Catholic Scholars Program Fund Breaks $1 Million Mark


Jillian Ortiz, Assistant Copy Editor

At a recent fundraiser for the Pamela Shea-Byrnes Catholic Scholars Endowed Scholarship Fund, a milestone was reached.

The dinner that followed the mass portion of the event helped push the total amount of funds past the $1 million mark, bringing the total amount of the scholarship fund to $1,052,000, according to the University website.

More than $222,000 was raised for the program, made possible by the more than 200 attendees who gathered in Taffner Field House on Saturday, Sept. 8.

The purpose of the dinner was to honor the late Dr. Shea-Byrnes, who played an integral role in the execution of the Catholic Scholars program at St. John’s.

“We just welcomed our seventh cohort with the incoming freshmen this year and so the fact that the program was able to garner this much support and expand in the way it has is truly amazing,” sophomore Renate Kurth said.

The program has welcomed numerous first-time freshmen at the onset of each school year, allotting each scholar a scholarship of $5,000 for each of their four years of schooling.

According to the University website, applicants, “[must] demonstrate a commitment to living the Catholic Tradition through leadership and excellence.”

Dr. Shea-Byrnes was renowned in the St. John’s community as having been an embodiment of Vincentian values. Aside from being a professor, she was actively involved in Campus Ministry, President’s Society, St. John’s Bread and Life and obviously the creation of the Catholic Scholars program. She passed away on Dec. 24, 2013 due to complications from pneumonia, according to the University website.

The success of this year’s fundraiser allows for even more students to not only attend St. John’s, but to partake in a program devoted to “[translating] faith into action.”

“The contributions will allow more students the opportunity to be a part of a program dedicated to not only helping students grow as Catholic leaders, but also inspiring them to take their faith into action through service and in their careers in life,” Kurth said.

The Catholic Scholars program aims to create leaders that transcend beyond the St. John’s community. ‘St. John’s continues to develop students to be lifelong leaders in the Church and their communities,’ James R. Walters, Ed.D., director of the Catholic Scholars program and Residence Ministry said.

“Our motto is ‘we are the light of the world,’ and to know that even after we all graduate other students will be afforded the opportunity to shine their own light is truly heartwarming,” sophomore Grace Pigott said.

The Pamela Shea-Byrnes Catholic Scholars Fund had accumulated $500,364 by 2016, according to a Letter from the University President, Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw in January of that year. Within a two-year time span, the fund has nearly doubled it’s cumulative total.  

“I’m so grateful to everyone who donated to the program and I hope they know how many lives they’ve changed through their generosity,” Pigott said.