By Steve Vivona
"St. John's has waited 50 years for this day." Dr. Julia Upton,
RSM, Provost of St. John's University, spoke those words as she
welcomed the University community to the Opening School Mass and
the celebration of the first Mass held at St. Thomas More Church on
"The architectural plans drawn up for this campus in 1954
included a Church on this very site," Dr. Upton noted. For half a
century members of the University community held fast to this dream
and never relinquished it, she said. "Don't ever think that sharing
your dreams is frivolous. Shared dreams have led to breakthrough
moments in science, industry and faith."
Just such a breakthrough moment occurred when John and Anita
Brennan shared their dream and their resources with St. John's
University to make this dream of a new Church a reality, Dr. Upton
stressed. "They know that our ability to stand firm amid the storms
and stresses of life come from a rootedness in faith that is
strengthened by Eucharist. They wanted that strength for future
generations of St. John's students. They wanted a space that was
open and inviting, drawing students to its' center."
The Eucharistic celebration was the culmination of a 50 year old
dream to erect a freestanding Church on the university's Queens
campus. Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn, was
the main celebrant at the inaugural Mass and Rev. Thomas F.
McKenna, C.M. was homilist.
During his homily Fr. McKenna made special note of the location
of St. Thomas More Church. "It's right in the middle of a very busy
urban campus," he observed. Reflecting on the juxtaposition of this
very serene setting nestled in the midst of so much activity, Fr.
McKenna said that often too much activity begets stress and young
people often feel pulled in many different directions.
"There's something inside everybody that's yearning for a
center, someplace that it all pulls together," Fr. McKenna
stressed. In religious terms, he added, "What we're really talking
about is God."
Fr. McKenna said that with St. Thomas More Church there is great
potential for that centering to happen. "This place is designed to
help us slow down," and "quiet down so we can listen to things that
might ordinarily be drowned out by the push and pull of modern
St. Thomas More was a very busy man, Fr. McKenna said, adding
that in his day he was at the center of many political storms and
controversies. "Yet he is a wonderful example of what it means to
hold it all together." The Mass was celebrated on the feast day of
St. Vincent de Paul, another man who took on responsibilities that
would have overwhelmed many, Fr. McKenna said.
"He was held together by something deeper than himself." He
added, "Both these men are great examples of what it means to live
in a centered way in a very busy time. They're saints for our time,
and they permeate this place."
At the conclusion of the Mass Rev. Donald J. Harrington
called St. Thomas More Church "the fulfillment of a very important
dream" and thanked the Brennans for making it a reality. He also
expressed his appreciation to Bishop Thomas Daily for approving the
construction of the Church and to Bishop DiMarzio for sharing this
important day with the University community.
"A Catholic college must be a vibrant part of the local Church,
the national Church and the international Church. Now my prayer is
that St. John's University may spring from the heart of this Church
and this may be the font of many blessings for us as a University,
always reminding us of God's special presence in our midst."