Vincentian Spirit Comes Alive During Founder's Week

October 1, 2012

Becoming better citizens by serving those in need — St. John’s students, professors and staff explored the possibilities in September as the University held its annual Founder's Week celebration to honor the enduring legacy of St. Vincent de Paul.

A tradition across all St. John's campuses, Founder's Week took place on September 24 – 29. It encompassed a series of events and activities that encouraged student engagement on issues relating to social justice. This year's theme, "Be Vincentian: Faith Filled Citizens," focused on the shared responsibility of all citizens to help create social conditions that ensure human dignity.

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“Founder’s Week allows us to connect with our Catholic and Vincentian mission in new and meaningful ways,” said Lucy Pesce, Executive Director for Mission. "Our hope is to remind ourselves of the example of St. Vincent de Paul, so that all of us — regardless of our own life situation or unique faith tradition — can help to create a better world."

This year, the St. John’s community was asked to examine the many practical approaches taken by St. Vincent to allay social ills. Supporting the theme of Founder’s Week, Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., Executive Vice President for Mission and Student Services, celebrated a special Mass at St. Thomas More Church on September 27 to commemorate the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul.

"God, in Jesus Christ, has broken open into our lives that great love," Fr. Maher declared. "We are called to share the blessing of that love with those who live lives that are not blessed — those who contend with alienation, loneliness, poverty, struggle, isolation and abandonment."

On September 29, University Service Day allowed all members of the St. John’s community to venture beyond campus to serve those in greatest need. Students, faculty and staff volunteered in local soup kitchens, nursing homes and other agencies.  

Brian Fausto ’15CPS served at the Trinity Human Service Center in Brooklyn. "It was a wonderful experience,” he said. “The director was so thankful we were there to help — we really made a difference."

Each year, the capstone event of Founder's Week is the Vincentian Convocation. Held on September 27 this year, it was an opportunity to honor outstanding individuals and entities who exemplified St. Vincent’s legacy:

  •     Vincentian Mission Award: Konrad T. Tuchscherer, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History and Director of the University’s African Studies Program, for his efforts to serve the people of Africa
  •     St. Vincent de Paul Medal: John Bender ’88CBA, founder of the St. Baldrick’s Society, which has raised over $146 million for cancer research
  •     St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Medal: Eileen Donnelly Alexanderson ’79CBA for her efforts supporting Catholic education
  •     Frédéric Ozanam Award: The School Sisters of Notre Dame Education Center in Woodside, Queens, for significantly improving the circumstances of the disadvantaged and advancing the cause of social justice
  •     President’s Medal: Emelinda Nuñez-Afiz for her outstanding service to the clients of St. John's Bread and Life
  •     Honorary degree recipients: Rev. John Prager, C.M., Director of the Daughters of Charity Province in Ecuador, who has dedicated more than 30 years to rural ministry and Central America and has lectured throughout the world on issues relating to Vincentian spirituality; and Sister Louis Gallahue, D.C., Visatrix of the Province of St. Louise, a guiding force for the Daughters of Charity

The Convocation highlighted an inspiring week of lectures, luncheons, exhibitions, a film and other events that gave all members of the St. John's community a chance to integrate service into their lives.