Celebrating St. Thomas of Villanova

Julie Balzarini

Villanova students, faculty, staff, alumni and their families have the opportunity to come together and serve the Greater Philadelphia Area on Sept. 20 as part of the two-day St. Thomas of Villanova Celebration. Each year, the Day of Service allows the entire Villanova Community to join together and demonstrate its commitment to serving others in honor of St. Thomas of Villanova, the patron of Villanova University.

Spearheading the Day of Service are Chrissy Quisenberry, assistant to the President for events, and senior Jackie McNamee. Also involved in the planning is a Student Coordinating Committee including Kerry McManus, Kyle Holtz, Bryan Kerns, Gretchen Vollherbst, Christina Villella, Jamie Philip and Anna Heleniak. Each student is also paired with a faculty member

“That’s what makes this really unique, that we have students and faculty working together,” Quisenberry said.

“Last year there was just Jackie and Chrissy; the two of them more of less organized the entire thing themselves,” McManus said. “This year, they delegated out into seven subcommittees.”

“We have really made a commitment to do this,” Quisenberry said. “I think our structure has gotten more intense.”

Christopher Kovolski, assistant to the president for internal and external affairs, also had a large part in preparing for the celebration.

“Planning this event has been a demonstration of what makes the Villanova community so great,” Kovolski said. “It takes a lot of time and commitment, and people have been very willing to contribute.”

There are more ways than ever to serve this year. Spanning Friday evening and Saturday morning, there are over 60 service sites. Some need volunteers to paint, landscape or help with construction work.

There are opportunities to play with children, visit veterans or the elderly or help put together a library and computer lab at a new community center.

Service is needed at nursing homes, churches, schools, community centers and other sites.

Many of the sites will be welcoming Villanovans back from previous years.

“It’s great to go back to these places and strengthen the relationship,” Kovolski said. “It’s not like we go to serve for one day and they never hear from us again.”

Saturday will begin at 8:30 a.m. with a send-off at the Pavilion.

The volunteers will disperse to their designated sites at 9 a.m. and return to campus at 3 p.m. The community will celebrate liturgy in the Pavilion at 4 p.m., where dinner will follow at 5:30 p.m.

Last year’s celebration covered three days; this year’s has been compressed into Friday and Saturday in order to have the liturgy take place the evening of the Day of Service, rather than the Sunday after.

“Father Peter wanted to find a way to capture the spirit of the service and the opportunity for reflection,” Kovolski said.

“This year the idea is that the spirit of the community will be the common thread for everything. We can all serve, reflect, then come back and celebrate the liturgy and share a very simple dinner together. Hopefully we will feel that University of Villanova sense of community coming through.”

Registration has been streamlined to be simple this year.

There are three categories of online registration for the Day of Service.

Group registration closed at 5 p.m. yesterday.

Group site assignments are made by the Day of Service Committee, and group contacts will be notified of their service site assignment following the registration process.

Quisenberry stressed the importance of individual sign-ups.

“That’s a large part of the day, to meet new people,” Quisenberry said. “We are all Villanovans, so we’ve got something in common. Sign up, and I guarantee you will have a positive experience. It could be even better than if you had signed up with friends.”

Individual students, staff and faculty should use the “Individual Registration” form.

Registration for individuals will open on Monday at 9 a.m. and will close on Sept. 12 at 5 p.m.

It is on a first-come, first-served basis. Service sites will close as they become full.

Groups that arrange their own service site but need help with food and transportation should use the “Independent Site Group Registration” form.

Groups carrying out their own projects in a different area or on a different day may also fill out this form. The University tallies the report of group efforts in the name of the St. Thomas of Villanova Celebration so they may be included in the totaling of participation efforts.

“We currently have over 430 people signed up in groups,” Quisenberry said. “We hope to have over 2,000 people total.”

Food, supplies and transportation impact the success of the day. Those who are unable to serve but would still like to get involved are invited to contribute financially. Monetary donations or donation of supplies (paint, gloves, etc.) and even gift cards to stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s are needed and greatly appreciated.

In addition to the Day of Service, the St. Thomas of Villanova Celebration includes other ways for everyone to demonstrate Villanova’s ideals of Veritas, Unitas, Caritas.

An academic symposium will open the celebration in Connelly Center on Sept. 19 at 3 p.m. The symposium will present the theme: “Giving Life: Water, Faith and Sustainability.”

Dr. Timothy Brunk, an assistant professor of theology, will speak at the symposium.

Brunk is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the Catholic Theological Society of America, the National Association of Pastoral Musicians and the Northern American Academy of Liturgy.

Dr. Jerome Delli Priscoli, senior adviser to the Chief U.S. Army Engineer, will also speak.

Priscoli serves on the Board of Governors and the Bureau of the World Water Council. He is the author of “Water and Civilization” and “Transforming Water Conflicts.”

Dr. Robert Traver and Dr. Nancy L. Kelley are acting as moderators at the Symposium.

Traver, a professor in civil engineering, is also the director of the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership and a diplomat of the American Academy of Water Resource Engineer.

Kelley is the director of Villanova’s First Year Academic Learning Communities.

Dr. Kelley teaches the Augustine and Culture Seminar to the new Environmental Learning Community.

The Day of Service, which was a successful part of the Inauguration of University Presdent Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., in 2006, has become the center of the celebration.

More information on the events and opportunities for St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service is available at www.villanova.edu/president/stvcelebration.