On the shortest day of the year, we gather in darkness to witness its beginning. The annual Winter Solstice and Prayer for Peace Celebration at the Marianist Environmental Education Center finds us bundled up and bearing candles as Sister Leanne Jablonski, FMI, leads our procession through the snow.
Last year we snaked through ink-dark woods uphill and down a snow-dusted path. Unable to see beyond the light of our candles, we followed in faith behind the person ahead until we emerged on the prairie of Mt. St. John, where we circled a blazing bonfire to pray and wait for sunrise.
This year, a layer of ice and snow makes the woodland walk too treacherous, and we take a safer, less scenic route. I’m childishly disappointed by this change in tradition. And then I remember how much has changed in the year since we last faced East, South, West and North to send hope and peace to the four corners of Earth. A tsunami, earthquake, hurricanes, ongoing warfare, loved ones lost, and survivors, who find this holy season colored by sorrow and suffering.
We listen to the message Pope Benedict will deliver on the World Day of Peace on Jan. 1: “All people are members of one and the same family. We need to regain an awareness that we share a common destiny which is ultimately transcendent. …”
We cannot know the destiny of the human family in the year that lies ahead, but Teilhard de Chardin had an inkling of what we must do:
“Everything beyond a certain distance is dark
And yet everything is full of being around us
This is the darkness, heavy with promise and threats, which we will have to illuminate and animate with the divine presence.”
The sun rises. The days grow longer.
Who knew that Studio D Gallery sits at the intersection of ArtStreet and Ebay? ArtStreet’s “Twelve Pots for Christmas,” handmade by local potters David Chesar ’97, Kate Meinke and Tommy Williams, are up for silent auction on Ebay (search “ArtStreet pots” to see listings for all 13). All proceeds will be donated to Daybreak, a Dayton-area nonprofit organization that serves homeless youth. The auctions for each pot end about 2 p.m. on Dec. 16. Let the bidding begin.
Vicki Niendorf Sauceda ’84 dropped us an e-mail about two days of Christmas off Campus events in Houston, which she helped organize. They included an evening performance of “A Christmas Carol,” followed by a day of volunteering at the MD Anderson Cancer Center to help with the Children’s Art Project.”
We collated mail, unpacked merchandise and restocked shelves and then filled new orders. It was interesting and fun. Our volunteering allows the profits of the program to go to assisting children with cancer and their families,” she wrote. Chapters have been bringing the spirit of Christmas on Campus to cities around the country.
On Saturday, alumni in Detroit celebrated Christmas with the children of Christ the King School (face painting included). Santa Claus dropped by Marian Manor in Pittsburgh to help residents and UD alumni share the holiday spirit. More events are coming during the next week or so in other chapters, including San Diego, Boston, Atlanta, Cleveland and Milwaukee. For more information, contact the Alumni House at (888) UD-ALUMS.
Saying a final goodbye to an old friend is never easy. When that friend is an eight-lane, 25-yard swimming pool, it’s tempting to go overboard. Fifteen friends of the Lackner Natatorium gathered poolside for a wake on its final day open to the public. RecPlex, UD’s new fitness center, is scheduled to open Jan. 4.
Holding candles and clad in black — in everything from hooded robes to maillots — they processed with varying degrees of solemnity around the pool one last time. Near the front, professor emeritus of history Frank Mathias, wearing only dark navy trunks and black flip-flops, played a mournful dirge on his saxophone.
Then they gathered at the north wall to say their farewells. Mary Ann Martin ’67 read a poem about a rose bush just outside the window (“When I swam back and forth looking at the roses/they called out to me”), which was followed by words of gratitude from Brother Jim Brown, S.M. ’64 and a group recitation of Psalm 148.
Scribblings on the wall behind them made up a makeshift memorial. “Dear PAC pool,” one read, “You helped pull me through open heart surgery in ’97.” Others calculated thousands of miles swum cumulatively day in and day out for decades. One stated simply, “In aqua, veritas.”
The ceremony concluded, many in the group jumped in the pool to drown their sorrow, leaving nary a dry eye in the house.
The engineering students tried to burn, sear, cut and vibrate off the excess plastic pieces clinging to the battery holder for a hearing aid. In the end, they took a shakier approach — adding the hearing aid pieces along with bits of plastic to a tumbler and using the tumbler’s motion to grind away the unwanted parts.
Workers at Schnipke Engraving Co. in Ottoville, Ohio, are currently using X-acto knives and microscopes to do the work, at an average cost of 200 man hours a week. Robert Dence, Michael Hyde, Rick Hoffman and Adam Remillard used their semester in the School of Engineering’s Design and Manufacturing Clinic to develop for Schnipke the tumbler solution, which is safer and cheaper than the current method. This student group was one of 21 to present their findings today to representatives from 17 client companies.
Bottom line for Schnipke: an estimated $108,000 in yearly saving.
My sister, Laura Robinson ’97, spent 10 years at UD and always told me about Christmas on Campus. I thought, “It’s just another Christmas party with a bunch of kids.”
