Cardinal Brings Mercy, Joy to College Students in New Paltz

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Colleen Thornton left SUNY New Paltz’s Student Union Center with a better understanding of mercy, joy and who Cardinal Dolan really is.

“Seeing him in person, he’s very jolly. He seems like the kind of person you would hug,” the Mount St. Mary College senior said of Cardinal Dolan.

Cardinal Dolan discussed mercy and joy with about 150 people, mostly college students representing Marist College, Mount St. Mary College, Rockland Community College, Vassar College and SUNY New Paltz on Oct. 5.

The students were treated to dinner before Cardinal Dolan’s arrival. Once Cardinal Dolan arrived, Bishop Dominick Lagonegro led Evening Prayer with the group before Cardinal Dolan spoke about mercy and joy for about 30 minutes.

“Pope Francis is suggesting we think of mercy in two ways—first and foremost is God’s mercy to us and then our mercy to others,” Cardinal Dolan said.

“We can gratefully accept God’s mercy or we can refuse it. We can deny if we feel we do not need it. God is passionate about giving us mercy but he does not make us swallow it. He offers it to us.”

Cardinal Dolan said people would turn away God’s mercy based on presumption or despair. A presumptuous person is one who feels they need no mercy because they have not committed any sins that need forgiveness. A person in despair feels they may have committed sins not worthy of God’s forgiveness.

“Once we are aware of God’s mercy for us as sinners, we joyfully share it with others,” the cardinal said.

“The instant we’re joyful and they ask us for our reason of hope, which leads to joy, we can tell them about our faith and we can tell them of the God who’s rich in mercy.”

Mount St. Mary College junior Colin Cassidy understood the delivered message.

“I think you have to look toward helping your fellow man to actually realize what God wants to actually happen,” he said. “It’s intriguing to see the difference—at first you have to know you need mercy from God, but then you have to give it on to other people.

“You see something every day about war or something like that in the media. There’s no mercy anymore. I think it’s time the world opens up and finds and openness for everybody. I think we judge too much on other things when we need first to judge ourselves and then see what we have to offer, what we need to do for others.”

Following his talk, Cardinal Dolan answered questions before greeting and posing for photos with students.

“The first question he answered about being lost in your faith and finding your way back—I asked that question,” Colleen Thornton said. “I know in the last year I’ve been up, down and trying to find my way back.

“The big thing that is going to stay with me is, keep praying no matter what’s going on. Prayer is easy when things are going well. When things aren’t going your way, it’s hard to find a reason or a good thing in that day. Prayer is a lot harder especially when you feel God is not answering.’’

Hank Grimsland, director of Catholic Campus Ministry at SUNY New Paltz, said he was as thrilled as the students that the cardinal had accepted his invitation to visit.

“I felt so blessed and graced by the fact that Cardinal Dolan approved coming here,” said Dominic Scecchitano, a SUNY New Paltz senior from Fishkill and president of the campus ministry at the college.

“This is not a Catholic campus or Catholic college, so the fact he came to a non-Catholic college is a grace and huge blessing to us.”

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