January 25, 2007
Serving those in need depends on “sight” as well as action,
Rev. John H. McKenna, C.M., told students, faculty and staff at
St. John’s University's annual Founders Week Mass on January
“Like St. Vincent de Paul, we must see what others don’t
see,” said Fr. McKenna, a philosophy professor at St. John’s. “We
must be able to see Christ in other people – especially the
Fr. McKenna delivered the homily before worshippers who packed
the pews and aisles of St. Thomas More Church on the University’s
Queens campus. The Rev. Donald J.
Harrington, C.M., President of St. John’s University, was the
A Week of Reflection
The Mass launched St. John’s 13th
Annual Founders Week. Through seminars, luncheons and
discussions, St. John's reflects on the living legacy of St.
Vincent de Paul, founder of the Vincentian Community of priests and
religious, also called the Congregation of the Mission.
The Vincentians established St. John’s University in 1870.
Echoing Vincent's commitment to those in need, St. John’s
combines academic excellence with achieving positive social
change through service.
The Mass also honored more than 200 recipients of the Founders
Recognition Award. “The theme for this year’s Founders Week
is achieving solidarity through respect and compassion,” said
Fr. Harrington. “Today we offer special thanks to those who
support our mission.”
Receiving and Becoming
Despite the grey winter weather, the sun often emerged to shine
through the stained-glass windows as Fr. Harrington
welcomed the worshippers. He noted that Founders Day Mass
takes place on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
“Through his conversion from Saul to Paul, he learned that
Christ’s followers are actually a part of Christ, part of the body
of Christ,” said Fr. Harrington. “That is why Christ asked, ‘Saul,
Saul, why are you persecuting me?’”
Fr. McKenna returned to the theme in his homily, which touched
upon St. Augustine, the playwright Thornton Wilder and the tragic
death of Fr. McKenna’s seven-year-old sister many years ago.
The theme, said Fr. McKenna, is perfectly illustrated in the
mystery of the Eucharist. “If you receive well,” he said, “then you
become what you receive. Our prayers tell us we are the body of
Christ, and we say, ‘Amen.” Be, then, the body of Christ.”
St. Vincent de Paul provides a moving example, Fr. McKenna
observed. “When I decided to become a Vincentian, I didn’t know
much about St. Vincent de Paul. I only saw good men, doing good
As he learned more about the Founder, Fr. McKenna realized that
Vincent combined pragmatic efficiency with the “vision of a
“I read a book that referred to Vincent as a ‘mystic,’” Fr.
McKenna recalled. “I said, what? I knew Vincent as an
organizational genius, running around organizing this, organizing
“Then 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.”
Joining Fr. McKenna and Fr. Harrington at the altar was Bishop
Alfonzo Aristizabal Cabezas, C.M., Bishop Emeritus of
The other co-celebrants were Rev. John J. Carney, C.M.; Rev.
Kevin Creagh, C.M.; Rev. Joseph V. Daly, C.M.; Rev. Tri Minh Duong,
C.M.; Rev. Patrick S. Flanagan, C.M.; Rev. John B. Freund, C.M.;
Rev. Jesus Guadarrama, C.M.; Rev. Gerard H. Luttenberger, C.M.;
Rev. Timothy V. Lyons, C.M.; Rev. James J. Maher, C.M.; Rev.
Evaristus Igwe, C.M.; and Rev. Thomas J. Hynes, C.M.
Founders Week offers students, faculty and staff at St. John’s a
chance to reflect on St. Vincent de Paul’s continuing relevance in
our daily lives. By following his example, Fr. McKenna observed, we
can realize the message behind Christ’s moving admonition:
“To the extent that you do unto the least of these my brothers,
you do unto me.”
We invite you to view our
gallery of photographs, capturing the spirit of this important