Did St. Vincent Ever Envision Vincentian Universities?

The short answer to the question “Did St. Vincent ever envision Vincentian Universities?” is probably no. But that may not be the right question. Let’s take a quick look. Then, you be the judge!

Niagara University Schedules Events to Celebrate Vincentian Heritage Week

The first Vincentian university established in the United States has scheduled a full slate of events to celebrate its annual Heritage week. Niagara University will commemorate the legacy of the Congregation of the Mission’s mission to serve in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul during Vincentian Heritage Week, which takes place Sept. 23-29, 2018.

The Congregation of the Mission is a community of Roman Catholic priests and brothers that fulfills its call to alleviate poverty through ministries like education, social services, healthcare, missions and spiritual formation. The year 1617 is widely considered the year of the community’s origin, based on events that occurred in the life of St. Vincent de Paul in Folleville and Châtillon, France.

The Congregation is part of the worldwide Vincentian Family, now composed of 225 branches (various religious communities and lay associations), more than 2 million members and is present on five continents. Its members are engaged in in various ministries in which they “welcome the stranger,” including care for homeless people, refugees, abandoned children and single mothers.

Niagara University (established in 1856), St. John’s University (1870) and DePaul University (1898) are the three institutions of higher education that are located in the United States and sponsored by the Congregation of the Mission.

I doubt whether he or Louise ever dreamt what a modern university might look like. Much less did they envision that a university might spend a whole week celebrating their memory.

Founder’s Week, Vincentian Heritage Week is a way for the Niagara University community to pay homage to St. Vincent and St. Louise de Marillac, the Patroness of Christian Social Workers who co-founded the Daughters of Charity with St. Vincent.

Students, alumni, faculty, staff, and administrators participate in Founder’s Week events, highlighted by the Vincentian Heritage Convocation, which recognizes the extraordinary contributions of university employees, alumni and community leaders.

Here in outline is what the week looks like in fact.

  • Family Weekend Mass: Commissioning of the Vincentian Scholars
  • Poverty Simulation
  • Vincentian Mission Reception featuring the 24th successor Vincent de Paul, the Very Rev. Tomaž Mavrič, C.M.
  • Panel on Vincentian Mission: “From scholarly research to compassionate action: College of Education Poverty Initiatives.”
  • Dialogue on International Homelessness: featuring Yasmine Cajuste, project director of the Vincentian Family Alliance to End Homelessness
  • Vincentian Heritage Convocation recognizing members of the university community as well as others who inspire us through their outstanding work in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul.
  • Vincentian Heritage Week Mass
  • Saint Vincent de Paul Society “Friends of the Poor Walk”

[For more information about all events, contact the Office of Mission Integration (formerly Mission and Ministry) at 716.286.8400.].

St. John’s University features many events spread over three campuses in New York

It even has something that would have puzzled Vincent and Louise – a “hashtag #SJUFoundersWeek

St. John’s University proudly proclaims in its mission statement

St. John’s is a Vincentian university, inspired by St. Vincent de Paul’s compassion and zeal for service. We strive to provide excellent education for all people, especially those lacking economic, physical, or social advantages. Community service programs combine with reflective learning to enlarge the classroom experience. Wherever possible, we devote our intellectual and physical resources to search out the causes of poverty and social injustice and to encourage solutions that are adaptable, effective, and concrete. In the Vincentian tradition, we seek to foster a world view and to further efforts toward global harmony and development by creating an atmosphere in which all may imbibe and embody the spirit of compassionate concern for others so characteristic of Vincent.

It celebrates this heritage with the Vincentian Convocation to honor Margaret M. Fitzpatrick, S.C., Ed.D and recipients of the Vincentian Mission Award, St. Vincent DePaul Medal, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Medal, Caritas Medal, Frederic Ozanam Award and the International Medal.

Fr. Dennis Holtschneider of the Eastern Province of the Congregation described Vincentian Higher Education this way in a presentation at St. John’s University. He titled his talk  “Vincentian Education: Illuminating Minds, Creating Opportunities, Serving the World”

Back to the original question!

Maybe the question should be “Would St. Vincent and St. Louise be proud of the way these 21st-century institutions in the Eastern Province have committed themselves to a ministry rooted in their vision of serving those who are poor and marginalized?

What do you think?

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date with how we are living up to the mission of St. Vincent de Paul, and how you can help.