A Closer Look at the ‘Heart’ of St. John’s University: St. Thomas More Church

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Catholic Education, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Media, Queens, NY, Sacrament, St John's University

Currents News Staff

St. John’s University: a Catholic institution that’s been on a mission for 150 years continues its legacy with St. Thomas More Church. It’s now at the center of St. John’s Queens Campus, according to 1970’s alum Father Bernard Tracey.

It was placed in the campus’ academic center, also known as the heart of the campus, where students of all faiths and denominations go throughout the day.

“It’s really an example of ‘if you build it, they will come,’” said St. John’s University Spokesperson Brian Browne.

 Although St. Thomas More Church opened its doors in 2004, Browne says its construction was long awaited.

“If you go back into our archives, there was always a design for a free standing church on campus, but inevitably, other things had to get built,” said Browne. “We always had a chapel at every one of our campuses but we didn’t have the church that we have today.”

Today, it’s a church adorned with all original art focused on Jesus ‘the teacher – from the mosaics, to the stained glass, to the pipe organ built into the walls.

In memory of the more than 75 St. John’s alums who died in the attack, there’s a special shrine dedicated to the fallen of 9/11: the cross, made from steel, recovered at the site.

The church also pays tribute to its Vincentian roots with a circular mosaic, designed and made by hand in Italy, that tells the story of St. Vincent and the birth of the university in Brooklyn.

 There’s even a refuge within a refuge.  

“There was a blessed sacrament chapel that was created for students to be able to go into that quiet spot while they’re there, even if they’re not attending Mass, they can still go there and pray,” said Executive Vice President for Mission Father Bernard Tracey. 

After years of planning, its construction was made possible by a St. John’s grad who suggested it be named after St. Thomas More, the 15th century adviser to King Henry VIII who was beheaded because of his opposition to the king’s divorce, remarriage, and ultimate separation from the Catholic church.

Another reason why Brian Browne calls St. Thomas More is an extension of the classroom, but that’s not all.

“The weekly Sunday night Mass here at St. Thomas More Church is the largest student event held weekly at St. John’s and it’s a great experience,” said Browne. “We also have a church community of neighbors from the surrounding community who’ve been celebrating Sunday Mass here for years on campus. We’re so blessed to have it here.”