By Steve Vivona
St. John's University's 11th Annual Founder's Week celebration
kicked off on January 24 with a special Mass celebrated by Rev.
Donald J. Harrington, C.M., President of St. John's. Founder's Week
celebrates the University's Vincentian heritage and the continuing
influence of St. Vincent de Paul on the mission of St. John's. This
year's theme is, "Building Communities of Hope."
During his homily Fr. Harrington noted this was the first
Founder's Week Mass celebrated in the University's new St. Thomas
More Church. It will also be the site of the annual Vincentian
Convocation to be held on January 26.
Having recently returned from a trip to Southeast Asia Fr.
Harrington discussed his experiences touring the Grand Palace in
Bangkok, Thailand, a place sacred to devout Buddhists all over the
world. He stressed that for him, as a Catholic, the experience
there was not a religious one but one of another culture.
"St. Vincent de Paul founded the Vincentian community on the
Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul," Fr. Harrington observed,
adding that Paul's conversion to Christianity was no less radical
than had he returned from his trip as a Buddhist.
"I believe that not only our religious experience but our
religious belief is the source of our hope in life," Fr. Harrington
said. "So much of our lives are taken up looking for prominence or
material goods or other things we think will give us happiness and
security." St. Paul experienced a radical shift in his life upon
his conversion, he added, forsaking all those ambitions for
St. Vincent experienced a different, yet no less profound,
conversion in his own life, Fr. Harrington observed. Already a
priest, St. Vincent had not yet found his way in ministry and it
was the confession of a poor man that changed his life. "Then he
did choose to place his hope in his God and he called us to follow
He added, "My question is then how much do I truly change my
life as a result of my belief? How deeply do I let the Lord get
inside me and the Gospel get inside me so I can make a difference?"
Fr. Harrington noted that that question applied to the University
community as well.
"As I look around this University I see a lot of great examples
of many people doing wonderful things, many of whom are being
honored today. Have I as an individual and we as a community truly
let God take hold of us? That's the question. This (week) should be
a time of renewal and a time of recommitment. I need to do that and
all of us need to do that."