Healers are people who see a world that is not broken. They use their gifts to make whole those who suffer.
“It’s a person who sees the wounds and proposes a solution on how to bind them, heal them, and how to make sure that whatever is doing the wounding has no place.”
Those words, encapsulating the theme of St. John’s University’s annual Founder’s Week celebration, “Be Vincentian: Be a Healer,” came from the homily of Rev. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M., M.Div., M.Th. ’78NDC, Executive Vice President for Mission, during the Mass for the Solemnity of St. Vincent de Paul, held on September 27 at St. Thomas More Church on the Queens, NY, campus.
Founder’s Week is a celebration of the University’s Vincentian heritage, combining lectures and prayerful reflections with tangible service opportunities, such as University Service Day. The Vincentian Convocation, which celebrates individuals and organizations that walk in St. Vincent’s footsteps, served as the week’s capstone event. Programs were held on the Queens and Staten Island, NY, campuses.
Fr. Rooney added that he stepped into St. Vincent’s vision as a St. John’s student, inspired by the example of the Vincentian priests he encountered. “They took their little piece of it, and made it work where they were: as professors, as administrators, as chaplains. They found their place where they could contribute to the healing Jesus had begun.”
He stressed that each person can find a place, identify where there are wounds, and be a healer. “As we continue this year together, standing with those who suffer, I invite all of you to make a decision about what piece of that is yours.”
“One could tell the story of Vincent de Paul from a number of different perspectives,” noted Rev. Patrick J. Griffin, C.M. ’13HON, Executive Director, Vincentian Center for Church and Society. “Perhaps the most well-known and explored focus involves his direct service of the poor who were hungry, ill-clad, and homeless.” He added, “Vincent was a true healer of body, soul, and spirit. The theme of Founder’s Week encourages us to be healers. It has solid roots in his life and work.”
Fr. Rooney also presented at the Administrators and Staff Luncheon held on September 21. “We need to build a healing culture,” he told his audience. “We need to build a place where people realize that’s a part of their commission as a part of the St. John’s community.”
To answer the Vincentian question, “What must be done?” Fr. Rooney stressed that a Catholic and Vincentian mission must be spiritually rooted and person-oriented in all its aspects. “It’s not about a profession of faith. It’s about a way of encountering persons in the world.”
During the Queens Campus Faculty Research Luncheon held on September 26, Max R. Freeman, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, discussed his research on improving language outcomes for children, which was funded by the Vincentian Institute for Social Action and St. John’s University’s Faculty Research Consortium.
“We’re all here today with the common goal of helping,” Dr. Freeman observed. “We do this through social action, policy research, outcomes-based research, helping the community, and helping those who are impoverished.” He noted that developing children’s language skills at an early stage is often a predictor of their future academic success.
A number of St. John’s students and employees participated in Service Day, at sites including: GallopNYC, which provides therapeutic horsemanship for people with developmental, emotional, social, and physical disabilities; the League of Yes, whose mission is to offer baseball programs for people (of all ages) with disabilities; and Ronald McDonald House, a respite home for families with children going through cancer treatment.
Several St. John’s students described the effect Founder’s Week had on their desire to experience the University’s Vincentian mission on a deeper level.
Marketing major Trevor Batastini said, “It’s just great to give back and do community service. Last year, we went to the St. John’s food pantry and helped there, so we’re just trying to give back to the community the best way we can.”
Cameron Bieler, also a Marketing major and a member of the Men’s Lacrosse team, explained that he especially enjoyed attending the Solemnity Mass as an athletic community. “It’s not like the environment that we are usually in—when we are either competing, or training, or in school.”
He added that he attended a Jesuit high school before coming to St. John’s. “It’s a different order but possesses many of the same values: giving back to the community, charity, education, and helping those who don’t have the same opportunities that we take for granted. It’s nice to have that spirituality here at St. John’s.”