At the University of Nebraska's Newman Center in Lincoln, where most of the parish community consists of college students, there are a few people who continue to bring stability and carry on the traditions of the past as new students come and go. Of course, Father Robert Matya and Father Ben Holdren are the hard working shepherds of the young flock and Newman has long relied on the efforts of those who work in the offices. However, one person who has been a hard-working and faithful presence for decades is Bonnie Kadavy.
Bonnie Kadavy began working at the Newman Center early in her life. Even while in high school, Bonnie volunteered at Newman and gradually the college campus became a part of her life.Beginning in the 1960s, she was the go-to person who could be relied on for doing housekeeping work for Monsignor Kalin, preparing the church for Mass, cooking for spring break trips, mentoring the student workers, and scraping the wax off the brass candles. For many, Bonnie was the behind-the-scenes backbone of Newman for decades. Even after her retirement, Bonnie can still be found at the Newman Center on Saturday mornings after 8:00am Mass, chatting with drowsy students before going to clean an altar cloth or the chalices for Mass. Meghan Moser, a senior at UNL, encountered Bonnie's fun and service through those Saturday mornings."Bonnie makes our coffee every Saturday morning and fills us with joy and car racing stories."
Even more important than her acts of service is the attitude with which she does her work. Sara Rajewski, a Lincoln wife and mother who graduated from UNL in 2007, remembers Bonnie's genuine smile and humble service. "To me she modeled St. Therese well because she did small things with great love." Sara is just one example of the many students who have been impacted by Bonnie's presence at the Newman Center, which includes many lay people, priests, and religious.
Fr. Robert Matya, the present Newman Center pastor, has known Bonnie since he was in high school. On Friday, at the annual Newman Aquinas Dinner, he found his opportunity to publicly honor her love and devotion. Meghan Moser was very moved by Father's speech about his experiences with Bonnie and her dedication to the campus ministry. "When Father Matya started tearing up at describing Bonnie's role at Newman, I did too. I haven't known her for as long as he has, but she has still had an impact on my life and on the lives of many students who have come through the Newman Center." During his speech, Father Matya made an important announcement. Beginning this year, the Newman Center will annually award a student who gives generously and serves humbly. "I didn't even have to hear the name of the award," Meghan confessed, "to know that it was inspired by her gifts of service." This year, Travis Barrett, an architecture student and Catholic fraternity member, was presented the Kadavy Award. He was greeted on stage by Bonnie, who gave him a big hug.
Although Bonnie doesn't work for the attention or notoriety, last Friday was a great evening for the entire body of staff and students to honor her and to reflect on a life focused on others. It was a night Meghan Moser will never forget. "She received a standing ovation when she was called up on stage because we are able to recognize a saint among us and see the good that she is doing from the gifts God has given her! We are so blessed to have her in our lives and to learn from her!"