Students Learn Street Evangelization for ‘Nightfever’

The Newman Center - St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus plans a “NightFever” event Oct. 19 from 8 p.m. to midnight.

The doors to the church will be open and students from the adjacent Newman Center will be out on the sidewalks, inviting anybody they meet to come in to light a candle and pray for world peace, an end to violence and their own intentions.

Shortly after the 2005 World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, two German students planned the first-ever Nightfever as a way for the spirit of WYD to go on in daily lives.

Since 2005, Nightfever has taken place in more than 200 cities around the world and was brought to the Newman Center in Lincoln for the first time in 2015. Since then, it has happened every semester.

Luke Miller, the Newman Center’s FOCUS team director, is heading up the outreach efforts for the upcoming Nightfever.

“It’s such a great event because it allows students to encounter and live evangelization efforts in a real and practical way,” he said.

For four hours during Nightfever, students and FOCUS missionaries will walk the streets surrounding the Newman Center inviting pedestrians into the church to pray.  It’s not just about that night, though, Miller explained. Spiritual and practical preparation comes first.

“Anyone can invite someone to step into a church to pray,” he said, “but with training and prayer, that invitation can be so much more powerful.”

Miller’s team of 10 full-time FOCUS missionaries spends time with students the night prior to the event for a street training session.

“We always begin the training with Scripture,” he explained. “Particularly, we pray over the passage from Luke 5 where Jesus sends out the disciples in His name.”

Miller said this helps the students answer the “why” of going to the streets and inviting people in.

“After time with the verse, students often share incredible insights– ones filled with zeal!” he explained. “It fills me with hope to see Jesus convicting their hearts and speaking to them about their call to mission and showing love for the students on campus.”

The training includes the practical side of safely going to the streets, and practicing with mock scenario invitations.

“The practice inevitably brings laughter as students see how ineffective their invitation is if it isn’t clear, personal, or derived from an enthusiasm for souls,” Miller said. “This is the perfect opportunity to move past that and realize how important their approach is.

“Nightfever is much stronger because it is covered in lots of prayer and practice,” he concluded.

The public is invited to join in praying in St. Thomas Aquinas Church Oct. 19 from 8 p.m. to midnight. There will be worship music, prayer teams, confessions, and the chance to light a candle for a personal intention.

Original Article was published on October 5, 2018 in the Southern Nebraska Register

Canon & Evie: New Year, New Ring

We were coming off another anti-climactic New Year’s Eve and trying to make the best of our winter break before our last semester of college. It seemed like any other January first, but I knew that night held something bigger–something that would change our lives forever.

That evening–just according to plan–we found ourselves in Our Lady’s Chapel at the Newman Center to pray. Well, I tried to pray, but I was mostly thinking about how we had ended up in that moment.

I thought of my first night on campus when Evie and two of our (now) best friends showed up at my dorm room. I hadn’t seen them since our mission trip to Christ in the City the previous summer and was shocked that they found me. They convinced me to go with them to some ‘taco truck’ in the pouring rain. We got soaked, ate really good tacos, and stayed up way too late. At the time, I would have never thought that night would lead to some of the best friendships I would ever have.

Throughout our first semester of college, these friends and I learned so much about ourselves and about our faith. For one, we learned that iron does in fact sharpen iron. We spent almost every night that first semester going to 10pm Mass. We found our home in the Newman Center. Evie was a social chair and the housekeeper for the rectory, I helped with the Legion of Mary and was an acolyte, and our friends served on the executive board.

I don’t say this to show off our involvement, but to point out how much the Newman Center meant to us, and that through giving our time and talents to it, we received so much more. We learned who Jesus is and we learned that our Blessed Mother is always watching over us.

That was the reason I was with Evie in that chapel that day–on the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary–with those two great friends hiding around the corner. 

After thinking about all of the joys of the past three and a half years, it was time for the surprise. I leaned over to Evie and said “Let’s go over to the nave of the church and see if our friends are over there.” She looked at me confused but said okay. We stood up, approached the Marian altar, and bowed.

After our bow, I turned to Evie and I told her that I loved her and I pulled a ring out of my flannel shirt pocket. I got down on one knee and I asked her to marry me.

With tears in her eyes she squeaked out a “Yes!” I slipped the ring on her finger and gave her a big hug. I was so happy. Then our friends (with cameras) emerged to greet us. It was important to me, and I knew it was important to Evie, that they would be there for that moment. We all hugged and laughed and cried. It was a moment that Evie and I will never forget.

I also only thought it right that Father Matya, our pastor for the last four years, give us a betrothal blessing. I knew that we owed a lot to him and our other priests at the Newman Center. They were always there for us and sacrificed so much to assure the spiritual welfare of all who walk into the Newman Center. They helped us understand that we all have a vocation to which God is calling us– one that we are supposed to live radically!

