This past weekend, downtown Scranton hosted its 40th annual Italian food and culture festival, La Festa Italiana (often shortened to just “La Festa”). Food vendors from Scranton, surrounding areas, and even other states crowded together under white tents in the Lackawanna Country Courthouse Square, which is a short walk from campus. The mouth-watering smell of pizza and pasta that wafted into campus drew me down to La Festa every day. I looked forward the most to the Italian desserts. The beautiful, intricate pastries were stacked up high in glass display cases, and I could not resist buying several of them. The nutella-infused cannoli that I picked up on a whim turned out to be the most delicious thing I ate at the festival. (As a side note, I had never had a cannoli before coming to the University of Scranton and going to La Festa! Unbelievable, I know.) The chocolate gelato, a welcome cool refreshment in the summer heat, was also very good.
In addition to various types of Italian food, La Festa also hosts some seemingly out-of-place vendors, like a Chinese food station, a barbecue station, a Greek gyro station, and a birch beer station. I have never bought from these vendors but their presence is not unwelcome, especially to those who may have dairy allergies (It’s hard to find Italian food without some type of cheese or cream). La Festa also includes live musical entertainment. My favorite act this year was Chris Macchio, an Italian tenor from New York City. His spectacular voice rose angelically over the bustle of the vendors, beckoning many to stop their eating and listen to his spellbinding performance.
My one regret is that I did not participate in the cannoli-eating contest that took place on Labor Day. Although I doubt I could have eaten more than 5 cannoli, I think I still would have had a lot of fun. I’m planning on it for next year!
If you want to know more about La Festa, you can visit its website here.
It’s the start of another school year. I can’t believe I’m a junior. I remember meeting juniors when I was a freshman and marveling at how grown-up they were — how educated, well-spoken, and mature. Although I don’t feel this way yet, I think that it will come over time.
One neat thing that I’ve already come to love is living in an apartment this year. I live in Montrone, which is an on-campus apartment complex for upperclassmen. It is situated across from the DeNaples Center on Mulberry Avenue, above a dining court and next to the fitness center. Each apartment in Montrone contains a kitchen, dining area, living area, two bathrooms, and four single bedrooms. Although my bedroom is smaller than the one I had freshman and sophomore year, it feels more open and private because I’m not sharing it with a roommate.
My room! There is a bed, a desk with shelving, a four-drawer dresser, and a wardrobe (not pictured). I still need to do more decorating.
This past Friday, a fellow apartment-mate and I took advantage of our kitchen and decided to make dinner. We had fresh vegetables graciously given to us by a professor, and our commuter friends provided the rest of the ingredients. We had a lovely night hosting 6 people in our apartment. Cooking our meal was a fresh breath of independence. Although I love the accessibility of the campus dining services, I had gotten used to making my meals over the summer. With my own kitchen, I can continue to develop my cooking skills and share them with my friends.
Cooking! On the stove: sausage, rice, and a mix of zucchini and peppers.
There are so many other perks of apartment-style living: having a couch, being able to control the air conditioner, having a full-sized fridge, etc. I’m excited to continue to use the apartment and discover more about its great features!
This past weekend, the University’s Theology Department sponsored a conference on Vatican II. It was entitled Word, Church, World: Vatican II Fifty Years On, and it was free and open to the public!
The conference started Friday night with a welcoming note from our president, Father Quinn, and an invocation from Bishop Bambera, the bishop of the diocese of Scranton. After this, Fr. Joseph Komanchak gave the keynote address. He spoke about the second Vatican council as “event” and analyzed the different things people means when they use the term “Vatican II.”
Saturday consisted of four mini talks given by pairs of knowledgeable scholars. I joined the conference to hear a talk about Dei Verbum, a document written during Vatican II that addresses holy scripture and how it relates to the people of the Church. One of the presenters of this part of the conference was Dr. Mahri Leonard-Fleckman; she will be joining the University next year as a professor in the Theology Department. I plan to take her Old Testament class next semester, so it was nice to get a feel for her teaching style.
I enjoyed learning about the changes that Vatican II enacted in the Church. Because I was born into a time when these changes had already taken place, I did not have a clear idea of what the Church was like before the council and how exactly the council mandated changes. Many of the people at the conference had personally experienced these changes. For me, however, the council seems more like something from a history textbook than from my personal narrative, even though in the larger scheme, it did not take place very long ago. This conference increased my knowledge of an event in my faith, and I believe this is a good thing because of the importance of tradition in Christianity. Remembrance of a shared past draws people deeper into community; I hope that my new understanding of Vatican II can increase my communal ties to others in the Church.
As the end of the semester approaches, I realize that I am becoming more and more busy. This next week alone, I have two presentations, a test, and an essay due! The key for me to avoiding stressful meltdowns is scheduling in leisure time during each day so that I do not become overwhelmed by all my work. I am realizing now what I great decision I made when I signed up for a yoga class this semester; getting credit for participating in a de-stressing exercise is so great.
