We at St. John’s University join the world community in mourning
Pope John Paul II.
Having been in Rome at the time of the Holy Father’s passing, I
had the incredible opportunity to witness first hand the
extraordinary outpouring of emotion for this wonderful man. As I
stood in the vastness of St. Peter’s square, among the thousands of
people who had gathered there, I reflected back on the several
times I had met the Holy Father.
The first time was in 1989 in Rome, just after I was appointed
President of St. John’s. One of the things I remember most about
our conversation was how important Catholic Higher Education was to
him, and what a critical role he felt St. John’s played as an
American Catholic University.
We met again in 1995, in a private audience with several members
of our Board of Trustees. Months later, we opened our Rome campus,
just outside the walls of Vatican City. There we offer an
American style graduate business curriculum to students from around
the globe, including many students who receive their undergraduate
degrees from our American campuses. This international expansion of
our University was made possible by the strong support and
leadership of the Holy Father, and of our good friend, the late
John Cardinal O’Connor of New York.
I also remember fondly a private audience with His Holiness in
Rome in 1997, as he congratulated our NCAA Champion Men’s Soccer
Team on their success in the prior season. Distinct in my
memory is the sense of energy and excitement that surrounded us
that day, clearly heightened while he was in the presence of our
student-athletes. Young people were his passion, and his desire to
motivate them to commit to living positive lives is a legacy of
which many have spoken and one for which history will surely
Our students have always been the driving force behind our
efforts at St. John’s. So too, were young people one of the
driving forces behind the work of Pope John Paul II these 26 years
of his Papacy. We at St. John’s feel blessed to have walked the
same path with this great man of our age: a man who deepened our
convictions, renewed our Faith and energized our world.
I will remember him in my prayers, and I would ask you to do the
May God Bless Pope John Paul II and welcome him into Heaven.
Donald J. Harrington, C.M.