We had our first significant snowstorm of the season this week with more expected tomorrow. Our campus is beautiful under a coating of snow.
I think we very successfully got everyone in the Christmas spirit last weekend with all the concerts and holiday festivities that were going on here. We had everything from Britten’s St. Nicolas and Irish music to the annual Lessons and Carols Service. A group of students also headed up to Boston to see the Jerry Goehring-produced stage version of A Christmas Story.
It was great to see so many of the faculty and staff at the Christmas party on Wednesday. Congratulations to the raffle winners, and thanks to Ann Miron for organizing such a great celebration and to the Chartwells team for the delicious food.
Also last weekend, Sacred Heart hosted the annual Tradition Fencing Tournament at the Pitt Center. Each year, SHU joins Penn State, Harvard, Princeton, NYU, Vassar and North Carolina at this tournament. This year, the women’s team from Temple and the men’s team from Stephen’s Tech were invited to fill in for the North Carolina teams who were unable to attend. Our men’s team was 2-3, and the women were 1-4 against tough competition—they were competing against some of the top teams in the country. I mention this not so much because of the score, but because it is a fascinating sport to watch. Incredible skill is involved, and our teams are more than up to the challenge of these top-tier competitors. It was also great to see a good crowd of parents and students turn out to support the Pioneers.
Last night, my wife and I hosted a holiday dinner for some of the University’s benefactors. It was a chance to thank them for their interest in and support of Sacred Heart. We were all treated to a spectacular performance by the Blended Hearts choral group, which further emphasized for our guests the great things that are happening here.
As this will most likely be my last blog of 2013, I want to wish everyone in the SHU family a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and peaceful new year. Enjoy the time off with your family and friends. For those of you who are traveling, be safe.
I had a chance to talk about the characteristics that make SHU such a special community during the Advent Wreath-Lighting service on Wednesday. Several of the attendees mentioned to me that it was too bad more of you didn’t have a chance to hear those remarks, so I have decided to close out the year by sharing them with you:
Today’s reflection in the daily reflections for Advent and Christmas is titled the Generous Tiger. It is an Arabian fable about a traveler who came upon a fox who had lost his legs. Wondering how the creature survived, the man saw a tiger approach with meat in its mouth. After eating his fill, the tiger left the rest for the fox.
The traveler witnessed this for a few days and marveled at God’s generosity to provide. The man thought “surely God cares for me as much as he cares for this lowly animal. So here I will rest from my travels and trust God to provide.” Comfortable in the shade of the tree, he rested and waited. Days passed. God didn’t appear. Food and water were not provided. Near death, the man heard the voice of an angel call to him: “Open your eyes! Don’t imitate the fox—instead be the generous tiger.”
That is our calling here at the University. Make no mistake about it. We are here to nurture—with our thoughts, our time, our energies—the students who are entrusted to us. This is really the joy of the gospel, the joy of our mission. It is what separates us. It is this welcoming, this embracing, this learning that attracts students to this University.
A young lady, Brianna Belmont, was accepted to start as a freshman this past September. During the late spring, she was diagnosed with leukemia, and that delayed her start. She used those months to undergo chemo. Yet she continued to work with admissions planning to begin here this coming spring semester. During Thanksgiving week, she unexpectedly passed away.
Kevin O’Sullivan went to the wake last week with a SHU certificate. Her parents told him that since her diagnosis, her anticipated arrival here is what kept her going as she awoke and as she prepared to sleep. Her dream was to become part of this University community. She connected with the community, the academics and our welcoming culture. She looked forward to continuing her community service here. From her brief visits, she felt very much at home here. This Sacred Heart community was her hope.
The day of the funeral, her guidance counselor called Kevin telling him that she had been buried with a Sacred Heart blanket. Brianna, in her brief visits here, saw and sensed things that we may too easily take for granted. She experienced the caring and the welcoming. She experienced “the generous tiger.”
We obviously will never get to know Brianna. But we certainly now know what made us so special for her in her fight for life. As we celebrate Emmanuel, God is with us, let us not forget how critical our generous presence is to our students and their nurturing.