Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., Installed as St. John's President during Annual Founder's Week Celebration

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Every member of the St. John's University family is both scholar and servant—seeking truth, acquiring wisdom and committed to helping those in need. That was the core message of this year's annual Founder's Week celebration, held September 22–28.

The capstone event of Founder's Week was, as always, the Vincentian Convocation, held September 26. This year's event was particularly notable because Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., was formally installed as President of St. John's University during a special ceremony performed by Peter P. D'Angelo '78MBA,'06HON, Chair of the Board of Trustees.

View the photo gallery from Founder's Week 2013

During his opening remarks, Fr. Levesque thanked Mr. D'Angelo and the Board as well as Very Rev. Michael Carroll, C.M., Provincial Superior of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission, for their confidence in his ability to lead St. John's.

After receiving the mace and medal that are symbols of the office, Fr. Levesque observed, "In accepting this role, I determined that I would work extremely hard to continue to build upon the strengths of the University. Our goal is to fulfill our mission by offering a Catholic and Vincentian education to our students."

Of the honorees, Fr. Levesque observed, "Coming from different paths, diverse professional lives and a variety of backgrounds, it is quite evident that our honorees all hold a commonality of purpose that perpetuates the vision and mission of St. Vincent and St. Louise."

Honorees included:

Vincentian Mission Award:  Barrett P. Brenton, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, who has modeled the Vincentian mission of service both inside and outside the classroom

The Caritas Medal:  Cristo Rey Brooklyn High School, which reaches out to young people with very limited opportunities, and helps prepare them to lead meaningful and productive lives

St. Vincent de Paul Medal:  C. Mario Russell, J.D., Director, Senior Attorney, Division of Immigrant and Refugee Services, Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of New York, who has dedicated his professional career to protecting the rights of the poor

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Medal:  Natalie Boone, President, Ladies of Charity, St. John’s University, who has spent her life serving the disadvantaged in myriad ways

Frédéric Ozanam Award: LAMP Ministries, an organization that emphasizes the importance of faith in our initiatives with the poor and needy

Honorary degree recipient:  Sr. Louise Sullivan, D.C., Ph.D., Vincentian Heritage Projects, Daughters of Charity, and Professor Emerita Foreign Languages, Niagara University, who has translated the words of St. Louise de Marillac for followers worldwide

During the Convocation, the annual Vincentian Chair of Social Justice Lecture, entitled, "The Vincentian Mission of Justice and Charity: A 17th-Century Vision for the 21st Century," was delivered by Sr. Louise Sullivan, D.C., Ph.D., who Fr. Levesque noted, "has singlehandedly given life to the words and wisdom of St. Louise de Marillac to thousands who would, otherwise, lack such access."

Vincentian Spirit, Vincentian Legacy

Echoing the example set by our honorees, the University community was exposed to inspiring examples of Vincentian scholarship and enjoyed opportunities for practical, hands-on service to others during Founder's Week.

"St. Vincent de Paul was a lifelong student and professor," said Sr. Margaret John Kelly, D.C., Executive Director of the Vincentian Center for Church and Society. "Vincent understood that his many intellectual gifts were not given to him for himself but were to be used in service to others. His actions—the test of genuine learning—reflected the Scriptural imperative, 'To whom much is given, much is expected.'"

This year's theme, "Be Vincentian: Scholar and Servant," was driven home by several presentations designed to enlighten members of the University community about the remarkable scholarship done in Vincent's name by those called to serve the poor and needy.

With activities held on all St. John's campuses, Founder's Week offered a diverse array of programming. Highlights included activist Temple Grandin’s address to the University about embracing the needs of autistic children and Sr. Kelly’s lecture on noted Vincentian scholars and servants who exemplify Vincent's thirst for knowledge and abiding love for those less fortunate.

The Staten Island campus also hosted special programs, including a workshop on bullying and a lecture by prominent African-American Hollywood studio executive, preacher and motivational speaker DeVon Franklin, who discussed how to succeed without compromising one’s faith.

Crowning Founder’s Week, University Service Day provided community members with a chance to put Vincent's ideals into action by serving at soup kitchens, nursing homes, parks, schools and community centers. One hundred and fifty teams of approximately 1,500 students, faculty and administrators participated. A Midnight Run was held to help feed and clothe the homeless in the metropolitan area. Mass was also celebrated across campuses in observance of the feast of St. Vincent de Paul on September 27.

"We're all called to be scholars because we are all seeking truth and acquiring wisdom," Sr. Kelly observed. "A servant is the person you can always count on—willing to help, identifying needs before they arise. That's the goal of one who works in the Vincentian tradition."