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St. John’s Becomes a Catholic Relief Services Global Campus

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Highlighting a shared commitment to helping impoverished and disadvantaged people around the world, Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., President of St. John’s University, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing the University as a Global Campus of Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

Gathering at St. Thomas More Church on the Queens, NY, campus, students, faculty, and staff watched as Dr. Gempesaw signed the Memorandum with Carolyn Y. Woo, Ph.D., President and CEO of CRS, on November 28. Together, Dr. Gempesaw pledged, St. John’s and CRS will assist others “through education, awareness, prayer, giving, and action.”

“As a Catholic, Vincentian, Metropolitan, and Global university, we are honored to be a partner with CRS,” said Dr. Gempesaw as he addressed the audience. “Being a CRS Global Campus strengthens our focus on learning by serving.”

A Long-Standing Relationship

St. John’s is only the 10th CRS Global Campus in the United States. 

“This is a comprehensive and long-standing relationship that only happens because people work at it and are passionate about it,” said Dr. Woo, who is completing her fifth and final year as President of CRS. “Our work is a privilege, and we take our work very seriously.”

St. John’s and CRS have worked together in formal and informal capacities for nearly 10 years. In 2014, Campus Ministry launched a chapter of CRS Campus Ambassadors, which prepares undergraduates to address global poverty and injustice. In 2016, CRS collaborated with St. John’s at the University’s Poverty Conference. Most recently, students participated in CRS’s Rice Bowl program during Lent.

CRS is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the US. They work to assist the poor, while responding to major emergencies, fighting disease, and nurturing peaceful and just societies around the world. Their work has touched more than 100 million lives in over 100 countries around the world.

After the signing, Dr. Woo delivered an academic lecture entitled “Cry of the Earth and Cry of the Poor.” The daughter of emigrants from China, she highlighted CRS’s efforts to help educate young refugees around the world. “There are 65 million refugees out there, and half of them are children,” she said. “If we handle this problem well, and we welcome this generation, we will have the largest generation of peace builders.”

Connected to the World

Dr. Woo also discussed the harmful effects of climate change on poor farmers. For example, she noted, Central America typically has two rainy seasons—a short one in the spring and a longer one in the fall. Unpredictable climate patterns forced farmers to start giving up on the shorter season, cutting their yield by half. To assist, CRS educates farmers about alternate crops that are either drought-resistant or, in the case of flood-prone areas, have seeds that can survive salt water.

“The partnership between CRS and the University will enhance both our educational and our service approach to looking at things from a global perspective,” said Rev. Bernard M. Tracey, C.M., Executive Vice President for Mission and Interim Vice President for Advancement and University Relations. “It enables us to do more in the academic and service arenas as well, creating meaningful opportunities for both faculty and students.”

For students, the agreement offers new ways to serve on a global scale. “It really shows how connected we are to the world as a Catholic university,” said Juliana Lombardo ’21Pharm.D. “It’s a wonderful chance for St. John’s students to use the collective resources of the two institutions to spread Catholic social teaching around the world.”