A simple brown Tau cross hangs from my rearview mirror. As I drive about the narrow and rolling roads of Delaware county, a short blue cord gently keeps it swaying about. Suspended in my vision while I drive, I don’t always notice it. It has a way of blending into the landscape as I drive. Maybe while stopped at a red light I might catch a glimpse of it—or when I reach to change the radio station. It’s unassuming, yet not a distraction, and it doesn’t demand much of my attention whatsoever.
As I’ve experienced, when one works at a Franciscan university, you seem to accumulate Tau crosses because it’s such an important symbol representing our values and tradition entrusted to us by Saints Francis and Clare. Except this Tau cross is different. This is a special Tau to me. In my role as vice president for student affairs at Neumann University I gain a privileged glimpse into the lives of our students. I get to be among the first to welcome them to this Holy Hill when they arrive in August. Throughout the year I get to celebrate with them in moments of achievement and I get to sit with them during moments of grief. This semester, I have had a treasured opportunity to be a guest at both the fall and winter commissioning ceremonies for our student athletes. This is the year of Stewardship at Neumann, and each team’s representative spoke to the role of stewardship both on and off the field. They shared stories of where they experienced our shared valued of stewardship while in competition, in the locker room, in the class room, and on campus. I was particularly touched by their humility and depth of reflection. Each team representative brought forward an item that represents their team to share with the audience assembled. In this exercise, I caught a glimpse into how these items—whether it was a ball or a jersey—is a sacramental reminder of stewardship in their lives. It was clear to me that we are providing something special here at Neumann for our student athletes. Moments like these commissioning ceremonies are precisely where sport and spirituality meet. We call out this intersection in a sacred and holy way.
Similarly to the Tau cross that hangs from my rearview mirror, for our students representing Neumann as a student-athlete, it may seem as if it is just part of their landscape as a student. In most cases, it’s not distracting from their academic experience, but rather it adds a depth of reflection and develops their character in a special way. My Tau cross that greets me in my car each day reminds me of my work and my vocation, and why I do it at a place like Neumann.