Franciscan Way Magazine


Men in Black

More stories about favorite friars

One of my favorite memories is of Father Gilbert Barth, TOR. He was a sweet and gentle friar, and was a French teacher who punned like crazy. The greatest challenge was in French class when he would actually pun in French. If you knew the language, you got to groan over the joke. What made it funny was first, it was in French and second, that you didn't expect such jokes out of such a serious, quiet person. Père Gilbert, as we called him, was a dear man.
—JoAnn (Locascio '73) Green

My favorite friar memory involves Mrs. K (Anna Kindsvatter, the dorm mother for Trinity) and the infamous Streaker in the 1970s. Both Mrs. K and Father Jack Grinnen, TOR, told me this story. Mrs. K. had been invited to the friary for dinner, and the topic under discussion was the person who had streaked through the J. C. Williams Center that day. Mrs. K. mentioned that she had been in the center when the Streaker went through. The friars were all very interested and asked if the Streaker was a man or a woman. “I don't know,” said Mrs. K (with a twinkle in her eye, I'm sure!). “Whoever it was wore a mask.” Father Jack said that at that point, most of the friars dropped their utensils on the floor.
—Jeannie (Roulet '75) Minchak

My favorite friar memory would be some Prince of Peace Household brothers tackling Father Augustine Donegan, TOR, in the snow in front of the J. C. Williams Center. This was followed by them getting pelted with snowballs and threats of excommunication.
—Ron Legaspi '90

Father Gus was the grad student advisor when I was a student. Years later, when we were visiting, he encouraged me to engage in what I call love warfare. He encouraged us to be the first to show our love for the other in thought, word, and deed. To not be caught short, but rather to always strive to show more love. It is a healthy competition, don't you think?
—Katherine O'Brien-Johnston MA '91

The sacrament of confession as a regular part of campus life, either to receive or to witness it being administered, while walking somewhere on campus with one of the friars or glancing up because I saw the familiar habit out of the corner of my eye, is my favorite friar memory. All the friars were most responsible for the resurgence of my love of this sacrament then and my continued love of it now. It is a treasured memory for me.
—Celeste (Wilhelm ’91) Flaherty

There are so many memories . . . Father Augustine Donegan, TOR, head-locking an unsuspecting male student . . . Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, playing tennis with my old roommate, Tracy (Nelson MA ’89) Simpson, a former tennis pro turned theology grad student from Baton Rouge. Tracy was the only woman on campus who could beat Father Mike at tennis.
Best quips: Father Giles Dimock, OP, claiming those described in the Book of Revelation who are wearing white robes “are all Dominicans.”
—Mary Nadeau MA ’92

Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, was a powerful presence on campus. You could feel the electricity in the air when he spoke to a packed tent of students. His life and preaching filled the students with energy for God. I recall that he told the household leaders on a leadership retreat to “either lead or get out of the way,” because God was doing great things on campus.
—Sister M. Immaculata, FSGM (Stacey Biskner '92)

We both agree that there were so many beautiful confessions and words of counsel during our years at Franciscan, but out favorite memory is this: the friars were a constant joyful presence among us. How many times we recall seeing them walking up the hill alongside a student, eating numerous meals in the cafeteria surrounded by students, or even playing tennis or ultimate Frisbee with a household. Each and every friar made such an impact on so many with his smile, sincere interest, and presence!
—Celina (Sanchez ’92) & Ed Manville ’92

My favorite Franciscan friar memory is of a conversation with Father Richard Davis, TOR, on the day of my graduation. He asked me what my degree was in, and I said history. He said that he also had a history degree, and then asked me if I had ever contemplated the priesthood. I said yes, I had, but that I wanted to have children. Father told me that he had many children (referring to students of the school). Then I said to Father, “Yes, but I want to beget children.” Maybe this is why the good Lord has blessed me with five kids. . . you get what you pray for.
—Jason Krueger '93

The Franciscan friar I remember best is Father Dan Pattee, TOR. He displayed humility and sincerity. I also remember Father Augustine Donegan, TOR, for his childlike simplicity.
—Sister Margaret Fagbanigbe ’93

