Vincentian Heritage Week, an annual celebration of Niagara University's rich history of education and service in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, is taking place this week.
Also known as Founder's Week, Vincentian Heritage Week is a way for the university community to pay homage to St. Vincent, a 17th century Catholic priest who inspired and organized his contemporaries to serve the less fortunate, and St. Louise de Marillac, the Patroness of Christian Social Workers who co-founded the Daughters of Charity with St. Vincent.
The entire Niagara University community — students, faculty, staff and administration — participate in Founder's Week events, highlighted by the prestigious Vincentian Heritage Convocation, which recognizes the extraordinary contributions of university employees, alumni and community leaders.
Coming up this week:
• TUESDAY: Mass at 11:05 a.m. in the upper level of the Gallagher Center marks the opening of the 2013-2014 school year and kicks off a day that includes the always-popular St. Vincent lookalike contest, which will be held at 7 p.m. in the Gallagher Center's Multi-Purpose Room.
Squaring off to determine who can be made up to most closely resemble a French priest from the 1600s will be Nanette Harmon, American Sign Language professor, senior Tim Gray and graduate student Jordan Hernandez.
At the same time in the same place, the Office of Campus Activities will present a Vincentian Heritage Week installment of its Melody Café coffeehouse series. Previous Open Mic Nite winners Glenn Papp Jr. and Katie Dickie will perform while free coffee will be provided, courtesy of Tim Hortons.
• WEDNESDAY: A panel discussion will focus on Pope Francis, with an emphasis on the pontiff's messaging on social justice, his thoughts on the conflict in Syria and the media coverage surrounding the head of the Catholic Church. The event takes place in the Gallagher Center's Multi-Purpose Room.
• The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president
• The Rev. John Gouldrick, C.M., '63, associate vice president for mission
• Dr. Robert St. Hilaire, assistant professor of Religious Studies
Each speaker will address the topic for approximately 10 minutes, and the floor will then be opened for discussion.
• THURSDAY: The annual Vincentian Heritage Convocation commences at 4 p.m. in the Alumni Chapel.
During this year's convocation, the university's Caritas Medal will be awarded to Dr. Judith A. (Skurski) Willard, '70, M.A.'72, Niagara University's assistant to the president for planning; while the Rev. John S. Sledziona, C.M., a former NU trustee and current cabinet secretary for Ordained Ministry and Liturgical Worship, will receive an honorary degree. Niagara's Vincentian Mission Award will be presented to Craig J., Ph.D., and Lisa Rivera, '95, M.S.Ed.'97. Craig is an associate professor of criminal justice at Niagara while Lisa is an academic counselor in the Niagara University Opportunity Program and moderates the Danceline team.
• FRIDAY: A poverty simulation workshop is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on the fourth floor of St. Vincent's Hall. The role-playing experience affords participants an opportunity to gain insight into the realities of living in conditions of poverty.
• SATURDAY: The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is coordinating a "Friends of the Poor Walk" that takes place at 10 a.m. on Goat Island within Niagara Falls State Park. The event is meant to build awareness and raise funds for those experiencing hardships in local communities. The national program attracted more than 19,000 walkers and raised nearly $2 million in 2012. This is the fourth year that the walk is being held in the Buffalo-Niagara region, where more than $30,000 has been raised toward the cause. Those interested are invited to register online at www.svdpwnywalk.info or simply show up on Saturday morning.