By Canton Winer
When seniors leave Fordham this summer, they will not be the only Rams leaving the University’s Rose Hill campus.
Philip Florio, S.J., will serve his last day as associate vice president for campus ministry on June 24.
Per the request of his Provincial Superior in Maryland, Florio has received a new assignment as the next Pastor of Old St. Joseph’s Church in Philadelphia. There, Florio will also serve as the Superior of the parish’s Jesuit community.
Florio, originally from Philadelphia, has been at Fordham for five years.
“[Old St. Joseph’s] is 3.5 miles from where I grew up,” Florio told The Fordham Ram during an interview on Friday afternoon. “It’s the closest I’ll ever be to home as a Jesuit… It’s bittersweet. But I’m going home.”
While Florio says he is happy to return to Philadelphia, he also expressed sadness to be leaving Fordham. “I did not seek this out,” Florio said. “This was a summons that was given to me.”
Still, Florio says he has long wanted to take the helm at Old St. Joseph’s. Founded in 1733, Old St. Joseph’s is one of the oldest Catholic churches in the United States.
“You get what you pray for,” Florio said. “But not on your own time.”
“God gave me this directive,” he continued. “So I feel peaceful, but sad. I wish I could’ve stayed longer at Fordham…but an obedient Jesuit doesn’t say no to service.”
Florio says he is “sad to leave behind this chapter of working with young people,” but excited to begin as pastor at Old St. Joseph’s.
“It’s a perfect fit,” he continued. “I’ve always wanted to be pastor at this parish. It caters to a diverse population. People come from three states every week to worship there. It has a growing young adult community, and it has extensive social justice and outreach to the poor… It embodies everything that a Jesuit parish should be about.”
Florio also noted the connection between Fordham and Old St. Joesph’s: the two institutions share a bond that dates back to the 1800s.
“Dagger John Hughes lived and worked in this parish,” he said. “He went on to found Fordham.”
Affectionately called “Father Phil” by many students, Florio has become somewhat of a fixture of the university in his time at Fordham.
With close to 3,000 friends of Facebook, Florio is active on his social media, often sharing posts about Campus Ministry events on campus.
In January, Florio delivered a “Fordham Bucket list” in Keating Hall.
“My favorite point in my bucket list is to see the world,” Florio said during his talk. “The world is full of lessons to learned and wisdom to be gained and mysteries to be had and opportunities to be had.”
Many students have also come to know Florio through his time as House Master of the Manresa Program, an integrated learning community located in the newly-renovated Loyola Hall.
“Fr Phil is an amazing member of the Fordham community and he will be dearly missed,” said Michael Krzysko, FCRH ’16, who was a student in the Manresa Program when it was housed in Jogues Hall. “His work with the Manresa Program and Campus ministry has been incredible. It was his mission to ignite a flame in every student.”
In an email sent today to members of Fordham campus ministry, Msgr. Joseph Quinn, vice president of university mission and ministry, spoke highly of Florio’s five years of service at Fordham.
“We shall indeed miss him and his heartfelt pastoral care for all,” Quinn said in the email. “Fordham University is all the more enlivened by all that he has so wonderfully done for each and every person who has crossed his path. May he always know how deeply thankful we shall ever remain for his great zeal and goodness.”
Speaking with The Ram, Florio emphasized outreach and the development of community as his biggest accomplishments at Fordham. “I think that’s the greatest thing I’ve done here: make students feel welcome, whether they’re devout Catholic, Muslim, or outright atheist,” he said.
“I think the thing I’ve been able to do in these five years [at Fordham] is outreach to the students. I learn their names, visit the res halls, I’ve gone to South Africa and Chile with our students. I tried to take my ministry outside the campus and the church building.” Florio says his time at Fordham has not been without its challenges.
“A challenge for me has been trying to juggle all three campuses,”Florio said. “One of my disappointments was that I never got to know more students at Lincoln Center.”
Still, Florio says there will be a lot to miss as June 24 approaches.
“The thing I’ll miss most about Fordham is the students,” Florio said. “I’m impressed by the generosity of the students here. They have a passion for community that is very welcoming. I’ve been blessed to be here… I’m grateful to be part of the real Fordham community.”
—Joe Vitale contributed reporting