St. Thomas Aquinas Church was offering that stability even before its renovation.
"The Newman Center is more than just a place. It's a community," said UNL senior Travis Barrett. "When so many students have the choice to fall away from their faith, the Newman Center offers that steadfast support during this crucial time in people's lives."
Barrett said he had a solid foundation in the faith when he arrived at UNL as a freshman. And through his years of involvement at the Newman Center, that foundation has evolved into a personal relationship with Christ.
"I'm a better man for getting involved at the Newman Center," he told CNA.
Recent UNL graduate Hannah Gokie echoed Barrett's reflections in a recent blog post.
"Some say the heart of evangelization has to do with all these new forms of reaching people…But I have to disagree. To me, the New Evangelization, what St. John Paul the Great called us to, is based primarily through relationship."
"And that's what I found at the Newman Center."
The primary relationship Gokie developed at the Newman Center was a relationship with Christ. But she also had the fortune of meeting her now-husband, with whom she attended Sunday's emotional dedication Mass.
St. Thomas Aquinas' thriving Newman Center was the driving force behind the entire rebuilding project; the old church building and Newman Center simply could not handle the crowds of students at Masses on Sundays and feast days.
UNL is home to more than 6,000 Catholic students. Nearly half of them are actively involved at St. Thomas Aquinas. A whopping 26 young people joined or entered full communion with the Catholic Church at this year's Easter Vigil.
"Having a space that could truly handle a crowd was important," Clark said. The new church has more than double its original capacity of 300 people.
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The new Newman Center complex is also geared toward accommodating growing demand. The building boasts two student lounges, a library for studying, and four classrooms for the more than 100 student-led Bible studies on campus and non-credit classes on catechism and morality. A credited Catholic Studies program is also in the works. The program has a potential launch date of fall of 2017.
There are offices for three resident priests – the Newman Center currently has two – as well as FOCUS missionaries, local religious sisters, and even a counselor from Catholic Social Services of Lincoln. A social hall features a built-in dance floor with a DJ sound system. There is also a small oratory for private reflection.
Even with its cosmetic make-over, the heart and soul of St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Newman Center remains the same.
"I know that this new church will serve many more students just like I was – looking for a place to call home, a place to find Him," Gokie said. "In place of the old building is a new space to love for students for years and years to come.
"Other hearts besides mine will be changed there...More trials and growth of souls than I can count will happen in this new church, and for that I am in awe and so very grateful."