Over 250 student-athletes gathered in the Mirenda Center for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development on Monday, February 6th but they didn’t come to play. They came, with their coaches and team chaplains, to pray. The official start of the spring sport season at Neumann University isn’t a first pitch, shot or serve. It’s Mass.
Like the fall and winter athletes before them baseball, softball, tennis, track, golf and lacrosse athletes were commissioned—prayerfully, thoughtfully, and intentionally sent-forth—to represent the university on area fields, courts and courses.
“The commissioning of our coaches, chaplains and team members is one of our institutional points of difference,” explained Chuck Sack, Director of Athletics and Recreation. “The experience created through the commissioning sets the stage for each team member to lead in some capacity throughout a season,” Sack added.
Many student athletes appreciate that the commissioning experience allows them to connect their sport with something bigger. “It was impressive and rejuvenating to see people with all types of beliefs come together to receive a blessing in the sport they love to play” said Kabreeze Sheed of Neumann’s Club Baseball team. “There was nothing but love for each other, companionship, and gratitude for God’s grace on our season,” Sheed added. Julia Fair, member of the Neumann University Women’s Golf team, said “I am so thankful to go to a University that recognizes faith as part of sports. I do not know where I would be in my sports career without my faith and it is great to start the season with a mass.”
Commissioning experiences come to Neumann through the outreach of the Institute for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development. According to Lee DelleMonache, ISSCD Director, their programming, which includes team chaplaincy, lay ministry, team reflections, online resources as well as seasonal commissioning rituals, is designed to deepen awareness of self, others and God in the lives of student-athletes and coaches. From Monday’s feedback, it’s working.
“Being at Neumann has helped me to discover the spiritual side that sport has to offer and I can say that for my teammates as well,” explained Jeffrey DeSalvo of the Roller Hockey Team. “With (Neumann’s Core Values) RISES as our backbone to success, the roller hockey club understands the importance of service to others, being honest with each other, being honest with ourselves, and striving for excellence on the rink, in the classroom, and most importantly, in life.”
DeSalvo added, “Events like this are so important to all athletic teams because it gives all the athletes a chance to reflect on their season, academic progress, and social activity among each other. For me, each mass helps to put things into a different perspective and makes me realize how fortunate I am to have an education at Neumann University, play the sport I love, and be surrounded by great teammates, coaches, and professors who are there to support not only our academic progress but athletic participation as well.”
Even the seasoned AD was moved. “This year’s commissioning was a beautiful expression of our values and commitment to our Catholic Franciscan tradition,” said Sack.