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The Spirit of Assisi Lives on at Neumann University

         by, Sr. Mary Ann & Sr. Pat Hutchison

On October 27, 1986, 70 representatives of major religions accepted the invitation of Pope John Paul II to gather in Assisi to pray for Peace. This experience came to be called the Spirit of Assisi.  John Paul II chose Assisi as the location for this day of prayer because St. Francis is a symbol of peace, reconciliation, and brotherhood.

In January 1993 and again in 2002, Pope John Paul II invited religious leaders to come back to Assisi.  The Pope asked world religions to turn themselves into instruments of peace because hate and violence generate nothing except more hate and violence.

On Thursday evening, October 27, 2011, more than 150 members of the Neumann University community and Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first Spirit of Assisi.  The Neumann community gathered in silence with lighted candles to express solidarity with those who joined Pope Benedict XVI in Assisi as “pilgrims of truth and pilgrims of peace.” The lighted candles served as reminders that each of us can be a light to spread peace and to confront the threats to peace and to the environment that we face in our world today. Slowly a reverent procession, led by the haunting sound of drums, moved through the halls of the Bachmann Main Building and into the Sacred Heart Chapel where participants overflowed into pews, aisles, floor, sanctuary, and hallways!

Following the introduction and welcome, the Neumann University Gospel Choir offered a song of prayer and praise. Then members of the Student Government and the Dean of Students read excerpts from the Jewish and Christian scriptures, the writings of Francis of Assisi, and reflections from the Muslim tradition.  Following intercessions, offered by the president of the Neumann University Student Peace Alliance, the Neumann Praise Dancers performed their prayerful plea that God’s peace would shower down upon all peoples.


Before the closing song, the Peace Prayer attributed to St. Francis, participants directed their attention (virtually) to the Neumann University Peace Pole which was first dedicated in October, 1995, during a weekend program commemorating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. The Peace Pole was originally placed among trees on the lawn between the university and Our Lady of Angels Convent. Recent construction on the campus made the Peace Pole practically invisible. Therefore, it was re-positioned in the center of the large rocks which stand between the St. John Neumann Circle and the Rose Garden.

Each Peace Pole, an internationally-recognized symbol of the hopes and dreams of the entire human family, bears the message May Peace Prevail on Earth in different languages on each of its sides. Tens of thousands of Peace Poles in nearly every country in the world stand as reminders that Peace begins in the hearts and minds of each individual.

According to Pope Benedict the message of peace is needed as much today as it was 25 years ago.  As Pope Benedict XVI has said, the world has changed since the first Spirit of Assisi celebration.  Violence threatens not only the human family, but also all of creation. Religions are asked to dialogue among themselves, and to reach out to all people whether they are believers or not.  Therefore, in addition to over 300 representatives of world religions, Benedict extended an invitation to people “to whom the gift of faith has not been given, but who are nevertheless on the lookout for truth, searching for God.” On October 27, 2011, in Assisi, Italy, and at Neumann University in Aston, PA, people of good will joined as sisters and brothers in a fervent prayer that Peace will Prevail on Earth!

Welcome to Wellness

Mike D'Angelo

There are a few new faces in the Counseling Center for Wellness (CCW) this year, but its mission remains the same: to promote wellness in body, mind, and spirit. “We love you very much, we care about you very much and we want you to succeed,” says Mike D’Angelo, director of the CCW

This year, all five counselors have ties to Neumann University’s graduate program in Pastoral Care and Counseling (PCC). Director Mike D’Angelo and Wellness Counselor Donna Liu both received their master’s degrees from NU and are licensed professional counselors (LPCs). Mike served as Campus Minister at Neumann for five years before joining the staff of the CCW. He has been director for four years. Donna Liu, who received both her B.S. and M.S. degrees from Neumann, worked in the respiratory therapy field for 20 years before joining the CCW staff.

Frederick Pratt

Neumann students also may choose to see one of three counseling interns who are new to the CCW this year. Frederick Pratt, who received his M.S. in May from Neumann, interns two afternoons a week. He currently is pursuing a certificate in school counseling from Villanova University. Toni Hemmerich, who will graduate from the PCC program in May, interns two full days and one half-day. A self-employed business owner, Toni believes in incorporating spirituality with healing for emotional as well as physical issues. I, Lisa Schaad, am a third-year student in the PCC program and see clients two days a week. I am a writer and editor and former youth minister.