I took the day off Tuesday to travel to DC and interview for an internship position. Because I am almost halfway through my college career, I have been focusing on finding opportunities, like an internship, that will provide a structured time for my summer and advance my career. I highly advise visiting the Career Services Center located in Ciszek Hall, or checking out their website where they have posted a huge amount of very helpful information for students.
I am looking forward to two events this weekend. The first is the performance of the musical RENT by the Liva Performing Arts group. The musical will be performed in Elm Park Church (712 Linden Street) on Thursday at 8 PM, Friday at 8 PM, and Saturday at 2 PM and 8 PM. Tickets ($10 general, $7 senior, $5 students and children) are available for purchase at the door. The second event I am anticipating is a conference hosted by the Theology Department. It is entitled “Word, Church, World: Vatican II Fifty Years On” and it starts Friday at 1 PM in room 407 of the DeNaples Center. It continues on Saturday, ending around 4 PM. The conference includes speakers from the University and from nearby Marywood, Villanova, and King’s College. Bishop Bambera will be giving the invocation on the first day of the conference. It is completely free and open to the public!
Last Wednesday, the Catholic Studies Program sponsored a talk by Dr. Christopher Kaczor, author (along with his wife) of The Seven Big Myths about Marriage. This book, popular in Catholic circles, was published in February of 2014.
Dr. Kazcor was greeted to an auditorium packed with college students. He presented on two of the seven myths about marriage, namely, that cohabitation is just like marriage, and that children are irrelevant to marriage. Dr. Kazcor disproved these myths with a combination of sociology research and theological insight. He also drew on his own experience of married life and raising children. His talk was informative with occasional humorous moments, and he was very open to any questions that we had after listening to him speak.
I very much enjoyed the opportunity to learn about this scholar’s thoughts on marriage, and I am happy that the Catholic Studies Program took the initiative to invite him to campus. The subject of the presentation was relevant to many students, especially upperclassmen who are planning on or considering marriage in their futures.
In other news, I was recently invited to co-lead a new retreat that will debut in the fall of next year. The Mystery Retreat focuses on engaging Catholic students in difficult questions about their faith. How do we actually take Jesus seriously and live our faith in the world today, and what does that look like? Is it ok to doubt what the Church proclaims? How can we spread our faith to others without threatening their own beliefs? God is a Mystery, so it is natural that these questions arise for us. In preparing for this retreat, I and my fellow leaders are meeting once a week to work on our witness talks and practice leading small group discussions. I am incredibly excited to take part in the fruit of our labors next year!
Ahhh, Spring is finally in the air! Yesterday, it was around 70 degrees! In celebration of such great weather, many professors held their classes outside. I received a full dose of vitamin D as I sat in the Rose Garden outside of the Sacred Heart Chapel and took part in a class discussion. Walking past the Dionne Green outside of the DeNaples Center, I saw to my delight students frolicking in the new-found warmth. There were students playing a soccer game, musicians jamming out with guitars and drums, and others talking or doing homework. For my part, I decided to do a bit of reading outside and also snuck in a quick nap. It felt incredible to rest outside, breathing the fresh air and warming up in the sunlight.
Along with warm weather comes several predictable patterns of behavior of college students. The first — they switch from buying hot coffee to buying iced coffee. Waiting for my own iced coffee at Starbucks, I noticed that every other customer was also purchasing an iced beverage! Secondly, they spend time eating meals and doing homework outside. The tables in front of the Dionne Green, in the Rose Garden, and in front of the library are all packed with students now that they can be outside without fear of catching a cold. Thirdly, more people begin to exercise outside. It’s not uncommon for me to see sweat-drenched runners dash past me when I’m walking outside. And lastly, students smile and laugh more because of the weather! It’s strange but amazing that the environment can have such an instant mood-improving effect. It just feels so good to be outside; it seems that no one can keep a negative mindset when they step out into the glorious sunshine.
The appearance of warm weather is a blessed harbinger of the end of the semester. I hope it continues throughout the week!
I hope everyone had a joy-filled Easter holiday and a relaxing break. It was a wonderful and much-needed opportunity to travel home for Easter. I was happy to be able to spend time with my family and indulge in some of my hobbies that I do not get the chance to do at school (mostly, a lot of baking and eating sweets). I baked coconut macaroons, chocolate chip cookies, welsh cakes, and dinner rolls. Although the dinner rolls were a bit disappointing (because I mistakenly baked them at the wrong temperature! oops!), everything else was a big success! I love coming home for breaks because I can let my sweet tooth run wild and engulf the kitchen in the mouth-watering smells of decadent baked goods.
Another high point of Easter break was attending the Easter Vigil Mass at my church. The service lasted just shy of three hours (from 8:30 pm to 11:20 pm). In the past, I have had difficulty staying awake during the beautiful service because the Church is in darkness for the Liturgy of the Word. However, this year I found that I only yawned once throughout the entire mass! I think that was probably because I gulped down an entire 14 oz coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts moments before walking into Church. Hey, you have to do what you have to do. The most exciting part of the Easter Vigil for me was watching catechumens receive the sacrament of baptism and candidates for full communion receive the sacrament of confirmation. The sacraments felt mysterious to me because of our soft chanting of “veni sancte spiritus” (“come, holy spirit”) and the residual smell of incense. I felt like the whole church was gently coaxing the holy spirit to come into our midst. This was a moment of great reverence in the liturgy that I do not want to forget.
