The 13th annual St. John’s University Founder’s Week began Thursday with a Mass at St. Thomas More Church and the annual Vincentian Convocation on Jan. 25, marking the anniversary of the founding of the Congregation of the Mission by St. Vincent de Paul.
The Mass honored the 231 students, faculty, and staff members receiving Founder’s Recognition Awards as “an encouragement for people to live by the values of St. Vincent de Paul,” said Stephen DeBlasio, the Director of Faith Formation and Liturgy at St. John’s.
In his homily, the Rev. John McKenna, C.M., a philosophy professor at St. John’s, began with a story about his sister, who died on Jan. 25 when she was only seven years old. McKenna said that his sister’s death had a large impact on his decision to become a Vincentian priest.
“I didn’t know much about Vincent de Paul when I decided to become a Vincentian,” he said. “All I knew was that he was a good man, doing good work and he seemed happy.”
McKenna said that he read a book that referred to St. Vincent as a mystic and “the author pointed out that a mystic is someone who can see things others do not. Vincent was like that. He saw Christ in others, especially in the poor.
“Our world today needs more people like Vincent de Paul, who can see Christ in others, especially in the poor and those in need,” he continued. “The world needs more people like the ones we are recognizing today. They embody the mission statement of St. John’s with their compassion and service to others. They generously devote themselves to service to those in need and they are a model of example.”
McKenna also mentioned St. Augustine and playwright Thornton Wilder in his homily to further exemplify the virtues held by St. Vincent.
Recipients of the award expressed their pride in receiving recognition as part of Founder’s Week.
“It means a lot to me,” said freshman recipient Gillian Astarita. “It’s the way I live my everyday life, so this was a nice reward,” Freshman recipient Michael Margiotto echoed her sentiments, saying that the award was “a wonderful honor.”
“So many people at St. John’s are active in giving back and they deserve to be recognized,” said Sharla Elcock, another award recipient. “It’s a great feeling to be appreciated,”
The Convocation, led by University president the Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., also occurred for the 13th time. The event included the recognition of six organizations and groups who represent the ideals of the Vincentian mission and dedication to service. Five of the honorees were individuals, the other being the Catholic Migration Office of the Diocese of Brooklyn.
“We have people like tonight’s honorees to remind us of Vincent’s spirit,” Harrington said, according to a University release. “And we have St. John’s University, which embraces Vincent’s mission in so many ways. But it’s not enough.”
Each Founder’s Week has a different theme, this year’s theme being “Respect + Compassion = Solidarity.” It also focuses on major issues, and this year’s issue was immigration.
Events taking place during Founder’s Week included a week-long toiletries drive to benefit the homeless in New York City, a Habitat for Humanity Service Day, and “Water for Life,” where students raised awareness for the United Nation’s “Water for Life” campaign.