Phi Kappa Theta, a Catholic fraternity that opened a chapter at the University of Nebraska in 2005, is working to become a “beacon of light” to those within the Greek system and, with its focus on the faith, is helping young men to follow their vocational call.
The fraternity, Phi Kappa Theta (PKT), was originally established at the University of Nebraska (UNL) in 1924, but was shut down due to the Great Depression. It was re-founded in 2005 through the efforts of the Nebraska Newman Center chaplain Father Robert Matya who “saw a need for a good fraternity to be a beacon to other fraternities on UNL’s campus,” explained founding member Jake Mach to CNA.
Fr. Matya began his search for a social Greek fraternity “that was founded on Catholic ideas” and ran across Phi Kappa Theta. It was then that he decided to bring a chapter to the Nebraska campus and contacted Mach and two others to spearhead the effort.
The three students began working on recruitment, the by-laws, constitution and incorporating themselves into the Greek system at the university. Though there were a few kinks, Mach noted that the experiences helped them “to grow as a fraternity and as a brotherhood, developing deep friendships based not only on our common experiences but also in our faith background.”
The Nebraska chapter of PKT, called Nebraska Pi, has adopted St. Thomas Aquinas as its patron, since he is the patron saint of students. Its motto is to be a “beacon, not a bunker.” Mach emphasized that the motto helps them to remember that the fraternity was not simply founded “to bring in guys and just improve ourselves. We are there to serve and give a good example to the Greek system as a whole through our philanthropy and ideals.”
The fraternity centers its events and activities around four main areas: intellectual, fraternal, social and spiritual.
Intellectually, said Mach, the fraternity stresses the importance of being a student first with mandatory study hours and requiring its members to hold at least a 2.8 GPA.
On the fraternal side, Mach noted that the fraternity holds an annual retreat called Quo Vadis, Latin for “Where are you going?” During the retreat the brothers spend time together, set goals for the year and “reinforce the reason they are part of the fraternity.” The members also play sports and spend leisure time together to build brotherhood.
Members of PKT integrate themselves socially “into the Greek system by having mixers, formals and other events with other sorority and fraternity houses” participating in events such as ice skating, salsa dancing lessons, picnics and theme parties.
“Also stressed in the social aspect of the fraternity is service,” continued Mach. The fraternity holds an annual benefit for the Children’s Miracle Network called “Phi Kap Rajin’ Cajun Cookout.” The fundraiser brings in about $2,500 for the charity each year.
Most importantly, on the spiritual side, the fraternity attends weekly Mass together on both Thursday nights and Sunday mornings and prays a Rosary each week for PKT and its members. Mach also noted that Bible studies are held for members who are interested in attending.
The fraternity has grown from 25 members its first year to nearly 85 active members and 20 alumni. Six have gone onto the seminary, including Mach.
Looking back at helping found the fraternity, Mach said that he was initially drawn to the idea because of the opportunity to be part of “something great.”
“When Fr. Matya first introduced the idea to me of helping start the fraternity, I could tell that it had the potential to touch the lives of not only the guys in the fraternity but also people in the Greek system, university, community, and possibly even on a greater scale.”
Though he has graduated from the university, he explained that he is still close to many of his fraternity brothers. “There is a saying that you always have your friend's back, but I like to liken our fraternity to having each others' souls.”
Mach said that he’d recommend the fraternity to any male student interested because,“It has opened up many possibilities for me and other members of the fraternity which have formed us to become the men we are today. There are only a handful of men who have gone through the fraternity and become alumni members but I believe that these men are leaps and bounds ahead of their peers in maturity and following their vocation.”
For information on the Nebraska chapter, visit: www.unl.edu/phikappatheta.