For the first time since its inception in 1996, the St. Thomas of Villanova celebration will extend over an entire weekend, giving the University community plenty of time to honor its patron saint.
This year, the festivities will last from Sept. 21-23 and include a new addition to the itinerary: the Day of Service. The day, which is dedicated to providing service to the communities in the greater Philadelphia area, was successfully introduced during the Inauguration for University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., in September of 2006.
“The choice to extend it was really coming out of the experience I had last year with the Inauguration,” Donohue said, also referring to the University’s unity in the celebration of his Inauguration and the Day of Service as “powerful.”
Donohue and the committee that planned the weekend started thinking about what they could do differently to increase attendance at the celebration.
“What I actually wanted to do was combine a lot of other things that were going on on campus into one weekend,” Donohue said of the decision to enlarge the scope of St. Thomas of Villanova Day and add the Day of Service to the traditional schedule of events.
Volunteers were able to register online for one of over 30 service sites, either as individuals or as part of a larger group service effort. Service locations were filled on a first-come, first-serve basis, and spots at many of the most popular sites, including Ronald McDonald House, Philadelphia Veteran’s Hospital and Heart of Camden, just to name a few, were quickly snatched up by eager volunteers.
“We’ve added a significant number of sites,” said Chrissy Quisenberry, assistant to the president for events.
As of Sept. 18, over 1,000 people had already signed up, with one day of registration remaining.
A number of Villanova’s campus organizations are participating in the Day of Service with fellow group members, including Villanova Ambassadors, the Villanova Band and the Center for Peace and Justice Education.
“Last year I participated in the Day of Service with the Student Government Association Executive Board,” said junior president of Ambassadors Erin Kuchar. “We traveled to the Hershey Milton School and spent the afternoon discussing the students’ student government experiences. After having such a rewarding experience last year, I wanted to assume a more active role by becoming a site leader.”
While the Day of Service may be the newest event, it is certainly not the only thing happening on campus this weekend.
“I really wanted to focus on the whole notion of service,” Donohue said of his vision for the weekend, adding that he also wanted to increase the focus further to global issues. He plans to do this through academic events that will address issues he believes will expand the University community’s perspective.
One such academic symposium kicks off the weekend. Similar to the academic convocation that was always held on St. Thomas of Villanova Day, the symposium is titled “Immigration Reform: Where Culture, Politics and Principle Meet.”
It will take place in the Villanova Room of Connelly Center on Friday from 3 to 5 p.m. and features several guest speakers both from within and outside of the University community.
Professors Michele Pistone and Michael Moreland of the Villanova School of Law will be present, as well as Professor Rodolfo de la Garza from Columbia University, Chris West of Catholic Relief Services and Hector Lopez, director of the Villanova/Northeastern Region National Hispanic Institute Leadership Service Center.
The symposium will be followed by a wine and cheese reception in the lower atrium and patio of Connelly Center.
Following the Day of Service activities on Saturday, dinner and entertainment will be provided for the University community in the Pavilion from 4 to 6 p.m.
Football fans will then have the opportunity to attend one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the year: the Villanova vs. UPenn game at 6 p.m. at Villanova Stadium.
On Sunday, Mass will be celebrated at 4:15 p.m. on Mendel Field, marking the close of the weekend. Because the weekend is a University-wide event, this will be the only Mass celebrated on Sunday in order to bring together the entire University community.
St. Thomas of Villanova Day traditionally marks the official beginning of the new school year and also reminds the Villanova community of its dedication to the University and its values.
The Day of Service fits the long-standing purposes of the day, as the University-wide commitment to serve is in keeping with St. Thomas’ life-long dedication to establishing social programs – such as boarding schools and soup kitchens – for the impoverished.
“St. Thomas of Villanova was known as the father of the poor – he did so many things to help others, and this seems to me to be a logical way to honor him,” Quisenberry said. “This fits perfectly with the meaning behind the celebration and his life.”
“I think that this is a great idea,” said sophomore Elizabeth Awalt, who is leading a group of freshman ACS students at the Philadelphia Cares site. “Catholic social teaching instructs us to make a preferential option for the poor – to be in solidarity with the poor. Working with the needy is a great representation of Catholic faith, and it shows the community how wonderful Villanova students are.”