Family, Faith, and Spirituality Are Key for Alumnus
Deacon Rachid Murad ’94SVC has spent a lifetime fighting for the rights of the oppressed, the victimized, and the forgotten. As a special consultant to the United Nations, he has been intimately involved in rebuilding lives shattered by war and preventing the kind of atrocities that have dotted world history.
A native of Jamaica, Queens, Deacon Murad chose St. John’s University to continue the Catholic education he received at Holy Cross High School in Flushing, NY. “St. John’s was a place that catered to first-generation college students, and it afforded me an opportunity to be successful,” he said. “To me, that ideal is the backbone of our country.”
Deacon Murad felt somewhat overwhelmed when he arrived at St. John’s but soon found a home in organizations such as Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Student Government, Inc., and Haraya, the Pan-African Student Coalition of the University.
Deacon Murad singled out André McKenzie, Ed.D., Vice Provost for Academic Support Services and Faculty Development, and the late Tony H. Bonaparte, Ph.D., former Provost of St. John’s, as great mentors who helped him find his way. “Those gentlemen were two great role models whose guidance serves me well to this day.”
He also met his wife, Ianthe Dunn-Murad, Sc.D. ’95C, ’97G, at St. John’s. Dr. Murad is the Clinical Program Coordinator for the Long Island Audiology Consortium.
After earning his undergraduate degree in political science, Deacon Murad was recruited to work for the City of New York, serving as a budget officer for the Department of Education, and later as its Director of Operations. However, his heart was in the arena of human rights, and he decided to attend the Columbia University School of International Public Affairs, earning his graduate degree in public affairs.
Finding his true passion, Deacon Murad spent the next several years working for the United Nations in several capacities, including Special Advisor to the Joint Special Representative/UN Under Secretary General United Nations African Mission in Darfur, a region in Western Sudan where a systematic genocide has taken place since the early 2000s.
Noting that his parents and his grandfather provided a strong faith foundation that included prayer, reading the Bible, and Sunday Mass, Deacon Murad said he didn’t feel as connected to the Church as a young adult, but his experience in Darfur emboldened him to renew his relationship to Catholicism. “People assumed I was Muslim and were always encouraging me to go to mosque,” he noted, explaining that their devotion to faith reignited an interest in his.
Upon his return to the US, Deacon Murad gradually became more involved in the Church, becoming a lector, and then a Eucharistic Minister. He studied for the Diaconate at St. Joseph’s Seminary and College in Yonkers, NY. “The more I started reading Scripture, the more I realized that’s where it all begins. The roadmap to our daily lives is there.”
Today, Deacon Murad also serves at Incarnation Parish in Queens Village, NY, and is Director of Religious Education at Our Lady of Angels Parish, Brooklyn, NY. “The greatest challenge is getting people to know their faith,” he stressed. “It’s not high on people’s priority list. If you can instill Catholic values in people at a young age, that is a critical investment. That’s the ministry that is dearest to my heart.”
The breakdown of the family has put more of an onus on local parishes to provide religious education, Deacon Murad explained. “Families rely on religious education on Sundays. It’s important we have competent, smart, and, most importantly, young people overseeing these programs,” he stressed.
Deacon Murad and his wife often find themselves back at St. John’s for special events, including the annual Winter Carnival, which they have attended with their three young children. This past February, he assisted as Deacon at the annual Blessing of the Couples Mass. “An alumni event like that is important,” he stressed. “It celebrates the bonds of family and marriage and brings the extended family of the University together.”