Stepping Stones

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By Madelaine C., freshman

I remember the first time I stepped foot in the Newman Center. It was my senior year of high school, and we were visiting for a retreat. I remember quickly walking around the building, and not really paying attention to where I was going. That was a recurring theme for me back then: not paying attention.

I liked the time I spent there, but I never felt like I could fit in to a place like that. The college students there scared me because they seemed so devoted to their faith and I feared I couldn’t relate to them. We left that retreat that day, and I didn’t think about it much after that.

It took me a long time to even think about where to go to college. I was so unsure of my future that it gave me anxiety to ponder it. Graduating high school forced me to decide, and I remember the only reason I chose to come to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln was because my sister went there. That’s it. I didn't even go on a single college visit. While that is not the smartest advice in planning for the future, the fact that I blindly chose UNL was my saving grace.

“…the fact that I blindly chose UNL was my saving grace.”

I don’t want to get ahead of myself though. My first semester of college was still rough. I had to pay for my education myself and I did not get as much financial aid as I needed. I had to skip out on living in the dorms, which was also basically skipping out on a college social life.  

We learned at Catholic high school, that coming into college we emerging adults had primarily two choices: be hyperactive in your religion or ditch it all together. Neither of those sounded great to me. I was strong in what I believed in but I didn’t understand why or have a drive to know more. In fact, my first two weeks here, I avoided stepping into the Newman Center at all costs. My heart and mind were being pulled in so many ways that they all canceled each other out, and I felt nothing. I could sum up the beginning of my first semester in one word: confused.  

But honey, I had a big storm coming. 

A few weeks later, I finally stepped foot into the building. Granted, it was to use the restroom, but I was there! Eventually, I would walk in and sit on the couches. That progressed into kind of reading the pamphlets in the lobby, and then days later, I visited the Marian chapel for a five minute adoration. Five minutes!  

This progression was nice, but part of me still felt like I didn’t belong. I felt as if I wasn’t holy enough to be there. Everyone there already knew each other and I was alone. It was as if everyone I met had their own group of friends, and couldn’t make room to care about me. I felt alone for a long time, but as most of us know, the Lord answers prayers. The next big step that the Lord made in my life was joining a Bible study. It was the most random sequence of events that led up to it, but through this study, I finally started feeling a sense of community.

“The next big step that the Lord made in my life was joining a Bible study.”

Through this study I began to open up and actually feel God start to transform me. It started with me trying to answer questions with my “Catholic School” knowledge, but it somehow always led to vulnerable admittances and conversations with this group of women, who I didn’t even really know. Through this study, I was encouraged to pray more frequently and go to Mass more often. I learned how the Father loves me and how I don’t have to prove myself to Him. Bible study changed my life.

I also opened my eyes to the reality of the bigger Newman Center community. I learned firsthand how the people here, though sometimes intimidating, are the nicest people on the planet. They were always welcoming; it was I that had my doors closed and locked. The reason I was lonely wasn’t on the other people that “didn’t let me in,” it was on me. I did not make myself vulnerable to new friendships. I can’t stress enough that in coming to the Newman Center, God laid out all of the opportunities I would need. It was I that refused to see them.

“…it was I that had my doors closed and locked.”

Since then, I have made wonderful friends and have really taken advantage of what the Newman Center has to offer. Thinking back, I can relate my time so far in college to a person trying to cross a river. It could be so easy to fall in and float with the mainstream, but we were not made for comfort. The Lord has set out stepping stones for all of us to cross. The Newman Center has become one of the biggest stones laid out in my path. Though I know I am bound to slip and fall in sometimes, I am confident that I can always find my footing here. The journey across the river into a deeper relationship with God is difficult but always fruitful. We just need to take a chance on God and take that first leap.

 “The Newman Center has become one of the biggest stones laid out in my path.”

Go and Make Disciples of All Nations

Philippians 4:9 says: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Since the UNL Newman Club was established in 1906, generations of students have come through its doors, been formed in the Catholic faith, and courageously taken this truth to heart. We can be confident of this by the beautiful vocations we see our alumni living, not only in other parishes across Lincoln but throughout the world.

And what’s more, each of these faithful alumni are having a ripple effect on their children, their community, and everyone else God puts in their paths. The impact of that vital seed—the Newman Center—is seemingly endless!

We are so grateful for your prayerful and financial support, which are vital to keep our ministries going! this year-end, will you consider a gift to our students?

Husker Catholic Live 2018

As part of our annual Husker Catholic Live dinner at the Nebraska Student Union on November 9th, 2018, we welcomed student Lizzy Isaacson, alumni and Olympic medalist Curt Tomasevicz, and our own beloved Father Robert Matya to share their reflections on the theme of “Anchored in Hope.”

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We are elated to announce that you helped us exceed our $40,000 goal in our HCL matching gift challenge!

It’s true! After the dinner, some generous friends helped to close out our goal. THANK YOU!

Each of your gifts was DOUBLED upon receipt (thanks to some anonymous friends of ours), which means that $80,000 is going straight to the fund that allows for the life-changing ministries at the Newman Center! Everything from Bible studies and our RCIA program, to community nights and Theology on Tap events, to offering the sacraments as often as we are able– you are making these growing ministries possible with your generous giving.

A huge thank you to this year’s sponsors:

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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