Francis Medal Presented to College Staff Member

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

NEW YORK — Earlier this month, Neil O’Connell, OFM, presented the HNP Francis Medal to Iona Samuels, a laboratory technician who is retiring after “eight years of faithful service as faculty advisor” for the Catholic Campus Ministry Association of the Borough of Manhattan Community College, where Neil is campus minister. The presentation took place March 8 at a restaurant near the college campus.

The role of faculty advisor, who attends weekly meetings as well as campus and off-site events, is “a keystone in the ability of the Archdiocese of New York to provide its denominational ministry on campus through its appointee as campus minister to the college, a member college of the City University of New York,” said Neil. The Student Government Association at each college of CUNY approves all student clubs or associations, including religious denominational ones. Only an SGA approved denominational club or association can invite a minister of that denomination to campus to provide the ministry of that denomination, he added.

“When no Catholic faculty member was available to serve as an advisor, Samuels, a baptized Episcopalian and practicing Presbyterian, upon the recommendation of some Catholic faculty, stepped forward to serve as the association’s advisor,” said Neil. “Her sense of community has been highly effective with the students, faculty, staff and administrators served by the association.”

Samuels, a senior technician in the department of business management, was “energetic in calling the students to task in the practice of their Catholic faith and attended all the Catholic religious practices of the association,” he said. “She was especially outstanding in practicing the Franciscan virtues of minority, community, and joy. She also regularly used her own financial resources to assist individual students and the association.”

Present for the conferral were Olivia Cousins, faculty advisor before Samuels, two past officers of the association, and Loretta Samuels, sister of the medal recipient.

Neil founded the Catholic ministry at the college, which has an enrollment of more than 24,000 students, in July 2002. He also serves the Catholic campus minister for the Archdiocese to Herbert H. Lehman College in the Bronx where he is adjunct professor of history and freshman initiative. He is also the faculty advisor for the Catholic association there. Neil lives at St. Joseph of the Holy Family Church in Harlem.

The Province’s Francis Medal was established in 1998 to recognize laypeople who have displayed an uncommon contribution to the advancement of the values and ideas of St. Francis.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.