Getting a value-centered education

Fr. Patrick Griffin, C.M., Special to the Torch

Whenever I gather with a large group, particularly in N.Y., and identify myself with St. John’s University, several people immediately describe themselves or a close relative as an SJU graduate.

These encounters frequently make me proud of our University and the contribution which we have made to people’s lives and our society.

A professor is mentioned, a course is remembered, a kindness is recalled.  People ask if this or that person is still at the University and then they tell a story which continues to influence their minds and hearts.

During this past week, there were more incidents of this kind than usual because I was connected with more events.  Two encounters in particular  were special because they were so unexpected.

One of the worthwhile programs which takes place regularly here at SJU is the “Hot Topics in Social Justice” discussion which is sponsored by the Faculty Research Consortium of the Vincentian Institute for Social Action.

This past Oct. 13, the topic was “Policing in Minority Neighborhoods.”  One can understand why this would be a “hot topic.”

The discussion was very respectful and informative. A young female officer of Puerto Rican descent spoke with her heart about the way in which she carries out her responsibilities and how important her Vincentian training at St. John’s has been for her.  She insisted that her St. John’s education makes her a better police officer.

This past Saturday, I was in a Hindu mandir as part of an SJU program aimed at inter-religious dialogue.  When an Indian woman teaching music to small children discovered that our group was from SJU, she told the assembly that her son had gone to our University.

She maintained that the education and spirit which he received has made him a capable and sensitive guidance counselor for Indian children in the Hicksville school district.

All the circumstances of our University contribute to making these kinds of witnesses possible.  Everyone contributes to the character and spirit which forms our environment.  Perhaps this is especially true of the entire student body.

The great diversity of backgrounds and experiences which make up our population contributes greatly to the richness of the context and its challenges.  The most important values are learned through contact and mutual respect.

When all this happens, the Catholic and Vincentian mission of our University is promoted and proclaimed.