The atmosphere in the auditorium at New York Medical College was filled with a mixture of reverence and gratitude. It was April 28, 2023, and the college was hosting a Convocation of Thanks, a special event dedicated to honoring the individuals who had generously donated their bodies for medical study. Approximately 200 family and friends, representing the 53 donors whose selfless acts would impact the education of future doctors, attended the event. Among the guests, were four Maryknoll Sisters and two Maryknoll Society members, Br. Brendan Corkery, MM, Coordinator of Assisted Living, and Fr. Juan Zuniga, MM, of the General Council. Jacqueline Perrier, a social worker who accompanies our men in assisted living, also attended.
As the ceremony commenced, a series of short speeches began, each student taking the stage to express their heartfelt appreciation. A first-year medical student paid special tribute to Fr. John Sullivan, MM, and wondered if he had ever imagined the magnitude of his contribution to their education, and the countless lives they would go on to touch as physicians.
Two other Society Members, Fr. Clarence Engler, MM and Fr. Robert Lilly, MM were also among those being honored and remembered during the convocation. The ashes of a third Society Member, Fr. Ernest Brunelle, were returned on this day to be interred in our columbarium. The room resonated with gratitude as the students acknowledged the invaluable contributions of all the donors.
In another poignant moment, a student named Emily paid special tribute to Sr. Mary Grenough, MM. She expressed deep admiration for her generosity in considering others even in death. Alongside Sr. Mary Grenough, two other Maryknoll Sisters were also remembered for their remarkable act of kindness. It became evident that many students had taken the time to research and learn about the individuals whose bodies they would be working on, fostering a deeper connection and sense of gratitude towards them.
One student explained that the anatomy lab teams consisted of four individuals, each team responsible for dissecting one side of the body. The collaboration and shared responsibility allowed the students to gain a comprehensive understanding of human anatomy. They also studied the bodies that had been previously dissected by other teams, fostering a collective learning experience.
As the speeches drew to a close, the ceremony took a heartwarming turn. The attendees were invited outdoors to witness the planting of a memorial tree—a symbol of gratitude and remembrance. The tree would serve as a living testament to the profound impact the donors had on the education and future endeavors of these aspiring medical professionals.
The gathering of family and friends at the planting of the tree was a powerful reminder that life, even after death, could continue to touch and transform the lives of others. The students, now equipped with a deeper understanding of the human body and the immeasurable gift given to them, felt a deep sense of responsibility to honor the donors’ legacy by dedicating their lives to medicine and to the service of others.
The Convocation of Thanks at New York Medical College left an indelible impression on the hearts and minds of all who attended. It was a moment of reflection, a moment to honor the selflessness of those who had given the gift of their bodies for the advancement of medical science and the betterment of humanity.
May all Maryknollers who have been so generous, now live in the fullness of God’s generous love for them.