Sports Columnist

John Knebels

Like dealing with a scorching hot potato, person after person refuses to grab the plaudits and instead tosses them toward someone else.

Perhaps that is why Neumann College – soon to be a University, but that’s for another day – has continued to improve its decade-long Center for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development program.

Dr. Ed Hastings, the first and only director of the program since its inception in 1999, praises Neumann president Dr. Rosalie Mirenda and Neumann vice president of Mission and Ministry Sister Marguerite O’Beirne, O.S.F., for their “vision and excitement about the concept and for keeping it alive.”

Dr. Mirenda lauds Hastings for maintaining stability along the way. Hastings extols his hard-working staff for their creativity and organization. The staff, led by strategic planner Lee DelleMonache and program coordinator Stephanie Taylor, commends Hastings for his “love, passion and never-wavering brilliance.”

Meanwhile, the program that involves literally every athlete at Neumann, includes an available chaplain for every sport and has extended its communal outreach to associations such as the Catholic Youth Organization, Little League and Parent-Teachers Association, keeps getting better.

By this coming fall, construction on the brand new Center for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development edifice will be finished. The center will include a main gymnasium that will seat between 1,200 and 1,500 spectators. Meanwhile, educational programming will emphasize the visionary concept of how sports, spirituality and values, when intertwined, offer a unique perspective that truly reflects Godliness in athletics.

“There is a great quote from St. Thomas Aquinas,” said Hastings, a 1969 graduate of Msgr. Bonner High School and former basketball standout at Villanova University. “He said, ‘Beauty is God’s way of getting our attention.’ You do see beauty in sports, in how the players perform and the camaraderie that develops; the shared experiences in victories and defeats and the special relationships that are formed.”

Among the upcoming jobs for DelleMonache, a product of the Drexel Hill School of the Holy Child, and Taylor, a graduate of Our Lady of Fatima School in Secane, will be creating visuals that go along with the center’s five major themes that combine Franciscan spirituality and sports – beauty, balance, reflection, respect and play.

Both of them mentioned that having their offices near those of the coaches will automatically provide more opportunities to share ideas and points of view.

“It’s very special that every team is part of this,” said DelleMonache. “They’ll be able to better see what we do.”

Taylor agreed.

“We already do a lot of things like evenings of reflection, Masses and dinners,” said Taylor. “But this will help us get to know each other even more.”

In a presentation delivered by Hastings and DelleMonache at the Institute on College Student Values titled “Promoting the Spiritual Growth and Character Development of Student Athletes,” the pair offered an intriguing question.

“What if sports, if viewed properly, could be used to help facilitate a deeper connection with God?” they asked.

For about 10 years, the folks at Neumann College have stopped asking the question and instead have provided the answer.

John Knebels can be reached at