Niagara University’s Vincentian Mission Institute cohort 8 at the VMI Commencement on April 12, 2024. Left to right: Dr. Mark Frascatore; Dr. Tamara Minor; Jeremy Colby; Dr. Carol Doyle-Jones; the Rev. James Maher, C.M., NU president; the Rev. Greg Semeniuk, C.M., NU vice president for mission integration; and Dr. Vennessa Walker.

The voice of St. Vincent de Paul can be “heard” in classrooms, hallways, and common areas throughout the Niagara University campus on artwork featuring some of his most popular quotations. The installations were the capstone project undertaken by Niagara’s cohort in the Vincentian Mission Institute, an 18-month program sponsored by Niagara, St. John’s, and DePaul universities that seeks to prepare lay senior leadership to support the distinctive Vincentian and Catholic mission and identity of their institutions.

“We decided that if we were going to fulfill the goal of the VMI to ensure the continuation of the Vincentian charism, we had to find ways to infuse St. Vincent more clearly into our culture, and visual representations were the most obvious and expedient way to do so,” said Dr. Vennessa Walker, executive director for institutional effectiveness and assessment, a member of Niagara’s cohort.

The plaques, which were placed in Dunleavey Hall’s auditorium and room 206, in the middle staircase at Glynn Hall, and above the Multi-Purpose Room in the lower level of the Gallagher Center, feature the following quotes:

“Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favorable light at all times and under all circumstances.”

“There is nothing good that does not meet with opposition, and it should not be valued any less because it encounters objections.”

“There is no act of charity that is not accompanied by justice or that permits us to do more than we reasonably can.”

“And what are we doing if we are not doing God’s Will?”

“When we considered what our NU project would entail, we thought about what is essential to this mission and what must be passed on and sustained,” said Dr. Carol Doyle-Jones, associate professor in Niagara University in Ontario’s Department of Education. “We thought about the mission purpose of knowledge, integration, and application. And, we considered how we build relationships on campus. The personification of St. Vincent and St. Louise de Marillac on both NU campuses entails insightful quotes to not only connect students, faculty, and staff, but to inspire dialogue on what must be done.”

Future installments are planned for Niagara’s Lewiston and Vaughan campuses.

Group photo

Vincentian Mission Institute participants visited St. James Church in Folleville, Picardy Region, France, as part of the program.

In addition to Drs. Walker and Doyle-Jones, Dr. Mark Frascatore, dean of Holzschuh College of Business Administration; Dr. Tamra Minor, vice president for diversity equity, and inclusion; and Jeremy Colby, ’96, university general counsel, were part of the Niagara group who joined their peers from the other universities to learn and reflect on topics related to how the Vincentian-Catholic mission can continue to shape their institutions in distinctive and meaningful ways and to consider their unique place in the field of Catholic higher education in the United States. The group met each month for ongoing education and formation related to Vincentian-Catholic higher education, visited each university campus, and took a Vincentian heritage trip to France as part of the program, which was founded in 2007 to answer the question: What does it mean for our institution to be a vibrant Catholic, Vincentian university in the 21st century?

“Participating in the program underscored for me how important it is for us as a university to take the historical, philosophical, and intellectual contexts of Catholic Social Teaching, Catholic Intellectual Tradition, and the Vincentian charism and show the connection to what we commonly tout as Niagara University’s mission: serving those who live in the margins,” said Dr. Walker. “Things like community service and diversity, equity, and inclusion are not just the practices du jour, but are corollaries to following the teachings of St. Vincent.”

The collaboration encouraged throughout the program was one of the experience’s key takeaways, according to the participants.

“We met with colleagues across Niagara University, St. John's University, and DePaul University, and will continue to connect all three campuses to promote St. Vincent de Paul's legacy of charity, care, and community,” said Dr. Doyle-Jones.

“We are not an island,” Colby added. “We need to share resources and stop thinking in ‘old world/pre-COVID/disconnected terms’ and assist each other to succeed—which ultimately promotes the Vincentian mission at all three institutions.”