January 26, 2007
While celebrating those who follow St. Vincent de Paul by
serving the poor, the people of St. John’s University still must
“do more” to fight poverty in New York City and the world, said the
Rev. Donald J.
Harrington, C.M., President of St. John’s, at the University’s
13th Annual Vincentian Convocation.
Fr. Harrington addressed students, faculty, staff and
administrators who gathered for the Convocation on Thursday,
January 25. At the event, the University bestowed special awards on
five individuals and one organization whose lives and work
exemplify the Vincentian spirit of service.
“Yes, we are grateful,” said Fr. Harrington. “We have people
like tonight’s honorees to remind us of Vincent’s spirit. And we
have St. John’s University, which embraces Vincent’s mission in so
many ways. But it’s not enough.”
“If we are truly Vincentian,” he continued, “we can never be
satisfied. We must always strive to do more.”
Held at St. Thomas More Church on the Queens, NY, campus, the
Convocation helped launch St. John’s annual Founders Week
celebration. Through seminars and other events, the
University honors the legacy of St. Vincent de Paul, founder of the
Vincentian Community, also known as the Congregation of the
The Vincentian Community established St. John’s University in
1870. The University’s mission combines academic excellence with
programs that promote positive social change through
At the Convocation, the University presented the following
awards to individuals and organizations that exemplify the
- The Vincentian Mission Award, to Clover Hall, Ed.D., Vice
President for Institutional Research and Academic Planning at St.
- The Caritas Medal, to Mary and John McCaffrey of Rockville
Centre, NY, for their charitable work through the St. Vincent de
- The St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Medal, to Anna Halpine, the
24-year-old President of the World Youth Alliance, for her efforts
to promote peace and social justice through the United Nations and
other world organizations.
- The first Frederic Ozanam Award, to the Catholic Migration
Office of the Diocese of Brooklyn, which works to improve the lives
of newcomers to the United States.
- The St. Vincent de Paul Medal, to John M. Baynes, for promoting
understanding among the Church’s varied ethnic groups during his
tenure as Director of the Office of Black Ministry, at the
Immaculate Conception Center, NY.
- The President’s Medal, to Leonard M.
Baynes, renowned Professor and Director of The
Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic
Development in the School of Law at St. John’s University.
Earlier, the St. John's community officially launched the week's
events by gathering at St. Thomas More Church for
Founders Week Mass.
Keeping the Spirit Alive
Guests filled the pews and extra seating at the rear of the Church.
Fr. Harrington warmly welcomed the students, faculty, staff and
administrators, as well as two special guests: Bishop Alfonzo
Aristizabal Cabezas, C.M., Bishop Emeritus of Villavicencio,
Columbia; and Auxiliary Bishop Frank Caggiano, of the Diocese of
Congratulating the honorees, Fr. Harrington expressed gratitude
for their work on behalf of those in need. “I’m confident that
Vincent would also celebrate what our honorees have done and
continue to do,” he said.
“And I have no doubt,” he continued, “that Vincent would be
thankful for those who help keep his spirit alive at this
University.” Among the University’s many activities on behalf of
the poor, Fr. Harrington noted, was St. John’s assumption of
responsibility in August for the Bread and Life Program, the city's
second largest soup kitchen.
“Yes, Vincent would be very pleased,” said Fr. Harrington. “But
he would not be satisfied. Vincent asks his followers never to be
A Snapshot of Poverty in New
To explain, Fr. Harrington quoted from a report by The
Mayor’s Commission on Economic Development. Issued this past
September, “the report gives us a snapshot of poverty in New York
City today,” he said.
“It shows that poverty is pervasive,” said Fr. Harrington.
According to the report, 1.5 million city residents live in
poverty. “That’s 19.1 percent of New York residents – almost three
times the entire population of Boston.”
The report also shows that more than 185,000 children in the
city live below the federal poverty line. Forty-one percent of
households headed by women are poor, along with 35% of foreign-born
workers. In addition, nearly a third of city residents without a
high school diploma or GED live in poverty.
Perhaps most sobering, Fr. Harrington noted, is that nearly half
of the city’s poor are not unemployed. “In 46% of the households
below the poverty line,” said Fr. Harrington, “the head of the
household is working.”
The report leads to one conclusion, Fr. Harrington declared.
“There is still much to be done. And while we rightfully celebrate
the accomplishments of our honorees, nothing we do is enough,
unless this event calls us forth to do more.”
We invite you to view our
gallery of photographs, capturing the spirit of this important