I came to the University as a residence director in 1986, and was not Catholic. I met Father Sam Tiesi, TOR, almost immediately, and he was one of the first religious I ever got to know. As my first semester on campus unfolded and I began to experience more and more of the beauty of the Catholic Church, I had many unanswered questions. I had a strong evangelical background, and I was far from an “easy” convert. Father Sam was very aware of the struggle within me and was always very patient with my questions, even when I pounded him with the same ones over and over again. My room in St. Thomas More Hall faced the friary, and he could see when I was in. He would call me up and tell me to meet him in the blue room of the friary where he would have a spread of hot peppers and tomatoes waiting. As we shared his feast, we would talk about the faith. His hospitality made me feel at ease, and somehow through those simple exchanges over yummy food, my heart began to see the truth. When I was received into the Church several years after we first met, it was Father Sam who confirmed me. He truly is the father of my faith, and he taught me how to cherish it and how to keep it simple.
—Holly Andrade MA ’94, Residence Hall Director 1986-1993

Of all the priests, Father Michael Scanlan may have had the most impact on my life path. It wasn't by long conversations or spiritual direction, but simply by his preaching that I became convinced I'd only be happy if I was doing God's will. I entered the seminary after graduation, and after being ordained a deacon, I decided to swing by campus to see if Father Scanlan might be available to bless the chalice that I'd be using at my upcoming ordination. I was quite taken by his response: He cleared his calendar, and set up a private Mass in the old friary basement. The homily was a conversation, the type of homily that priests have with other priests when they are on vacation, or other times when they have Mass without a congregation. He asked me what I heard the Holy Spirit inspiring me to say; I wasn't inspired, so I said something really brief. He responded with a homily that I will never forget. He spoke frankly about how Jesus is the only person who will never let you down, illustrating this point with stories from the life of St. Francis, St. Alphonsus Liguori, other priests and bishops, and his own experiences. Father Scanlan's teaching was the completion of my seminary formation. He is a man's man and a priest's priest.
—Father Ken Hummel ’94

I was out for an early morning run in Austria when to my delight I happened upon a strolling friar. Naturally I stopped to chat. Curiously, each time I asked the little friar a question, he simply responded with “Mmmhmm.” He was not even doling out a mischievous smile! Knowing something was up, I asked him what was going on. With that, he opened up into a huge belly laugh, displaying a mouth FULL of chocolate while one hand waved a giant Milka bar in the air!
—Karen (Cahill '96) Smith

Father Bob Hilz, TOR, was our Ahim Adonai Household advisor. After a Lord’s Day celebration we were headed to Antonian Hall. We typically would continue our praise and worship on the way to the cafeteria. At one point, Father Bob Hilz began to break dance to the praise and worship music to our stunned and joyous faces. We begin to clap and circle around him as we made our way to dinner.
—Marlon De La Torre ’96 MA ’06

In January 1981, eight years after Roe v. Wade, there were about six students who wanted to go to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Father Gerry King, TOR, was in charge of coordinating pro-life events. Around 7 p.m., Father Gerry directed the six students to Holy Rosary Church in Steubenville, to meet a chartered bus headed for the march. The bus was full except for three empty seats, so three of the University of Steubenville students, all women, were not able to go on this particular bus. That did not, however, deter Father Gerry. We all returned to the University and waited in the visitor area of St. Francis dorm while Father Gerry made phone call after phone call to parishes in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, trying to find a pro-life bus going to Washington, D.C. We waited for hours and hours, and Father Gerry persevered. At one point, I was considering going back to my dorm, when I sensed an inner voice, saying, “Don't give up.” A few minutes later, around midnight, Father Gerry located a parish, somewhere in Timbuktu, Pennsylvania, over an hour's drive from Steubenville and the bus just happened to have extra seats for us to go. Father Gerry's faith in the love of God, persistence, determination, commitment, respect and love for life, especially the unborn, stands out as a powerful witness to the ongoing movement of the Holy Spirit at Franciscan University.
—Virginia Jakubajtys ’96

Karl and I were married in 2004 in Christ the King Chapel and had our reception on campus. After the wedding Mass, our guests headed over to the reception while Karl and I had pictures taken by the Portiuncula Chapel. We walked over to the reception in the J.C. Williams Center only to find the majority of our guests following Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, out of the building like he was the Pied Piper. Father Mike told us, “It's time for the alumni picture.” I was the alumni director at the time, and alumni pictures were a must do at our regional reunions. I said, “No, Father, it's time for our first dance.” Father Mike replied, “No, it's time for the alumni picture.” It was all I could do to not say, “Father, this is our wedding, not an alumni reunion!” Father Mike then continued to herd the alumni—more than half of our guests—to a suitable spot for the picture. I said to myself, “I guess it's time for the alumni picture,” and at that moment, I realized that I had lost control of our wedding reception. It was the best thing that could have happened! I was able to fully enjoy the rest of the day and not worry about controlling every little detail. God bless Father Mike!
—Katie (Vargo MA ’98) Orbon

