Reverend Patrick Griffin, C.M., entered into his new role as Executive Vice President for Mission and Branch Campuses only a few short months ago and has already put his passion, knowledge and wealth of experience to work at full force in a campus-wide celebration of the 2000th anniversary of the birth of St. Paul.
The multi-faceted responsibilities of this new position vary greatly from what the former seminary schoolteacher and professor is accustomed to, having been ordained in 1979 and sent straight to graduate school for teaching.
The Vincentian community had perceived his love of learning and thought he would flourish best in the realm of education.
A native of Brooklyn, New York, and one of seven children in an Irish-Catholic household, Griffin attributes his humble upbringing as an influential factor in his early propensity toward service and then subsequent decision to become a Vincentian priest.
“I’d always been a good student, I loved reading, studying and being in class, and I loved scripture,” said Griffin.
“I was also very attracted to parish work, visiting hospitals and serving ordinary folk, because that was the environment I was raised in. We were very well-served by our parish in Brooklyn.”
After receiving his Ph.D. in 1984, Rev. Griffin taught scripture at Niagara University, his alma mater, St. John’s University, and the seminary where he was ordained, respectively, before being asked by the Vincentians to relocate to Rome and act as Treasurer of the Congregation of the Mission.
Although his roles undoubtedly shifted and evolved throughout years, his commitment to his Vincentian roots has always remained resolute, apparent in his involvement in underserved parishes and service to the poor at every stage in his life and career-a commitment he continues to uphold even in light of his newfound hectic schedule.
“The particular character of the Vincentian community is one of serving those who are in need,” he said.
“I still go out as often as I can to very poor parishes, and I’m very much at home there with the people and their situations. It’s one of the ways I try to keep the Vincentian spirit alive in my work.”
After returning from Rome in 1999 and resuming his teaching for just short of ten years, he was called upon by St. John’s. When Rev. Michael Carroll, who had served as Executive Vice President of Mission at St. John’s for 17 years, was elected Provincial, Rev. Griffin was logically the most qualified candidate to fill his shoes, having been on the St. John’s Board of Trustees and instilled with a deep sense of the Vincentian mission.
He is now in charge of all the ways in which this mission, as combined with the Catholic and Metropolitan features of St. John’s, is reflected and promoted within the University.
One of his first endeavors was the academic year’s opening mass in September, where he introduced the University’s participation in the Year of St. Paul celebration, which he hopes will resonate with college students in particular.
“During this special Year, we’ll educate our campus community about this man, a missionary in the early Church, who we believe speaks to college students on a personal level,” said Griffin.
“His conversion or transformation from one way of life to a life of passion and integrity is a wonderful example of how one can be converted to a new way of thinking.
This can be likened to the transformation each student experiences at this critical point in their lives.”
Some of the immediate liturgical initiatives of this celebration have already commenced at St. John’s.
These include a banner of St. Paul displayed in St. Thomas More Church and billboards posted all across campus, mostly in high traffic areas, featuring a notable quotation from the saint and a supplemental mass card, both of which will rotate monthly.
On the back of this card, there is a prayer meant to spur reflection, or, as Griffin notes, “offer students a way of thinking about and hopefully modeling their lives.”
There will also be a series of talks about Paul’s life and faith lead by Rev. Griffin, which will begin today at 1:00 p.m. in St. Thomas More Church.
Although he is still in the height of transition, Rev. Griffin is getting a better understanding of his purpose here, and how he will accomplish it, with each passing day.
With the help of the St. John’s community, he is even learning more about himself and his faith.
“The University doesn’t stop while I’m learning, and it’s layered and complex, but I’ve been blessed with the support and advice of Father Harrington and everyone else I work with,” said Griffin.
“And in serving students, this position has altered the way in which I practice the gospel and understand my own spirituality.”