I know that Evie and I can both say that our time at the Newman Center has had a huge impact on our lives. Without our Catholic faith that was nurtured at the Newman Center, we may have never started a great friendship or started dating, and would not be preparing for our wedding (which will be later this month!).

The Newman Center means the world to us and we believe in what is happening there. We give credit to the Newman Center for finding our vocation, and we know many others who have found their vocations to the married life, priesthood, and religious life through the ministries there, along with a space for prayer and the sacraments. Please keep the Newman Center and the students there in your prayers. And please pray for us as we be prepare to begin this new chapter in our lives!

Our operations and ministries are only possible because of generous people like you. To support students at the Newman Center, prayerfully consider making a donation.

Student Blog: Heart Speaks to Heart

By Isaiah Lamb, Newman Center Student

When I was a kid, I always hated talking on the phone.

I hated it most before I had hit puberty, because my high pitched voice was always mistaken for my mom’s. I would answer the phone and say “hello?” and would nearly always get the response back of “Dianne?”…after which I would sprint to wherever my mom was in an attempt to have her talk to the caller before they ever knew that it wasn’t her that answered the phone.

My aversion to talking on the phone continued well through high school, and even into college. I guess I’m not really sure why. I guess there was just a certain vulnerability there that I didn’t want to have with others. I always resorted to texting because I could think through what I wanted to say…I could appear wise and sufficiently prepared for any conversation that might arise. And furthermore, texting gave me the courage to say nearly anything that needed or that I wanted to be said. I could show my anger or confess my love without much hesitation–things I could have never worked up the fortitude to do in person. And sure, it was pretty “convenient” for me to handle all my relationships with text conversations–to be able to go back and reread messages, or save my favorites– but I think I knew all along that there was something very artificial about it all.

Fast forward to today. I can’t really describe it, but it seems as though time and the Lord’s grace has eroded away much of my desire to hide behind the screen of my smartphone. I long for face-to-face conversations, and love to call people when I have the chance. Even for the simplest of things.

“Cor ad cor loquitur” is a Latin phrase which means Heart speaks to Heart. The origin of this phrase is from St. Francis de Sales, and slightly modified and adopted as the motto of John Henry Cardinal Newman. The phrase also finds its home as the episcopal motto of my current bishop, James Conley, and is emblazoned on a shield at the Newman Center where I spent most of my university career. The more I learn about this simple phrase, the more it seems like God wants me to adopt it and dive deeper into understanding it. And there is so much to learn.

Heart Speaks to Heart.

If I think about this motto while reflecting upon my desire for intentional and intimate relationships, it seems clear to me that our hearts long deepest to be as close as possible to other hearts. Of course our hearts were made for union with God, but that unity is mirrored and paralleled by the attraction of our human hearts to one another.

The reality is that we live in a world that is afraid to be human–to be messy. Even as I write this, I recognize how much I want everything about me and everything about the way I come off to be perfect. Talking face-to-face or even on the phone requires a vulnerability to looking like and sounding like a fool. We might blubber like idiots when we don’t know exactly what to say. There might be that awkward avoidance of eye contact sometimes or the nervous laugh. But there is nothing more real and nothing more fulfilling than these personal, physical encounters. Encounters of the heart.

When we receive the Eucharist, we receive Christ’s heart in such a way that it is as close as is physically possible to our own heart. There is no coincidence in this.

Heart speaks to Heart. Heart longs for heart. Heart rests in heart. But fear attempts to keep our hearts separate–it whispers “this is awkward” or “I don’t have time”… reject these things. (Keeping healthy boundaries of course!)

If we allow our hearts to be drawn to Christ and listen to the language of His heart, the proximity sets our own hearts on fire. How could it not? And as our hearts begin to blaze like His, He calls us into relationship with others and we in turn draw near to their hearts to spread this Divine fire, and thus the whole world burns with infinite power and majesty.

We can’t stifle this fire. We have to open our hearts, even to the point of being wounded. Pray God, that we may have the courage to draw closer to one another and unite our hearts.


Here’s a fun fact: The modern heart shape (the one you think of on valentines) came from the image of two anatomical hearts being stitched together. I thought it was a profound thing.

two-hearts.jpg

Day Trip: Exchange Students Visit the Zoo

I am Algarde Habanineza, an exchange student from Rwanda. The past two years, the UNL Newman Center and the community within have had a huge positive impact on not only my spiritual life but also my social life through various events held both on and off campus.

The most amazing part is that within this community we get the opportunity to grow with other brothers and sisters through Jesus Christ and support each other along the way. I have enjoyed being around such nice people who are willing to lift you up during your down moments, as well as join you in celebrating your bright moments.

Earlier in June during our visit to the Omaha zoo, we had a wonderful occasion to reconnect as students and as Christians. I loved it!  Among many other opportunities, such as visiting families around Nebraska, forming a new Newman Center choir, and touring the zoo are activities that bring us together a community and help us love one another like a family.

 Father Mills organized a group trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo in June.

Father Mills organized a group trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo in June.