In an aptly titled presentation, “The Heart of Vincentian Higher Education” Dennis H. Holtschneider, CM capped the St. John’s University 2016 annual celebration of “Founders Week”. His Vincentian Chair of Social Justice Lecture unpacked the theme “Vincentian Education: Illuminating Minds, Creating Opportunities, Serving the World”.
He effectively showed how Vincent as far back as 1658 was concerned about career pathways for those who were marginalized and cast aside by the society of his day.
With the Daughters and Ladies of Charity’s assistance, he trained foundlings to read. He trained them in job skills. He arranged for them to be apprenticed or to be placed as servants. He didn’t just find nurses for infant foundlings, he saw that they were raised and educated and that a path was created for them. It’s no accident that so many statues picture St. Vincent surrounded by children. These weren’t just any children. These were children with possibility but no futures, and he sought pathways to give them a future.
Fast forwarding he shared what has impressed him about the Vincentian Ministry at St. Johns.
That is, of course, exactly what Vincentian universities attempt as well. Pathways. Our time might even call it “mainstreaming.” … your commitment to put the resources of a great university to the service of the poor. This is the stuff of a “Vincentian higher education:” (1) The provision of an excellent education to those whom society is not inclined to assist; (2) the direction of your considerable intellectual resources to the great social problems and challenges of our day, especially on behalf of those at our societies’ margins; and (3) the creation of a vast alumni who themselves leave our institutions with a Vincentian heart, wanting to make a real difference in their communities.
And it’s the great heart of a Vincentian university to see possibility in ALL the young, especially in those whom society is all too willing to leave to their own devices. But not just the possibility that they might become fully contributing members of this society, but that they too might be “Vincentians;” that all who walk through our doors, our collaborators and students, can be brought into the great project that Vincent saw and to which Vincent invited everyone.
For the details supporting these statements read the full text.
The Vincentian Chair of Social Justice was established in 1994 in response to the recommendation Pope John Paul II made to delegates of the Congregation of the Mission’s 37th General Assembly in Rome (1986): to search out more than ever with boldness, humility and skill the causes of poverty and encourage short and long-term solutions. University scholars and research fellows work with the Vincentians in their charism “to evangelize the poor” and encourage efforts to build a society based on Gospel values and the Vincentian tradition.
The Vincentian Center for Church and Society at St. John’s University also conducts and disseminates research on topics related to poverty and social justice, and acts as a clearinghouse for gathering, developing and exchanging Vincentian-related information. While many of the Center’s activities link the University to local communities and the Church of Metropolitan New York, its reach extends to numerous national and international projects. The Vincentian Center is administered by .famvin regular contributor, Fr. Patrick Griffin, C.M.
Learn more about Founders Week and its history.