Worldwide Vincentian Family Gathering Builds Bridges

St. John's Administrators and students posing for photo at Vincentian Gathering
December 1, 2023

A contingent of student leaders from the St. John’s University chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society traveled to the North American Vincentian Family Gathering held at DePaul University in Chicago, IL, in October.

The annual gathering is a multiday conference designed to build community, initiate conversation, and discuss systemic change between the many constituencies comprising the Vincentian family. This year’s theme centered on creating a culture that embraces diversity. The hope, according to organizers, is that relationships will deepen throughout the worldwide family, and more effective collaboration between them will be fostered. 

“Traveling to Chicago with students immersed in the Vincentian tradition was overwhelming,” recalled Sr. Patricia Evanick, D.C. ’97GEd, Campus Minister for Faith Formation and Leadership. “I love being with the family—meeting new members and making connections across the country and North America is always such an amazing experience. It is tremendous to experience God’s grace through so many different people, and sharing how the Vincentian charism is alive and flourishing.”

The event featured discussion groups, breakout sessions, and performances by Gen Verde, an international performing arts group made up of 19 women from 14 countries that performed during the last Founder’s Week at St. John’s University.

Graduate student Sarah Quispe ’23C was eager to meet members of the worldwide Vincentian family and experience the music of Gen Verde. “I love that the band members are from so many different countries but are united in their mission to build bridges through music,” she stressed. “It was so impactful for me because I grew up singing in choirs, and acting, singing, and dancing in musicals.” 

She added, “We also played little games and practiced familiar exercises but were fun and enriching to do with a new group of people. I really enjoyed analyzing the lyrics to Gen Verde’s work.”

Sarah will earn a Master of Arts in Criminology and Justice in 2024, and connected with a woman raised in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. “I’m currently taking a class called Crime, Terrorism, and Power, so I’ve read about the Irish Republican Army and the Troubles. Hearing from her was an excellent way to connect classroom lectures to real people and reflect on its impact on people personally.”

Julianna Bondi ’23C, also a graduate student who will earn her Master of Science degree in Adolescent Education and Teaching Students with Disabilities (7–12) next year, noted that her most memorable experiences at St. John’s have come through Campus Ministry. “I have reconnected with my faith and strengthened my relationship with God. Furthermore, everyone in the department is so welcoming, considerate, and generous that their attributes continuously inspire me to be not only a better Catholic, but a better person.”

Julianna also relished the Gen Verde experience and sang with the group. “I did not know what to expect. The performance group was so welcoming and encouraging that I found strength in our solidarity. I was proud of myself for trying something different and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. On the day of the performance, I actually started in the conference track, but throughout the day, I felt compelled to try it.”

She also connected with David Barringer, Chief Executive Officer of the National Council of the US Society of St. Vincent de Paul, who emphasized the society’s pillars of spirituality, friendship, and service. Julianna explained that often students join the society to complete service hours or to reconnect with their faith. “I attended the gathering for my faith, was greeted by friendship, and left empowered to complete service.” 

Management major Joel Stephen said that during the small group sessions participants discussed issues prevalent in their communities. “The older participants sought out the perspective of the younger ones, and I appreciated that.”

Joel added that this experience made him more committed to service than ever before. “You don’t have to be Catholic. It doesn’t matter your religious affiliation; we all want to help people in need.”

Patrick Zanchelli, also a Management major who serves as President of the St. John’s University chapter of the society, was thrilled to engage with more experienced members of the Vincentian community, noting there were far more adults present than students. He participated in many small group discussions about areas of concern, such as hunger, marginalized groups, and climate change.

A member of the Catholic Scholars program, Patrick felt a groundswell of excitement during the gathering, one that he hopes he can bring back to campus. “I’m a big believer in not telling people what to do, but showing them and modeling that energy, atmosphere, and sense of community.”