Toni Hemmerich

If you have never been to the CCW, it is located on Convent Road in a Cape Cod-style house next to the Mirenda Center parking lot. Visitors enter through a door centered in a breezeway and head through the kitchen before entering the waiting area. Everyone is welcome to grab a snack from the table or refrigerator on their way to the waiting area in the house’s former living room. Our reception desk is staffed by students and by retired nurse Sr. Cass OSF, who make every effort to assist anyone who walks in hoping to see a counselor. However, when a counselor is not available, our staff will take your information and have someone call you as soon as possible. The best way to make an appointment is to dial the CCW directly at 610-358-4541.

Lisa Schaad

If all you need is a quiet place to clear your mind, feel free to sign into our meditation room, located on the second floor. You are welcome to grab a floor pillow or a chair and just relax. The beautiful mural of Ridley Creek State Park painted on the slanted ceiling helps create a relaxing atmosphere for reading, meditating or just closing your eyes for a few minutes to regain a sense of calm.

Donna Liu

Everyone who works in the CCW adheres to strict code of confidentiality. Some clients greet the CCW staff with a smile around campus; others prefer to keep their ties to the center quiet. It is completely up to you whether you want anyone to know you have come to see us. The students’ needs come first in the CCW.

Staff Spotlight: Denise Chain

Compiled By: Jessica Sabato
Associate Editor

Denise Chain

Denise Chain...Courtesy of Jill Weigel, Neumann Sports Information

What is your full name?

Denise Chain

Did you have any fun nicknames as a child? Do you have any fun/silly nicknames as an adult?

Everyone always called me Neesy, and my friends/family still do.  My brothers (who also had other choice names for me growing up) and I are very close in age, and couldn’t pronounce “Denise”, so it stuck.  Of course, being only 4’11”, people constantly call me “Munchkin” or something indicating the obvious, as if I wasn’t already aware of my vertically challenged situation. I don’t mind, though.

Where did you attend college and what was your major? 

I was a nursing major at DCCC before I left to have my oldest son, Christian.

What is your favorite sporting event to attend and who is your favorite team?  Why do you enjoy going to these games?

How can you be from this area and not be a fan of Philly teams?!  It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a Phillies game, but they’re the absolute best.  My mom taught Harry Kalas’ youngest son in first grade, so we were a baseball family!  Besides that, my children play lacrosse, baseball and softball, so Springtime for me consists of living in my car driving to games and practices.

What is your favorite “old school” movie and why?

I graduated high school in 1992 – I’m a true child of the 80’s.  St. Elmo’s Fire and Say Anything are two of my favorites from that genre.  Admittedly, John Cusack was my “boyfriend” in 1989. But my favorite of all time is Full Metal Jacket.  I LOVE war movies!  I think I can recite the entire thing.

If you were stranded on a deserted island what 3 items would you bring with you and why?

This question always makes me laugh, because it implies you know you’re going to be stranded.  I mean really, at least bring a cell phone!  Other than that, I’d bring my husband, Jack.  He’s like Macgyver and could probably build an airplane out of a paper clip and wadded up piece of gum.

If you could live in any time period (40’s, 50’s, 60’s etc.) what time period would it be and why?

I am a Civil War reenactor so I frequently “live” in the 1860’s.  It’s a very misunderstood and unconventional hobby, that’s for sure.  I also do World War II reenacting, which offers a unique perspective as many people from that generation are still living. They come to our events and it is an honor to interact with them.  I really love educating people on those aspects of history, and it always amazes me how much the average person doesn’t know.

What ingredients make the perfect omelet?

I’m a VERY picky eater, so just cheese for me!  I really wish I liked more vegetables. Maybe I’d grow a little taller…

Do you prefer the Jersey Shore or the Delaware beaches? Specify favorite one.

I lived in Delaware from 1996-2010, and yet have never been to one of the Delaware beaches.  So, by default, I suppose that means I prefer Jersey.  My grandparents owned a house in Avalon, and I used to take my kids to Ocean City every year.  They love it, but truthfully, I’m really not a “beach” person at all.  Give me crisp, autumn weather in the mountains anytime!

Are you a reality show junky? If so what is your favorite show?

I wouldn’t call myself a “reality show junkie”, it’s more like a guilty pleasure.  After all, who doesn’t love watching the minutia of 12 people living in one house with their every move broadcast on live television?  With four children I rarely have time to watch much TV, but the three staples that are on in my home are Fox News, the History Channel and Jeopardy.  The kids and I watch American Idol and take bets on who gets voted off each week.

What is your “dream” job, a job out of the ordinary that not many people think of?

Honestly, I feel like I am already in my “dream job”.  I have Christian who is 17, Colleen who is 14, Joey who is 11 and Harrison who is almost 9.  I can’t think of a more fulfilling and important (albeit underpaid!) job than that of MOM!