By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
RICHARDSON — As Isaias Salgado stood amongst a crowd making their way into the new University Catholic Center at the University of Texas at Dallas on Aug. 28, he couldn’t help but smile.
“I really can’t put into words how amazing all this is,” said Salgado, a senior neuroscience major and member of the Newman Catholic Ministry, a Catholic student organization at UTD. “It’s amazing. It’s such a blessing.”
Salgado joined the crowd of nearly 300 people who came to the center this past Sunday for a Mass celebrated by Bishop Edward J. Burns for the dedication of the University Catholic Center and the installation of its new chaplain, Father Tymo Ksiazkiewicz.
“We are aware that the students are struggling with many temptations and can be easily lost to the world,” said Father Ksiazkiewicz, adding that he is grateful to have the assistance of FOCUS Missionaries and Newman Catholic Ministry at UTD who all share his excitement for this important ministry. “We are building a Christian environment for the students to be able to rest. We hope that they will find in the University Catholic Center at UTD a place to encounter a healthy Catholic environment where they can feed their souls.”
Located across the street from the UTD campus, the 15,000 square foot building at 2105 Waterview Parkway in Richardson is the first fully dedicated Catholic campus ministry building and chapel for the UTD community. The new center provides the room needed for worship, spiritual development and other community building events. The center is currently undergoing renovation while construction of the permanent chapel will soon begin. The University Catholic Center at UTD will operate in close collaboration with the Office of Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministries of the Diocese of Dallas.
Ann Van, a senior human resource management major who serves as the president of the Newman Catholic Ministry at UTD, said she was excited to see the progress and growth in the campus’s Catholic community.
“We were celebrating Mass on campus in a large empty room where we would set up a table for the altar and invite priests to come celebrate Mass for us on Sundays,” Van recalled. “Now, with this building, we have daily Mass. Students are able to receive the sacraments, and we have opportunities for fellowship among our students.”
Bishop Burns witnessed that growing campus faith community and its need to address that growth firsthand when he celebrated an Ash Wednesday Mass with students in 2019.
“We were in a large classroom on campus and it was absolutely packed with a line of students out the door and down the hall,” the bishop said. “In speaking with them, I found they had to travel away from campus to attend Mass and go to confession, which was a challenge for many of them. These young people thirsted for the Lord and the sacraments, and I knew then we had to make this campus ministry happen.”
Salgado said the center’s impact can already be felt on campus.
“A visible presence on campus is such a blessing,” Salgado explained. “I can’t tell you how many Catholics on campus have just walked in to the center, saying that they didn’t know we had Mass on campus — which we’ve had every Sunday for over a year. Now with this visible presence on campus, people are more aware of what we have. Catholics now know where to come.”
Van agreed, noting that more than 50 people attended the center’s first Sunday morning Mass in its temporary chapel on Aug. 21 while another 70 attended the evening celebration.
“Instead of an empty classroom, we actually have a chapel that is being built,” said Van, adding that the growing Catholic community at UTD now has a home to meet its needs. “I think it is important to have a place where students can gather in faith and to have opportunities for community and fellowship.”
Bishop Burns said that the new Catholic Center affirms the diocese’s ongoing commitment to serving young adults in campus ministry. He praised the generosity of the diocesan faith community for helping make the new center possible.
“We are grateful to the generous donors and everyone who is helping to make this possible,” Bishop Burns said. “As we continue the fundraising efforts, we hope other donors committed to keeping our college students strong in their Catholic faith will help us finish this important project.”
To learn more and invest in this initiative, contact Kelly Halaszyn, Diocesan Director of Development, at 214-379-3178 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit catholicatutd.com to learn more about the University Catholic Center at UTD.