bishop of Lincoln in 1997.  In addition to serving as pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas Church and chaplain at the Newman Center, Father Matya integrates his role as Vocations Director for the Diocese of Lincoln into the broader mission of the Catholic campus ministries at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

St. Thomas Aquinas Church (1960-2014)

St. Thomas Aquinas Church (1960-2014)

During the fall of 1998, Father Matya launched a partnership with FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), a national Catholic evangelization program, which placed four missionaries at the Newman Center to assist in the leadership formation of students and to facilitate a weekly student Bible study program. FOCUS now staffs ten full-time missionaries at the UNL Newman Center.  These missionaries help to facilitate 53 weekly Bible studies involving over three hundred college students.  As a result of the program’s success, FOCUS has hired over 130 graduating seniors from the UNL Newman Center to serve as missionaries on 100+ college campuses across the world. In this way, the spiritual fruit and evangelistic zeal that is springing forth from the UNL Newman Center is not simply benefiting families and parishes across Nebraska, but truly around the globe!

Father Matya’s tenure began in 1997.

During the fall of 2006, the Newman Center’s Leadership Council was created, drawing a diverse group of Catholic leaders together, including the Bishop of Lincoln and university administrators, as well as representation from each of Nebraska’s three Catholic dioceses. Student leaders who serve on the Leadership Council also provide a diversity of perspectives, while gaining valuable board experience.

Also during Father Matya’s tenure, the ministries and programs offered at the Newman Center have experienced tremendous growth. Attendance at the four Sunday Masses was routinely overflowing the previous 300-seat church. Demand for available facility space for student classes, Bible studies and organizational meetings had far surpassed the former availability.

The Newman Center welcomes 2,500 for Sunday Masses.

The Newman Center welcomes 2,500 for Sunday Masses.

In many ways the Newman Center is a spiritual “home-away-from-home” for college students. It is a place to find the peace, ritual and comfort of their Catholic Faith. For college students at a critical juncture in their lives, the Newman Center provides an opportunity to be actively engaged in their Faith through four key ministry areas: Liturgy & Music, Evangelization & Catechesis, Community & Fellowship, Service & Mission.  Catholic mental health services are made available to students in need, helping to form and nurture a holistic person. Additionally, the Newman Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture was started in 2015, a partnership between St. Gregory the Great Seminary, the Newman Center and the Diocese of Lincoln.