I was assigned to be Christmas on Campus’ media contact three years ago and discovered I was dead wrong by the time they lighted the tree. Seeing the joy on the children’s faces makes “working” Christmas on Campus one of my more rewarding “duties” I have at UD. Nobody could have ordered a better picture last night. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the falling snow and 3 inches already on the ground was a movie-like setting. It was timed perfectly for the children’s — and Santa’s — arrival.
Although some of the performers and school children didn’t make it because of the weather, nobody seemed to go home disappointed. That included one of my daughters, who impishly ambushed me with a fistful of snow as I tried to clean my glasses and who, when she climbed on Santa’s knee and was asked that expected question, responded “You already have the list.”
When I agreed to help judge the annual Christmas on Campus house decorating contest, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I’ve judged contests before but never one where the contestants were encouraged to “butter up” the judges. This year’s contestants took this advice seriously because they really, really wanted to win the first-place prize: a free trip to Daytona for all residents of the house.
What will UD students do to win such a trip? A lot. Besides spending hours putting up lights and hanging ribbon and garland, at almost every house students were waiting in costumes with plates of still warm cookies and steaming hot chocolate for the judges. At one house, the residents had filled small stockings for each of the judges with this year’s Christmas on Campus theme written across the top: Love, Lights and Laughter. (Click on the photo above for a slide show of highlights.)
At first the cookies and cocoa were a welcome sight. It was a cold night after all and who doesn’t like Christmas cookies? By the 10th or so house, however, I found myself taking the cookies because when we didn’t, the students seemed so disappointed. Still, I’m not Santa and I ended up throwing a lot of perfectly good cookies under parked cars. At almost every house the residents had a performance prepared for the judges, often a rhyming poem telling us how good they’d been and how much they deserved the trip.
One of my favorite houses was the all-male live nativity with the largest baby Jesus I’ve ever seen — and the only one with a 5 o’clock shadow. (They were going for high marks in UD spirit, the residents explained.) By the end of the night, I had given four houses perfect scores in all five categories: Christmas on Campus theme, effort, creativity, neatness and UD spirit. They won’t announce the winners until the opening Christmas on Campus ceremonies Dec. 8 but whoever it is, chances are they deserve it
Postscript: The winners are the women from 1926 Trinity Ave., who dressed themselves and their house in a gingerbread theme. The six received a free trip from the Dayton to Daytona committee.
The tree for the 42nd annual Christmas on Campus was delivered on this (very cold) morning as members of the CoC committee looked on. The process took about three hours, from cutting the tree at a donor’s house at 8 a.m. to finally securing it in Kennedy Union plaza close to 11 a.m. (For Quicktime highlights of the end of its journey, click here.
Christmas on Campus is Thursday, Dec. 8, the day of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. No classes are held that day, and students will be preparing for finals.
Alumni chapters in cities across the country will be hosting Christmas off Campus events throughout the season.
Tom Weckesser didn’t need reminding that last night’s win in Cincinnati was the UD men’s basketball team’s first against the Bearcats on their home court in, what, forever? He was there last time it happened, Feb. 11, 1971.
“At the time my sister was a secretary at the (University of Cincinnati) Army ROTC, and she got us tickets. She baby-sat the kids, and we sat in the middle of the UC cheering section,” said Weckesser, a 1967 UD grad and current assistant vice president for finance.
“I still remember (Al) Bertke making that shot.”
That shot. Bertke, a Dayton native, drained UD’s last game-winner in Cincinnati off of a jump ball tipped to him (yes, in the days before the possession arrow). It put UD on top 70-69 at the buzzer.
Weckesser first saw the Flyers with his father in 1954 at the Fieldhouse, camped out for tickets as a student in the mid-’60s and has had season tickets since the Arena opened in 1969.
He watched last night’s game at home and didn’t let himself celebrate until the final minute. And he’s seen enough games to keep this one in perspective.
“We can’t celebrate too much. We have to go out to Las Vegas and play them again in three weeks on a neutral court.”
Still, last night was special and long, long overdue.
Glance at the bookcases that line professors’ offices and you have a window into their lives.
Take the shelves of Maureen Tilley, associate professor in the department of religious studies. Yes, she has books in her third-floor Humanities office, but two high shelves near a window are full of candles used by practitioners of voodoo and other religions.
Some depict Catholic saints, others warn of death. All are instructional aids she uses when she teaches Afro-Latin religions such as Voudou (Tilley’s preferred spelling), Santería, Candomble and Umbanda, all religions of the African diaspora in the West.
At a Catholic university, why teach these subjects, which for many Americans conjure images of zombies, magic, animal sacrifice and more?
Well, because those things are not really central to these faiths, which are genuine religious traditions practiced by millions, said Tilley. Santería, the Cuban form, is one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States. All satisfy the needs of practitioners, interact with Catholicism in fascinating ways, and are badly misunderstood if known at all. In fact, Tilley prefers the French spelling “Voudou” to distinguish her topic from the connotations “voodoo” conjures.
Just imagine her students’ very serious conversations: “I’d love to, but I can’t go. I’ve got to study my voodoo.”