This Sunday, the Manhattan School of Music brass orchestra joined the University of Scranton performance choir in concert. The concert was held at the Houlihan-Mclean Center, which is a beautiful building (and a former Baptist church) on the corner of Mulberry St. and Jefferson St. Like all performance music concerts held by the University, this concert was free and open to the public.
As a singer in the choir, one of the great joys for me during this concert was getting to watch other incredible musicians (the brass instrumentalists) perform. At one point, a trio of trumpeters performed on the balcony above the choir. The sound was so pure and clean that I was unsure how many trumpeters there really were! It was also a pleasure to perform together with the brass musicians for several songs, including a rendition of Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Starting Something, and a Tribute to the Armed Forces. Both songs were fun to sing by ourselves, but the addition of the booming brass orchestra made the experience many times more enjoyable.
It was also heart-warming to witness the playful banter between our choir director Cheryl Boga and her friend, conductor Mark Gould from the Manhattan School of Music. Their back-and-forth during the concert added a casual dimension to the concert and helped the musicians and audience to loosen up and have fun. On a serious note, Cheryl Boga addressed the audience toward the end of the concert and urged them to support the continuation of music programs in their school districts. A show of hands from the musicians revealed that the majority of them had been first exposed to musical performance in their elementary schools. I believe that every singer and brass player in the concert shares Cheryl’s passion for continuing music education. I hope that our performance inspired the audience to realize the importance of musical exposure in a well-rounded education.
This past Saturday, I joined the Scranton Club of Washington D.C. to join in the Jesuit Day of Service. The Scranton Club of D.C. is one of the numerous University of Scranton alumni societies. The National Jesuit Day of Service is an alumni initiative that many other Jesuit universities participate in.
The Scranton Club of DC sponsored two service activities, one in Washington, D.C. and the other in Arlington, V.A. I served in D.C. at the D.C. Central Kitchen, which prepares over 5,000 meals a day to decrease hunger in the area. At the kitchen, I assisted in the preparation of an enormous quantity of pinto beans. The beans cooked in metal vat as huge as a bath tub, and the spoon to stir them resembled an oar. We made about 15 large trays of beans, piled high and almost overflowing. After this, we discovered that more beans had to be made! It was incredible to see how much food the kitchen made and how efficient their food preparation was. The staff members could always find something for the volunteers to do (including taste-testing some donated pies, which might have been my favorite job).
Another enjoyable aspect of the Day of Service was getting to speak with alumni from the University. I discovered that one alum had been through the Special Jesuit Liberal Arts Honors Program, which I am currently in. It was nice to share experiences and listen to her reminisce about her days at Scranton.
By the end of our 3-hour service day, I was pretty tired! Cooking for yourself might not seem that strenuous, but cooking for 5,000 people sure is a workout! I thoroughly enjoyed using my skills to benefit people in need in my area. It was a lovely way to end Spring Break, and it made me excited to pursue more service opportunities in the university community.
Hi everyone! Sorry for the late post. Spring Break, although a completely needed detachment from school, side-tracked me from posting.
This week, I want to recount an event I attended in late February. It was a roundtable discussion sponsored by the Theology Department; the department typically hosts 2 such discussions per semester. I volunteered to participate in the committee that planned the discussion, and the topic we decided to focus on was martyrdom. The choice of this topic was influenced by Bishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated because of his godly work in El Salvador and recently declared a martyr by Pope Francis. The planning committee also decided that it would be most interesting if different faith perspectives could come into conversation about the topic of martyrdom. Because of this, the speakers chosen for the event were Dr. Marc Shapiro, a Jewish rabbi and professor of Theology at the University, Dr. Patrick Clark, a Christian and professor of Theology as well, and Dr. Melinda Krokus, a Muslim and professor of Religious Studies at Marywood University.
At the event, these three speakers gave brief explanations of their faith tradition’s view and treatment of martyrs. Many of them spoke about famous martyrs in their faiths and how stories of these martyrs are still circulated and provide strength for believers. The discussion expanded to include comments and questions from students and faculty who attended the event. Interesting questions included, Should we want to be martyred?, Can a martyr die on the battleground?, and Are you afraid of being martyred today? A little heated debate also arose about whether Edith Stein was a martyr for Judaism or Christianity, as she went to her death because of her Jewish heritage but also was a Catholic nun.
In all, the roundtable discussion was successful. Students actively participated in dialogue with the panelists, and I definitely learned a lot. As a Christian, I realized from listening to Drs. Shapiro and Krokus how much I don’t know about Judaism and Islam. That has inspired me to include courses in these two faith traditions in my future education.