February 14, 2011
they met in class, student organizations or by a chance encounter
on campus, St. John’s couples all have their own unique story. Over
150 of these alumni couples gathered at St. Thomas More Church this
past weekend for a special blessing in the spirit of Valentine’s
Day, and many were more than happy to share their St. John’s
Fidelitas Award Citation and Presentation
Thomas (’57CBA) and Barbara Cass O’Brien ’58Ed, ’62G earned
their degrees on three different St. John’s campuses, so it’s not
surprising that they never met each other during their student
days. They were introduced at the wedding of a mutual friend,
coincidentally a St. John’s graduate, and as they say, the rest was
history. They’ve been married since 1964.
“I went to school on Schermerhorn Street and Barbara got her
undergraduate degree on Lewis Avenue and her graduate degree on the
Queens campus,” noted Thomas, “so St. John’s is special to both of
us on so many levels. Barbara and I were the first of our
generation to go to college, and St. John’s gave us so many
opportunities to succeed. We’re proud that St. John’s has
maintained it’s commitment to being a first-class Catholic
university, and we’re happy to come back to events like this. This
is our second year [at the Blessing of the Couples] and we’re glad
to be here.”
O’Briens, Amanda (’07GEd) and Joel Gonzalez ’03C, ’05GEd also met
through mutual friends, and their shared connection to the
spiritual life of the University helped to keep their relationship
strong. Joel was a Graduate Assistant in Campus Ministry and Amanda
was in the first R.C.I.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults)
class to be baptized in St. Thomas More Church.
“We love this University,” said Amanda, “and St. Thomas More
Church is so special to both of us. I was baptized by Bishop
[Nicholas] DiMarzio ’08HON right here in this beautiful church,
which makes St. John’s and St. Thomas More Church even more
important for Joel and me. It’s natural for us to come back here,
and taking part in today’s ceremony is just wonderful. The years
that Joel and I spent here helped to make us whom we are
There were smiles all around as priests of the University’s
Vincentian community were on hand to greet the couples as they
entered St. Thomas More Church for a special Mass concelebrated in
their honor. Sharing in this joyful and sacred ceremony were St.
John’s University President Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., Rev.
Kevin G. Creagh, C.M. ’91SVC, ’04PD, Rev. Michael J. Cummins, C.M.,
Rev. Joseph V. Daly, C.M. ’73G, ’75GEd, Rev. Patrick S. Flanagan,
C.M., Rev. Peter D. Goldbach, C.M., Rev. John A. Kettelberger, C.M.
and Rev. James J. Maher, C.M. ’84C.
“You have made each other the most important people in your
lives,” said principal celebrant and homilist Fr. Kettelberger. “We
ask the Lord to help us be loving and kind and gentle with each
other. You are our living homily, and we thank you for your example
Love was in
the air when as each alumni couple renewed their marriage vows and
then stepped forward to receive an individual blessing.
Carolyn (’81C) and John Sheehan ’81C, the event had even
greater significance. In recognition of the 30th anniversary of
their graduation, the Sheehans were selected to receive the
Fidelitas Award, a prestigious honor reserved for exceptional
couples who met at St. John’s, married and have consistently
demonstrated their deep commitment, dedication and love for each
other and their University. The couple met as sophomores in a study
group for a class that they were taking together, and are the proud
parents of four daughters, two of whom are now St. John’s students
“I’m so overjoyed to receive this award,” said Carolyn. “John
and I have been blessed with a wonderful life, and we have St.
John’s to thank for it. For us, there’s no difference between the
Sheehan Family and the St. John’s Family, and tonight is even more
special because our daughters are here to share this moment with
us.” Smiling in agreement, John noted that Carolyn and he
“…started our lives together here, and it’s very meaningful to
receive this honor in the presence of so many alumni couples who
have had the same wonderful experiences that we did.”
conclusion of the Mass, Fr. Harrington reminded everyone that
“Tonight we celebrate your fidelity to one another. St. John’s
exists to educate young people to lead happy and productive lives,
and that’s exactly what we’re celebrating tonight.”
The couples and their guests then enjoyed a champagne reception
in the Mattone Atrium of St. John’s School of Law, where they
renewed old friendships and shared stories of where their lives had
taken them since their time on campus. Regardless of whether they
were recent graduates or had received their degree many years ago,
each of the alumni, in his or her own way, enjoyed the opportunity
to come back home.
“This is our third year back,” remarked Bruce Davenport ’80GEd.
“It’s a wonderful way for us to celebrate Valentine’s Day. St.
John’s means a lot to Patricia (Connolly Davenport ’73C) and I, and
coming to the Blessing of the Couples is one of the ways that we
enjoy staying connected.”