CONWAY — Catholic college students in Conway will soon have a place to call their own.
The 7,425-square-foot ministry center for the Catholic campus ministry should be complete by June and will be fully functional for students for the fall semester.
Construction has been speedy since the groundbreaking ceremony in September, but some setbacks, such as the delay of the main support beams for the chapel, have pushed the project behind.
Deacon Richard Papini, the ministry’s director, said, “As long as we are ready for when those students come back in the fall, that’s what I’m really looking forward to.”
Papini worked with several others during the project’s planning and support phase, including diocesan campus ministry director Liz Tingquist.
“It’s a campus ministry building that includes a Catholic chapel,” she said, “People will be able to worship in a place that is very Godly and spiritual, unlike a house.”
For the past three years, the ministry has been operating out of a rented home on South Boulevard across the street from the new construction. The home’s lease from the University of Central Arkansas to the Diocese of Little Rock will expire in June when the building is set to be completed.
UCA Junior Sarah Duvall said the current house functions well as a multipurpose room but does not allow for multiple activities to occur at the same time. In September at the building’s groundbreaking, campus minister Kasey Miller said the organization is finally arriving at its pre-COVID attendance numbers, which includes 80 students consistently attending Mass. During the pandemic, Sunday gatherings were moved to St. Joseph Parish.
For students without reliable transportation, the move to St. Joseph made attending Mass on Sundays difficult. “Just walking to St. Joe’s is a really long trip,” Duvall said.
Papini recounted how he had met two students from Nigeria who paid for an Uber to attend Mass on a recent Sunday.
Duvall said few students are aware of the new college Mass time at St. Joseph but having a building that’s visible from UCA campus will help.
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