All good things start small.
That was how Basilian Father Joseph Trovato hooked his St. John Fisher College students on social activism.
He’d invite them to spend a few hours on weekends helping out at a soup kitchen, spending a day sharing a laugh with the developmentally disabled at the School of the Holy Childhood or chatting with veterans at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center. Whether it was a journey to St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality or the local Catholic Worker home, they would drop in and help out where needed.
Pretty soon, his students would be regulars at helping others.
On Nov. 16, the Pittsford college honored Father Trovato — a language professor who also founded the school’s campus ministry — for his three decades of work at the college by naming in his honor a fund supporting peace and social justice. However, Father Trovato remained modest about the recognition, saying he taught only one lesson in his roving class, and to him, it wasn’t peace and social justice.
“For me, peace and social justice was system change, and I never was a part of that,” said Father Trovato, now parochial vicar at Christ the King Church in Irondequoit. “What I tried to do was put a human face on people who were suffering.”
Linda MacCammon, director of the college’s Peace and Social Justice Studies program, said Father Trovato became a role model for students by challenging convention.
“He embodies peace and social justice,” MacCammon said. “He is what Fisher is all about.”
Father Trovato, who served at St. John Fisher from 1959-89, recalled one student who spent time volunteering with him at St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality. He said the student still keeps in touch and told him it was the best experience of his college career.
Father Trovato said his advice to others is simple.
“Be giving and be generous,” he said. “Try to treat everyone with dignity, especially those who are suffering because of poverty and lack of justice.”
Also during the Nov. 16 event, Thomas Proietti, a 1967 graduate who helped found the school’s communication and journalism program, received the Peace and Social Justice Studies Spirit Award. The 2006 Jennifer Koon Courage Awards were given to Caitlin Pfaffenbach, a senior English and adolescence-education major, and Mark Horn, operations manager at the Eastern Service Workers Association.
Basilian Father Paul F. English, formerly Fisher’s assistant dean of students, director of residential life and director of campus ministry who now ministers to the Hispanic community in Houston, Texas, gave the keynote address.
Attendee Judy Van Buskirk, head of reference at the college library and liaison to the Peace and Social Justice Studies program, said students need to be exposed to nonviolence because today’s media is hyperviolent and lacks nonviolent role models.
“I think it goes with the philosophy of the whole institution, and the values that we speak to,” Van Buskirk said.
The Rev. Joseph A. Trovato Peace and Social Justice Studies Fund will fund full-time undergraduate students. Contributions may be made at www.sjfc.edu/makeagift or by calling 585/385-8023.