Prior to the start of the fall semester, St. John’s University welcomed its new and returning Catholic Scholars to the Queens, NY, campus for their annual opening retreat.
The two-day experience started with the celebration of the Eucharist in St. Thomas More Church, presided by Rev. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M., M.Div., M.Th. ’78NDC, Executive Vice President for Mission. The retreat for 118 student leaders included prayer opportunities—including the consecration of the Miraculous Medal—leadership activities, and faith formation experiences to prepare the students for a year of faith-based leadership.
Amanda Reese, a sophomore from Nesconset, NY, studying psychology in St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, captured the spirit of the retreat. “The Catholic Scholars opening retreat wasn’t only the start of a new academic year—it was the start of new beginnings between us Catholic Scholars and our continuing relationship with God! We were able to gauge a sense of leadership and teamwork, just as we are called to do as Catholic Scholars.”
“I am excited to begin my college journey here at St. John’s,” said first-year student McKayla Cantrell. “I am blessed to work toward my dreams with Christ in my heart and my fellow Catholic Scholars by my side,” said the economics major from Arcadia, FL.
The incoming cohort is the 11th in the program’s history. The 29 students in the group represent various countries, states, and private and public schools across the country. All students accepted into the program applied last spring after demonstrating Catholic leadership and academic excellence in their home parishes and school communities.
International student Ciel Joseph, a sophomore in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, added, “The opening retreat was incredibly refreshing because I was able to see everyone again. I was instantly engulfed by the familiar feeling of comfort that I grew so accustomed to in my first year. I had not realized how much I missed my Catholic Scholars cohort and the safe environment that they create. It truly felt like I was reuniting with my family.”
“The Catholic Scholars retreat offered me an opportunity to take a step back and reflect,” shared Jack Harkin, a junior from Brooklyn, NY, studying economics in The Peter J. Tobin College of Business.
“It reminded me of what drives my faith and reinvigorated that faith. I grew in my ability to discuss my faith with others and to recognize where God is present in my life.”
The Catholic Scholars program forms students to be leaders on and off campus, preparing them so they can be Catholic and Vincentian leaders for life. Students represent all undergraduate Schools and Colleges, providing a diverse academic community. The program receives academic oversight from the program’s Academic Coordinator, Christopher P. Vogt, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Theology and Religious Studies.
Incoming students also participate in Vincentian service, on-campus leadership with student organizations, and faith-based leadership activities with local Catholic schools and parishes. Upper-class students receive enhanced faith development through Group Spiritual Direction facilitated by internal and external faith leaders. Upper-class students also have an opportunity each January to participate in a global studies’ 10-day experience in Rome, Italy, to learn, pray, and serve.
“Through a dedicated and experienced team of campus ministers, faculty, and spiritual and academic leaders, our students receive a unique academic, Catholic, and Vincentian education and formation,” said Sr. Patricia Evanick, D.C. ’97GEd, Campus Minister for Vincentian Service and moderator of first-year Catholic Scholars.
“We are thankful that these students choose to share their God-given talents with our community, and we pray they continue to grow in their faith to respond to God’s call to advocate for justice, preach and live the Gospel, and build community wherever God may lead them,” added Fr. Rooney.