Interview with Christine Quisenberry, Assistant to the President for Events (and coordinator of the St. Thomas of Villanova Celebration)
Fresh@News: Chrissy, this past weekend was a very exciting weekend on the campus of Villanova. Can you tell us a bit about it?
CQ: This past weekend Villanova University celebrated St. Thomas of Villanova, the 16th-century Augustinian bishop of Valencia, Spain, and patron of Villanova. The St. Thomas of Villanova Celebration that we enjoyed here all weekend coincided with St. Thomas of Villanova’s liturgical feast day.
Fresh@News: What was included in the weekend celebration?
CQ: The weekend included an Academic Symposium, a University-wide Day of Service, a community dinner celebration and a University Liturgy.
Fresh@News: Can you tell us a little bit about each of the events?
CQ: The weekend began with the Academic Symposium on Friday afternoon. We had a wonderful group of scholars offering an insightful discussion on immigration reform. Dr. Rodolfo de la Garza, Columbia University; Chris West, Catholic Relief Services; Hector Lopez, National Hispanic Institute; Michele Pistone, Villanova School of Law; and Michael Moreland, Villanova School of Law each offered their perspectives and allowed the audience to ask questions following their presentation. There was a lovely gathering of faculty, staff and students following the symposium to continue the thoughtful discussion over some light appetizers.
Fresh@News: That sounds great. And what did the Day of Service entail?
CQ: On Saturday, over 1,400 members of our community participated in the Day of Service. Faculty, staff and students gathered on West Campus early on Saturday morning for a blessing by our President, Father Peter Donohue, and a special send off before loading numerous buses and vans to begin their day. They spent the rest of the day at various sites throughout Philadelphia serving the needs of the community through the help of local organizations. The entire day was a wonderful testament to the life of St. Thomas of Villanova, who spent his life serving the poor. The buses and vans slowly returned to campus in the late afternoon, just in time for all of us to enjoy a wonderful community celebration and dinner in the Pavilion. Our Dining Services staff provided us with a delicious meal and we were all able to discuss our different experiences throughout the day.
Fresh@News: What type of work were people doing on Saturday?
CQ: We had a wide variety of service opportunities for people around the city. We had teams at the Philadelphia Zoo, local parks, parishes, homeless shelters and food pantries, just to name a few. One of our largest contingencies was working with the Heart of Camden, a community based organization that is dedicated to revitalizing the waterfront south neighborhood of Camden, NJ through affordable housing, family and youth services and human development. We also had quite a few people working with Habitat for Humanity at our local affiliates.
Fresh@News: How were our students able to get involved?
CQ: In the weeks leading up to the weekend, students, faculty and staff were able to sign up online through our website and choose their service location. They were able to either sign up as an individual or as part of a group. Each site was led by student leaders and one faculty or staff leader. It was great to see so many of our student organizations represented and serving together. We had athletic teams, residence halls, Greek organizations and some of our Freshmen Seminar classes who signed up to serve together as a group. It was also a great way to meet new people since you were able to simply sign up individually for a service site that was of interest to you.
Fresh@News: It sounds like it was a busy day.
CQ: It was definitely an exciting day to be a part of the Villanova community. We were also able to close the day cheering on our Villanova Wildcats to victory in a thrilling men’s football game versus UPENN. During a special halftime ceremony, Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., presented this year's Distinguished Service Awards. Stephen McWilliams was the recipient of the Individual Award. The Learning Community Platform Team, comprised of Pamela Braxton, Patricia Garland, Dr. Marylu Hill, Teri O’Brien, and Marie Schauder, was the winner of the Team Award. We also recognized all of the team leaders from the Day of Service. They were invited out on the field with the Award recipients and Father Peter and given special recognition by the crowd.
Fresh@News: And what took place on Sunday?
CQ: On Sunday we simply closed out the entire weekend with a special Closing Liturgy. All were invited to reflect on our community and our patron, St. Thomas of Villanova, at a Mass Without Walls on Mendel Field with Father Donohue presiding. It was the perfect ending to a very special weekend.
Fresh@News: It truly sounds like it was a special weekend on campus. Is this something that will take place every year?
CQ: We certainly hope the tradition continues and we already have the dates set for next year! It is our hope that even more people will be able to participate in the future. Next fall's St. Thomas of Villanova Celebration will be held September 19-20, 2008. Stay tuned for more details!