By Steve Vivona
On January 26 St. John's University hosted the 11th annual
Vincentian Convocation in St. Thomas More Church. Part of the
University's annual Founder's Week celebration the Convocation is
an opportunity to honor those whose lives and work mirror that of
St. Vincent de Paul and his followers.
The Vincentian Mission Award was presented to Dr. Charles M.A.
Clark, a Professor of Economics and Finance in the Tobin College of
Business, and the Caritas Medal was presented to Sr. Elaine Roulet,
C.S.J., Chaplain, Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, and Miguel
Ramirez, President of Centro Hispano, "Cuzcatlan."
The St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Medal was presented to syndicated
Catholic journalist and author Antoinette Bosco and the St. Vincent
de Paul Medal was presented to James DeFranco, pharmacist and 1960
graduate of the College of Pharmacy. The President's Medal was
awarded to campus ministers Paula and Victoria Migliore.
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees were conferred upon
Henry J. Humphreys, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, The Terence
Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center and Very Reverend G. Gregory Gay,
C.M., Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission. Fr. Gay
also delivered the 2005 Vincentian Chair of Social Justice
During his lecture, entitled, "A Passion for Justice," Fr. Gay
observed, "God is passionate about justice," adding that, "A right
relationship with God requires justice, love and faith. Or, to sum
it up in another way, God expects from us faith that does justice
with love. Nothing else will do."
Fr. Gay stressed that God's passion for justice was never
clearer than in the person of Jesus. "So passionate was Jesus about
justice and God's Kingdom, that he wanted the heavenly harvest to
begin right here on earth, in and through him."
"Down through the centuries, countless women and men have
latched on to the dream. They sensed that the dream
required them not only to seek the holiness of a right relationship
with God, but also to pursue and promote justice with passionate
hearts. They were jolted into the consciousness that
more was demanded than personal honesty and private charity. They
needed to participate in the struggle to change whatever it was
that caused people to be hungry or homeless, oppressed or
victimized. These men and women, our heroes and heroines in the
faith, could not do everything, but they did something, and did it
One such person, Fr. Gay stressed, was Vincent de Paul. "He is
an enduring model and guide for us and not only during Founder's
Week at St. John's University. His passion for justice and his
preferential option for the poor still call out to us." He added,
"He literally transformed the face of France in the 17th century,
and he continues to inspire countless imitators and friends in the
Vincentian Family even today."
Fr. Gay discussed the problem of social injustice in the world
and how easy it is to feel overwhelmed by the length and breadth of
it. "There is a temptation to run for cover, to shelve away our
faith and keep it utterly private. We must not do this. Faith and
justice cannot, must not, be separated. And yet, it is hard to
maintain this linkage, especially in our country."
He added, "Understanding God's passion for justice and becoming
a willing partner with Jesus and Vincent in making present the
Kingdom of God on earth require a different way of thinking and
doing. And here is where St. John's University comes into the
Fr. Gay observed that St. John's, in educating first generation
college students and instilling in them a love for those in need,
has demonstrated that a large institution can be academic, Catholic
and Vincentian. "St. John's has made education for justice,
charity, service, and advocacy a hallmark of its identity and a
focus for its institutional force."
"Vincentians who are not members of the Congregation of the
Mission or Daughters of Charity are called to carry the mantle of
St. Vincent de Paul at St. John's," Fr. Gay noted. "Where are
these Vincentians to be found? I am convinced that they
are in our midst, people like those whom the University is honoring