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Founder’s Week Explores Global Impact of Vincentian Charism

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Echoing the passage from Matthew’s Gospel—“I was a stranger and you welcomed me”—St. John’s 23rd annual Founder’s Week celebrated the University’s Vincentian heritage with programs, lectures, and service opportunities evoking the theme of “Welcome the Stranger.”

The weeklong series of events, held September 20–27, coincided with the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian charism. On September 25, 1617, St. Vincent de Paul gave what is considered the first sermon of the mission in Folleville, France. His message to the parishioners was one of compassion for and service to their less fortunate neighbors. 

“When Vincent preached that sermon, he couldn’t have known how widely or effectively his words would spread,” observed Rev. Patrick Griffin, C.M., Executive Director for the Vincentian Center for Church and Society

“This year’s Founder’s Week continued to celebrate his vision in worship, lecture, poetry, and service. Every member of the University community had the opportunity to breathe of Vincent’s spirit, and many took advantage of this blessing,” Fr. Griffin stressed.

The capstone event for the Founder’s Week celebration was the annual Vincentian Convocation, which honors people and organizations whose lives and missions embody the teachings of St. Vincent de Paul. Most Rev. John Barres S.T.D., J.C.L., D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, was honored with the Gold Medal and delivered the annual Vincentian Chair of Social Justice lecture.

Additionally, a variety of events were held on the Queens, Staten Island, and Manhattan campuses. St. John’s School of Law presented a consideration of the life and legacy of Blessed Frédéric Ozanam on September 27. Sponsored by the Law School’s Center for Labor Relations and Employment and its Center for Law and Religion, the lecture was delivered by Dr. Raymond Sickinger, Chair of History and Classics at Providence College.

On September 26, Linda Sama, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Global Initiatives and Joseph F. Adams Professor of Management in The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, spoke about the student-run GLOBE microloan program, which helps lift borrowers out of poverty. “The idea of action, change, and opportunity,” said Dr. Sama, “is what GLOBE is all about, and really what welcoming the stranger is all about—that we act, and in acting we allow ideas to come to the fore. We provide the resources to make those ideas implementable.”

Kathleen Prager ’78C, ’81GEd, Chair of the Department of English at St. John’s Preparatory School in Queens, discussed the Ladies of Charity on September 20. Founded by St. Vincent de Paul, the Ladies first responded to the needs of the poor in 17th-century France and have continued to do so around the world. “For 400 years, they have provided those on the fringes with hope,” she stressed.

The week also featured a student art exhibition and a poetry slam. "Founders Week is an important time at St. John’s that really focuses on how being a Vincentian community sets us apart from other institutions,” observed Aria Laucella, an English major who will graduate in 2018.  

Her favorite Founders Week activity, Aria noted, was University Service Day. “It’s an opportunity for all of us to participate in service together,” she said. Over 2,000 students, faculty, administrators, and alumni served at sites including Catholic Charities, MOMMA’s House, and Ronald McDonald House, among others.

Senior William Pugh, a biology major, observed, “What sets St. John’s apart from any other school is our service and dedication to continue to change as many lives as possible.”