Founder’s Week at St. John’s traditionally lasts a week, but this year the calendar of events will be extended to two weeks due in part to Pope Francis’ visit to the States.
One of the main events is a lecture by Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer and New York University law professor and bestselling author of “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.”
Stevenson practices public interest law and focuses on challenging racial discrimination, unjust incarceration and poverty. His work deals primarily with advocating for the marginalized and those who cannot effectively help themselves.
Stevenson is also the founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative.
Founder’s Week is a time for the St. John’s community to experience the virtues of St. Vincent de Paul and how he reflected the light of Christ, according to Christine Hammill-Cregan, associate director for the Vincentian Center for Church & Society.
Hammill-Cregan said that Stevenson’s message directly correlates with the University’s message of advocating for the poor and marginalized, and that students will find his talk to be engaging because his career and experiences directly relate to the Vincentian teachings of the University.
Fr. Patrick Griffin, C.M., executive director of the Vincentian Center for Church & Society, explained that the decision to invite Stevenson was also influenced by the suggestion of Michael Simons, dean of the St. John’s Law School. Griffin said that Simons knew of Stevenson, a popular figure in the law world due to his focus on social issues.
Simons, along with the Vincentian Center, felt that Stevenson would be an invaluable guest, able to communicate the importance of social justice and advocacy to the University community.
Hammill-Cregan and Fr. Griffin also said that Stevenson would be a valuable source of information when it comes to discussing the relationship between the area of law he studies and recent racial tensions that have plagued the nation.
“He can expand on the context of racial relations in the country,” Hammill-Cregan said. “It’s topical for New York City, it’s topical for the country, and for the world.”
Hammill-Cregan said she believes students will take a special interest since many are active in social justice causes both on and off campus.
“He can encourage action, and make that call to students,” Hammill-Cregan said.
Fr. Griffin believes that students won’t regret attending the event.
“Anyone who shows up will not be disappointed,” Fr. Griffin said.
Other events during Founder’s Week will include University Service Day, several activities hosted by Campus Ministry including simulcasting of the Papal addresses and a film screening.
“The social justice theme [of Founder’s Week] is linked to other events,” Hammill-Cregan said. “There’s a mass, lectures and an art exhibit.”
Service Day draws a large crowd of students; last year, 2,000 participated in various community service activities in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul.
Campus Ministry will join in by holding several choral readings as well as simulcasting all of the Pope’s addresses he will give at different venues in the States.
“The Heart of a Murderer” will be the film screening this year. Hammill-Cregan said that the film emphasizes themes of reconciliation and advocating for the poor and marginalized, similar to the other events being held this year.
The first event for Founder’s Week is Stevenson’s speech, which is Sept. 21 in Carnesecca Arena at 5 p.m.
The event is open for the entire St. John’s community, and students can earn four MVP points for attending.
The full, updated calendar of events for the two weeks can be found on the St. John’s website.