UW-Oshkosh Newman Center to offer student housing this fall

By Jaye Alderson | For The Compass | July 30, 2014

Newman Student House, which will house up to 28 students, is seeking residents

OSHKOSH — Newman Student House, a faith-based community apartment complex, will open for the fall semester of 2014 at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. It is operated by the Newman Center at UW-Oshkosh and supported by the diocesan Department of New Evangelization.

Fr. Jason Blahnik, Catholic Campus Ministry director at UW-Oshkosh Newman Center, will oversee Newman Student House, which will offer a Catholic-based living environment for UW-Oshkosh students. The building space offers a groomed backyard they intend to use for picnics and other outdoor activities. (Jeannette Merten | For The Compass)
Fr. Jason Blahnik, Catholic Campus Ministry director at UW-Oshkosh Newman Center, will oversee Newman Student House, which will offer a Catholic-based living environment for UW-Oshkosh students. The building space offers a groomed backyard they intend to use for picnics and other outdoor activities. (Jeannette Merten | For The Compass)

This is a first-of-its-kind development at a public university in the state of Wisconsin, according to a Newman Center press release.

Fr. Jason Blahnik, Catholic Campus Ministry director at the Newman Center and priest celebrant at St. Mark Parish in Redgranite and Sacred Heart Parish in Poy Sippi, said this new venture will provide a safe, drug-and-alcohol-free, affordable and faith-based living environment to all students who desire to live in community with other UW-Oshkosh students.

“Students do not necessarily need to be Catholic,” Fr. Blahnik said. “We are looking for students who have like beliefs in our mission. We will encourage residents to pray and share a meal together once a week, and participate monthly in a service project within the Oshkosh area.

“Catholicism is more than just doctrine,” the priest added. “It’s a way of life. This will provide a safe environment where young adults can support each other, not just in belief but in living out the belief.”

The building known as Siena Apartments on High Street will be renamed Newman Student House, offering living space for 28 students within walking distance to UW-Oshkosh. (Jeannette Merten | For The Compass)
The building known as Siena Apartments on High Street will be renamed Newman Student House, offering living space for 28 students within walking distance to UW-Oshkosh. (Jeannette Merten | For The Compass)

Fr. Blahnik said this new venture is in the spirit of the new evangelization called for by Pope Francis and will reach out to young adults to meet their practical and spiritual needs.

“Pope Francis has called on all Catholics to be ‘missionary disciples,’” Fr. Blahnik said. “The new evangelization has several aspects to it. One is reproposing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have previously heard the Gospel; maybe those who have been baptized but stopped practicing, or people who may know a little bit about Jesus and the Gospels but don’t think it affects their lives.

“The new evangelization helps us remember our belief in God and Jesus. It should affect our lives in all aspects. As we grow in love of Christ, hopefully that starts bubbling over in our lives and we can’t help but want other people to know him, too,” Fr. Blahnik added.

Fr. Blahnik hopes that the new residents of Newman Student House each will come to realize, “I want to live my faith out. Jesus has meaning in my life.

“We know what we believe, that Jesus is the Lord. Now it’s time to walk the walk,” he added.

The apartment complex is located on High Avenue in Oshkosh, just a half mile from the UW-Oshkosh campus. It was built in 1948 for the sisters who worked at the adjacent St. Peter School. It later was used for low-income housing.

The six-unit coed housing option has the capacity to house up to 28 students. Each unit has two to three bedrooms, bathroom, living room and kitchen facilities, and furnishings. On site are washers and dryers, a small chapel, Wi-Fi capabilities and a backyard green space. There are plans to add study rooms, a lounge and arts and crafts rooms.

Two one-bedroom units will house Fr. Blahnik during the week and an on-site property manager.

The project is being established in partnership with The Amicus Companies LLC, a property development and management firm that recently developed dormitories in the Chicago area. Amicus also works with churches to repurpose properties for projects such as Newman Student House. Amicus is the property manager and leasing agent for the Newman Student House.

The Newman Center is leasing the property for two years from Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh, with the option to purchase at the end of the lease.

“This is the year to find out how it really works,” Fr. Blahnik said. “Ideally, this will generate enough income to pay expenses and generate a profit.” The project is a collaborative effort between the diocese’s Finance and Accounting, Facilities and Properties and New Evangelization departments, the latter under which Campus Ministry falls, he explained. “The diocese felt really comfortable with this as a viable student housing project.”

Fr. Blahnik said several college and university campuses across the country are offering faith-based housing, and a recent Wall Street Journal article addressed the growth of such housing.

He said UW-Oshkosh has been very supportive and even has allowed Newman Student House to accept up to 10 freshman and sophomore students who normally would be required to live in campus housing.

“As part of an education, a person should be taught to thrive and be happy,” Fr. Blahnik said. “We, as Catholics, have something to offer in that. The university has been very generous. They value diversity in the best sense of the word, and they see religion as part of that. We have a voice to be heard.”

UW-Oshkosh students interested in this housing option can contact Amicus at (630) 990-1400 or newman     [email protected] for rental information.

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