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Mission and Service Celebrated During Founder’s Week

Service awards St. John's University
The Most Rev. John O. Barres, S.T.D., J.C.L., D.D., addresses the St. John’s community. ​
Monday, January 22, 2018

The premier event of St. John’s University’s annual Founder’s Week celebration (held September 20–27) is the Vincentian Convocation, which this year welcomed to the Queens campus for the first time the Most Rev. John O. Barres, S.T.D., J.C.L., D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre. The Vincentian Convocation honors individuals and organizations whose lives and missions echo the teachings of St. Vincent de Paul, the 17th-century saint who established the Congregation of the Mission (the Vincentians), who sponsor St. John’s University.

Each year, Founder’s Week offers the St. John’s community a variety of opportunities to research, reflect upon, and recommit to the University’s Vincentian heritage. Activities include direct service to those in need through University Service Day, as well as special lectures and programs focusing on the lives and work of those who walked in Vincent’s footsteps, such as St. Louise de Marillac, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. The theme of this year’s celebration was “Welcome the Stranger.”

Bishop Barres delivered the annual Vincentian Chair of Social Justice Lecture at the Convocation, which took place in St. Thomas More Church on the Queens campus.

Referring to Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic constitution, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, which outlined the identity and mission of Catholic colleges and universities, Bishop Barres observed, “We give thanks to the Vincentian community and St. John’s University for living this Ex Corde Ecclesiae charge, for ‘welcoming the stranger’ from the very beginning of its existence, and for the prophetic courage ‘to speak uncomfortable truths to promote the authentic good of society.’”

Dr. Gempesaw thanked each of the honorees for their individual service. “Our honorees have touched so many lives, and it is a privilege for St. John’s University to recognize their contributions to society,” he said.

The following awards were presented, and one honorary degree was conferred.

Vincentian Mission Award (recognizes the dedication of the many St. John’s employees who have embraced the Vincentian spirit, and honor the University in their personal and professional lives): Ching-Wen Rosa Yen ’03GEd, ’12G, Director of Multicultural Affairs, Division of Student Affairs, St. John’s University


Caritas Medal (given for service to the poor): Mercy Haven, Inc., a nonprofit agency that provides housing for those living with mental illness; accepted by Sr. Patricia Griffith, LMSW, D.Min., Cofounder and Executive Director


St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Medal (given to an outstanding Catholic laywoman who has embodied in her life the values and vision of Mother Seton): Michele R. Pistone ’89L, Director, Clinic for Asylum, Refugee, and Emergency Services, and Professor of Law, Charles Widger School of Law, Villanova University  


St. Vincent de Paul Medal (given to an outstanding Catholic layman who has embodied in his life the ideals and values of St. Vincent de Paul): David Wood, PA-C, Physician Assistant, Project Renewal 


Frédéric Ozanam Award (given in recognition and appreciation for extraordinary contributions and commitment to the mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, in the spirit of its founder Frédéric Ozanam): The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, which brings college students together with incarcerated students for a semester-long course held at a jail or other correctional facility; accepted by Lori Pompa, Founder and Executive Director, The Inside-Out Center, Temple University


Gold Medal (one of the highest honors that the University may bestow on a non-alumnus): Most Rev. John O. Barres, S.T.D., J.C.L., D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre


Conferral of the Degree of Doctor of Commercial Science: Rev. Elmer Bauer III, C.M. ’02MBA, Provincial Treasurer, Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission, and member, Board of Trustees, St. John’s University.