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Father Pivarnik is known for his talent in the kitchen and often cooks
for students.

Father Pivarnik named vice president of Mission and Ministry

Rev. R. Gabriel Pivarnik, O.P., an assistant professor of theology at Providence College and director of its Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies, has been named the new vice president for Mission and Ministry.

Father Pivarnik replaces Rev. Joseph J. Guido, O.P., who held the position from the time it was created in 2005 by College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. ’80. Father Guido has stepped down to return fulltime to his work as assistant professor of psychology and psychologist in the Personal Counseling Center.

The Office of Mission and Ministry’s purpose is to connect the College’s Catholic and Dominican mission to all departments and to the community. The office oversees Campus Ministry, the Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies, and the chaplaincy to the National Alumni Association.

Since its inception, it has expanded service opportunities for students. During the summer, 10 students traveled to five continents through the Father Philip A. Smith, O.P. Fellowship Program for Study and Service Abroad. Under an Alternative Spring Break program sponsored by Campus Ministry, PC sent 208 students to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity this year, the most of any college in the country.

A new initiative, Faith Abroad, gave students immersion experiences in Jamaica and Haiti in May, while FaithWorks, which began in 2012, brings freshmen to campus in August to volunteer with and learn more about service opportunities available in the Diocese of Providence.

Father Pivarnik came to PC in 2006 and became director of the Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies in 2010. Under his leadership, the center, which is located in the former Aquinas Hall chapel, hosts exhibits, lectures, and campus discussions, as well as offering quiet study and reading space for students, faculty, and staff.

In September, Father Pivarnik presented “Channels of Grace in the Ordinary: Catholic Imagination’s Place in Modern Culture,” a discussion about what it means to have a Catholic imagination. He illustrated the talk with clips from films The Mission and Braveheart, along with images of churches in Germany and Arizona, and the baptistery at the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.

Catholic imagination, defined by the late author Rev. Andrew Greeley, is “to see the holy lurking in creation,” Father Pivarnik said. Catholics believe in the concept of sacramentality — that ordinary things, including architecture, art, nature, and people — can reveal the divine.  

Will continue to teach

Father Pivarnik was selected for the position in part because of his ability to move among administrative duties, the classroom, and student groups. His cooking skills are well known. Last year, Father Pivarnik and Rev. Justin Brophy, O.P., assistant chaplain, competed in a cooking competition for students in Raymond Dining Hall.

“Father Gabriel is a gifted priest who brings a wide range of skills, talents, and experience to his new position," said Father Shanley. "The role of the vice president for Mission and Ministry is more important than ever before as the College continues to build upon the good work it has done to  enhance and promote Catholic and Dominican ideals on campus, in our community, and globally.  Since joining the PC staff in 2006, Father Gabriel clearly has demonstrated his ability to provide thoughtful, intelligent oversight of this important office.”

During a recent sabbatical, Father Pivarnik explored the role of mission and ministry at other colleges. His findings led him to decide that becoming vice president “is not only what I want to do, but something I embrace whole-heartedly.”

But he did have one condition — that he continue to teach in the Department of Theology and the Development of Western Civilization Program.

“Teaching is too important to what I do as vice president,” Father Pivarnik said. “If I lose my connection to the students, I lose the heartbeat of the community.”

A native of Virginia, Father Pivarnik has a bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary, a master of divinity degree and a licentiate in sacred theology from the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., and a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America.

He arrived in Providence 15 years ago to serve as associate pastor, and later administrator, at St. Pius V Parish, located across Eaton Street from the PC campus. He was involved in the Youth Ministry, Marriage Preparation, Music Commission, and Rite of Christian Initiation as Adults (RCIA) programs of the diocese.

“As a Dominican, I never thought I’d be here, and now I can’t imagine being anywhere else,” Father Pivarnik said.

— Vicki-Ann Downing

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