Legacy of Pamela Shea-Byrnes, D.Min., Recognized as Catholic Scholars Scholarship Fund Exceeds $1 Million Mark

Male student speaking at podium
September 11, 2018

The enduring contributions to St. John’s made by the late Pamela Shea-Byrnes, D.Min. ’86SVC, ’90G, and her role in the creation of the Catholic Scholars program, were celebrated on Saturday, September 8, on the University’s Queens campus. 

A fundraiser for the Pamela Shea-Byrnes Catholic Scholars Endowed Scholarship Fund began with Mass in St. Thomas More Church and was followed by a dinner that commemorated the legacy of Dr. Shea-Byrnes and the acclaimed work of the Catholic Scholars program. The event drew more than 200 alumni, family, friends, and supporters of the Catholic Scholars program and raised more than $222,000—bringing the cumulative amount of the endowed scholarship fund to $1,052,000.

Dr. Shea-Byrnes was a long-serving administrator at the University who concurrently led Campus Ministry and University Events. She was instrumental in the planning and design of St. Thomas More Church, coordinated the work of the President’s Society, taught theology, and helped to formulate and implement the Catholic Scholars program. Unique at St. John’s, the four-year program works to build faith-inspired Catholic leaders for life. Dr. Shea-Byrnes died suddenly on Christmas Eve in 2013 from pneumonia complications.

The Most Rev. John O. Barres, S.T.D., J.C.L., D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY, was the Principal Celebrant and Homilist at the Eucharistic celebration where past and current members of the Catholic Scholars program gathered in prayer. In his homily that was addressed directly to the assembled Catholic Scholars, Bishop Barres drew parallels with the Gospel reading, which described the miracle story of Jesus healing a deaf and mute man as a symbol of the work of the Catholic Scholars.

“Always be ready to hear and speak the word of God and to be good listeners,” Bishop Barres encouraged the students. He continued, “I am in awe of the Catholic Scholars program at St. John’s University. It is a beautiful blend of the mind and the heart and the engagement of these scholars that will result in their Catholic witness in the public square in dynamic and lasting ways.”

Rev. Michael J. Carroll, C.M., Director of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal in Philadelphia, PA, reflected on his friendship with Dr. Shea-Byrnes and her many contributions. “Pam saw this Church as not just a building on campus, but as the very people who make up the collective body of Christ,” said Fr. Carroll, “and that is what led her to champion the idea of the Catholic Scholars program—a program that translates faith into action. It builds Catholic leaders and they, in turn, provide service to others in a community of faith and to a Church in need of a new generation of disciples.”

During a festive dinner celebration held in Taffner Field House, Zachary Reale ’18Pharm.D., a member of the first cohort of Catholic Scholars, addressed the crowd, sharing both professional and personal reflections on his time as a student at St. John’s. “Today is a special day for me, as I was notified earlier that I am now a licensed pharmacist in the State of New York.” Dr. Reale went on to describe the transformative impact of his St. John’s experience, his time in the Catholic Scholars program, and how the many service opportunities he was afforded strengthened his own faith and prepared him to be a more compassionate healthcare professional. “Whether it was in the classroom or on the two service trips I made to Guatemala while a Catholic Scholar, I learned how to be a better person and a better Catholic, and I will always carry that with me.”

Following Dr. Reale’s remarks, a video, “Catholic Scholars in Action,” was shared with the audience describing the work and lasting impact of the Catholic Scholars program. The video was a collaborative project between Campus Ministry and Kellenberg Memorial High School, one of the many high schools that serves as a student pipeline to the Catholic Scholars program.

Looking around Taffner Field House, James R. Walters, Ed.D., Director of the Catholic Scholars program and Residence Ministry, noted, “Pam could always bring people together. This successful fundraiser will give even more students an opportunity to attend St. John’s and be a part of the Catholic Scholars program.” He added, “With the growth of the endowed scholarship, St. John’s continues to develop students to be lifelong leaders in the Church and their communities—and that is truly something to celebrate.”