Vincentian Mission Certificate Program Helps Employees Find Their Passion

February 27, 2024

St. John’s University’s Vincentian Mission Certificate (VMC) program celebrated the graduation of its 13th cohort in January. The frequent refrain throughout their journey was, “What must be done?”

VMC is a 16-month program wherein members of the St. John’s community learn about the history and highlights of the Vincentian and Catholic identity based on the life and teachings of St. Vincent de Paul. They participate in small group reflection sessions and complete 50 hours of service that help each member identify causes and populations around which they are most passionate. The hope is that graduates will continue integrating service and advocacy into their daily lives.

Eighteen members graduated on January 25 at a special Mass held in St. Thomas More Church on the Queens, NY, campus that also celebrated the feast of St. Vincent de Paul. A reception followed in the D’Angelo Center.

During his homily, principal celebrant Rev. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M., M.Div., M.Th. ’78NDC, Executive Vice President for Mission, said, “The first thing about being Vincentian is recognizing that in each of your lives you have an energy for good. It’s a deep, human energy that needs to be oriented.”

He added that God wants everyone to find a community. “That’s living the Word.”

Fr. Rooney explained that on this day, they were celebrating people who “allowed their lives to be oriented by community; not just a community of people, but a heritage by which that group is constituted.” He told the assembly that they must create communities where people can open their passion to the call of God, “and have a community to clarify that call so the passion gets oriented to the right place. That was part of Vincent’s genius.”

The job of the VMC graduates, Fr. Rooney stressed, is to create an unmistakable community that people can recognize “in the way you speak to them, the way you treat them, and in your approachability and willingness to put yourself second for the good of another. Most importantly, you are concerned that the goodness that God has in store for people will find its way to them.”

At the reception following Mass, Lucy A. Pesce, Executive Director for Mission Initiatives, told the audience, “When we think about this 13th cohort, it’s not just about monthly workshops or checking off hours for service. It’s about what that Vincentian charism means to us. What does it mean to the world, and where’s my role in that?”

She added, “Today is a day that we celebrate, but we also ask, ‘What’s next? Where are we going from here?’”

VMC graduates reflected on how they were affected by the experience. William Clabby, Public Safety Officer, spoke at the reception. “Assisting the less fortunate is very dear to my heart,” he stressed, as is spiritual growth. “The teachings of St. Vincent de Paul really opened my mind to what I must do in the future. It fuels me to think about the endless possibilities of what can be accomplished.”

Dana Livingston ’21C, ’22G, Director of Vincentian Service and Social Justice, Campus Ministry, observed, “I was previously operating under the assumption that there is no limit to the good that I can do by myself. The past months within VMC taught me the power of a network of servant-scholars—a network that is alive and well on this campus. If I believe that there is no limit to the good I can do, imagine the good we can do together.”

“At first, there was hesitation on my part to join the program, knowing the amount of time it would take. But by God`s grace, I came to realize I must do something more meaningful, something more purposeful, and something more significant than my daily work as an employee of St. John`s University,” recalled Irma Gevero, Senior Accountant, Office of Business Affairs.

She added, “The community we have formed throughout this journey has developed into friendship and camaraderie. We went from strangers and coworkers to friends and fellow Vincentians. This bond has been the highlight of my 23 years at St. John’s.”

Sammantha McCalla ’99CBA, ’01MBA, ’20Ph.D., Associate Director, Office of Alumni Relations, also spoke at the reception. An employee for more than 20 years, Dr. McCalla initially said she did not have the time to participate in the VMC program when friends and colleagues urged her to join.

“They didn’t let me off the hook,” she said. “It was time for me to make time for the VMC.”

Dr. McCalla emphasized she would not tell the assembly the many ways that the VMC enhanced her experience at St. John’s, brought her closer to her colleagues, or made her understand what a special gift it is to work at a Vincentian university. “You have to see it and experience it for yourself,” she explained. “You have to make that decision. You have to learn to love the why—the why you’re doing what you’re doing—and feel what that catharsis does for you. You have to show yourself—not anybody else—what that does for you. I can’t tell you how much the VMC has done that for me.”

She continued, “After all, it’s about why we do what we do, and the people we serve. You, and the people we serve, are worth the why. We are not here working at a Vincentian institution by accident. You are not here by accident. This is a special place.”