Vowing to be “women acting together against poverty” and to serve those in need, 34 St. John’s women formed the first University-based Association of the Ladies of Charity during inaugural ceremonies on the Queens campus of St. John’s University. The 34 women who formed the new unit of the Ladies of Charity represent a broad cross-section of faculty, administrators, staff and graduate students at St. John’s.
Members of the new association made their solemn pledges at St. Thomas More Church after a Mass celebrating the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, January 25, 2009. Stepping to the altar, they pledged, “to serve in humility, simplicity and charity”—a pledge etched on pins each received at the ceremony. Rev. John Freund, C.M. was the presider and homilist at the Mass and ceremony.
In a candle-lighting ceremony immediately following the inauguration, the group installed its first officers. Each new officer lit a candle as she pledged “to light the way” just as “Christ is the light of the world.”
Along with members of the St. John’s community, the inauguration was attended by two former presidents of the Ladies of Charity-USA: Mary Ann Morvitz, of St. Louis, MO, and Mary Beth O’Brien, of Albany, NY. Maureen Driskill, LCUSA Northeast Region Board member from the Archdiocese of New York was also in attendance.
“It was an amazing experience and an awesome sense of responsibility, to follow in the footsteps of St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac and Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton,” said Joanne Marie Robertson, Ed.D., associate professor of human services and counseling at St. John’s. Dr. Robertson was installed as the affiliate’s first president.
“The group hopes to be strong advocates for women and children as well as to participate in direct service activities,” said Sr. Margaret John Kelly, D.C., executive director of the Vincentian Center for Church and Society at St. John’s and Sister Moderator of the Association. “It’s a commitment to much more than direct relief,” Sr. Margaret explained. “It’s an effort to bring about systemic transformation in structures that keep people in poverty.”
For this reason, holding the inauguration on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul was deeply symbolic, observed Dr. Robertson. “This idea of conversion, of transformation, is so relevant to what we’re trying to do,” she said. “Since we’re the first university-based unit, this truly is a transformation, one that will draw upon the unique strengths of our members.”
The search for spiritual transformation through service led to the new association, said Mary Ann Dantuono, associate director of the Vincentian Center. A mutual interest in serving others created an opportunity to bring these women together. “It was an organic process,” said Sr. Margaret. “Each of these women was drawn into some kind of service. The next steps seemed very natural.”
The Charter will be displayed on campus at the Vincentian Center. As for the new Association, its officers will begin drawing plans for proceeding vigorously on behalf of needy people across the metropolitan area. All look forward to working collaboratively with the LCUSA and AIC.