After visiting student centers across the country and gathering input from Arkansas students and benefactors, St. Thomas has an exciting plan to address both facility and ministry needs.
In much the same way St. Thomas Aquinas converted many souls, our mission as the Catholic campus ministry at the University of Arkansas is to invite and form students who are searching–so they, too, might know and love Jesus Christ, understand their call as disciples and strive toward Sainthood.
As Fr. Jason often quotes, “the world will be evangelized through beauty or not at all” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1821-1881). The new church is, therefore, designed as a beacon on the hill located in our same location at the corner of Leverett and Douglas, containing a traditional cruciform sanctuary, adorned with beautiful stained glass from the original St. Thomas. The new church will seat 550 in the nave, with room for additional standing in the narthex, if needed.
The New Building
Fellowship + Large Groups
Much of the feedback from students has been the desire for more space to gather, either for fellowship or fun. The new Newman Hall will be specifically designed to encourage discussion and higher thinking, while also serving as a hangout space and a place for up to 300 students to share meals together. A new, much larger kitchen and pantry will also be included to more efficiently serve students during the week and be available for larger events like weddings, retreats, etc.
St. Thomas has also included two courtyards, one much larger welcoming and flowing into the sanctuary for fellowship before and after mass, and a separate smaller, more intimate student courtyard adjacent to the adoration chapel that will serve as a place for students to gather outside around a fire pit, play games, etc.
Formation + Study Areas
In addition to Newman Hall, St. Thomas will construct a 20-person adoration chapel that we hope to make available 24/7. Students will have access by scanning their student IDs and will enter the chapel by entering the courtyard or making their way through the student center. The two- story student center will also include 4 smaller meeting rooms, 3 larger classrooms, and a large library space. The student center will be designed to be flexible and able to provide space for students to study, meet, play games, and relax. Additionally, students will have access to a coffee bar and kitchenette.
Office space will expand and have more available space to accommodate a growing ministry. Staff, including the pastor, will be accessible on the first floor off of the new courtyard and will be able to greet students, parishioners, and visitors upon arrival. This will create a more welcoming environment for all.
A New Era
Overall, St. Thomas will more than double in size.The building will be ADA compliant with ramps, wider doorways and an elevator to the second floor to allow for everyone to attend Mass and programs. The facility will be energy efficient in layout and construction, resulting in lower utility costs and significant savings over time.