Have you ever felt your heart swell after connecting with a good friend or singing a particularly beautiful hymn (read: Not “On Eagles’ Wings”…For that matter, any church hymns dealing with birds.)? You know, that experience of pure joy and connection with something or Someone bigger than yourself?

That’s what I experienced when I toured the new St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Newman Center at my Alma mater, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I mean, check out these photos. It’s unbelievable.

Credit: Kevin Clark Architects

Credit: Kevin Clark Architects

When the tour finished, I felt light but grounded. Confession: I cried. Just a little bit. I’d say the tears were the result of jet lag after days of traveling before the tour. But, they were more an expression of overwhelming gratitude to God for his generosity toward UN-L students and the Diocese of Lincoln.

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A week later, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln dedicated the new Church and in his homily he reflected on the experience that I and so many others had and will have.

“I would like to believe brothers and sisters, that somehow, in this sacred place, we might get a glimpse of what Thomas saw and felt on that first Octave of Easter…We get a glimpse into, what Blessed John Henry Newman refers to as ‘that invisible world that is more real to me than the world I can see.’”

He goes on to offer St. Thomas as a model of all those who seek the truth; particularly college students.

“In a very real way, Thomas represents all of us who want to believe in God’s mercy. He represents the college student who is searching for something more, something true, and good and beautiful. He represents those who are not sure if God is real, who wonder if they can be loved, who want to believe, but who doubt that God can really love them. Thomas represents all who sincerely seek the answers to those perennial questions about life and love; about meaning and purpose; about heaven and hell; about time and eternity.”

Through his divine and tender mercy, Jesus invites Thomas to feel and examine his wounds; to see that he is real; to know that it’s all true! And Thomas responds with his simple, yet deeply profound act of faith, “my Lord and my God!”

And then Jesus proclaims, thinking in the future of you and thinking of me, “Blessed are those who have not seen, yet still believe.”

Congratulations to all those involved in the establishment of the new St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Newman Center. To Fr. Matya, whose dedication to students is truly inspiring. To Jude Werner, who promised to raise 99% of the money for the project if the students raised 1% … and he actually delivered. To Kevin Clark, who courageously challenged the status quo with this project. The resulting church and Newman Center are bound to connect countless more college students to Christ in a revolution against the typical college experience.

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