Penn’s Chaplain Chaz Howard: The Healing Gift of Poetry

Through Chaz Howard’s career as a spiritual advisor, he has shared the joys of the human experience as well as some of the most painful times in people’s lives.

As the University of Pennsylvania’s chaplain, Howard has helped provide pastoral support, guidance and counseling to students, faculty and staff through a range of challenging issues.

Before his appointment as chaplain in 2008, Howard was a chaplain in a hospice, and for Project H.O.M.E., a Philadelphia homeless advocacy organization. 

He’s worked with people dealing with death, grief, drug and alcohol addiction, depression, poverty and homelessness.

Howard C’00, began writing poetry to help him cope with and process some of the painful things that he heard and saw from the people he counseled.

“Most of my poetry wasn’t written with an audience in mind. It was more like a journal of my experience,” Howard says.

Forty of his poems have recently been released in a compilation, The Awe and the Awful.

The title poem, “The Awe and the Awesome,” captures what Howard has seen during his 10-year career:

The Awe and the Awesome

We are the awe and the awful. 

Fearfully and wonderfully made. 


Full of dreams

And imaginations

With enough love to pray for a world without hunger, or poverty, or war. 

And enough faith to hold on and keep loving

Until we get there.

But awful too.

Too much killing 

Awfully selfish 

Awfully fearful

Not wonderful. 

“Humans are complex” they told me
 “We’re all in process” they said.

We are the awe and the awful. 

“It’s this dance between beauty and tragedy,” says Howard. “With real pain and suffering, and the awe for life, the awe for the divine and for God’s grace even in the face of the awful.” 

And through life’s most difficult trials, Howard says, “There’s always hope and there’s always light.”

Howard will donate the proceeds of the book to two Philadelphia organizations that are close to his heart. Heeding God’s Call works to educate and raise awareness about gun violence. My Place Germantown is an organization that provides transitional housing for the homeless.



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