One of my favorite memories of Father Augustine Donegan, TOR, is from my semester in Austria. His homilies were almost always fire and brimstone. Everyone knew this about Father Gus. He used to always say, “Sarcasm is from the pits of hell.” To this day, that saying comes up in my family and with my household sisters. He always had a smile on his face and yet knew how to keep us in line.
—Julie (Yochim '01) Ferraro

I remember standing in shock as Father Augustine Donegan, TOR, feigned frailty so as to endear himself to a group of passing girls, just seconds after I had struggled to get free from one of his headlocks.
—Matt Norton '02

One day a group of us were leaving campus in my car, and we saw Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, driving up the drive with a hubcap missing from his back tire. We had just found a hubcap shortly before, so we beeped and waved to Father Mike, holding the hubcap out the window. He pulled over, and Dallas Carter ’04 got out of my car and popped the cap on Father Mike's tire—it was a perfect fit! Father tried to give us some money for it, but since we found it on the street, it cost nothing. We refused his money, but he was persistent. After a few laughs, Dallas complimented Father Mike on the Hawaiian-like polo shirt he was wearing. Father Mike wasted no time: He pulled the shirt off and tossed it to Dallas. Dallas noted that it wouldn't fit him, so Father Mike said, “Give it to Jonathan,” and then he got back in his car and drove up to the friary! I'll never forget the day when Father Mike gave me the shirt off his back!
—Father Jon Reardon '03

My favorite memory is of Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, blessing my class ring. Father Mike was one of the main reasons I transferred to Franciscan in 2003. His guidance, his energy, and his love for God made me love Franciscan even more. It was only appropriate that I have my FUS class ring blessed by him. In my head, I had this wonderful dream of going to the friary and having Father Mike bless the ring and tell me stories. Instead, the blessing took place in the friary driveway while Father Mike was on his way to town. To this day, I wear my class ring and think about my driveway blessing.
—Cathy Hessick ’05

One of my favorite friar memories at Franciscan University was taking a weekend trip to Niagara Falls with some fellow students and Father Dave Pivonka, TOR. As a freshman, I was still figuring out how to be comfortable with new friends and get out of my comfort zone. This trip helped with that, especially with Father Dave being so fun and welcoming. Having Mass every day was really special, too. It was apparent to me on that trip how the friars live out their Franciscan spirituality everywhere they go—even on random trips—and that has inspired me to this day.
—Allison LeChevallier ’07

My most meaningful memory is of Father David Morrier, TOR's hang-gliding adventures. Sports, especially when involving a little danger or strong challenge, have always helped me deal with practical matters. Although I've never run off a cliff in a hang glider, Father Dave taught this theology major to trust Jesus' Spirit so much that you allow him to blow you wherever he desires. The hang glider's jump off the cliff takes courage, even after a great deal of training. The courage that allows you to jump is analogous to letting Jesus have full control of your life. God gives us freedom and will make full use of our training when we've surrendered everything to him.
—Diane Strutz MA ’07

Father Augustine Donegan, TOR, once got furious at me because I made the comment, “Nice dress,” referring to his Franciscan habit. Boy, did he lose it on me! I think it was my second week on campus as a freshman. Father Ken Cienik, SA, gives the best tours of Pittsburgh, which he warmly refers to as his 'Cienik Tours'.
—Ken Baldwin ’05 MBA ’08

The fun times spent with the friars in Austria—Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, and Father Dennis Gang, TOR, my semester—are unforgettable! Father Denny is quite possibly one of the most unique people I've ever met … He also started smoking for Lent when we were in Austria (Spring ’07) . . . we all thought he was crazy, but it actually helped lead someone back to the sacraments. I LOVE the friars!
—Kelsie Whaley ’09

My favorite memory of a friar is how, at every Mass he celebrated, Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, would always take time for silence after the communion song was finished and would announce that we were now going to take time to rest in the silence of eucharistic amazement that Pope John Paul II talked about. He always said it with such a love and passion that inspired me.
—Sarah Houde ’09

My favorite memory of a Franciscan friar would be the day that Father Jim Angert, TOR, took us skiing in Austria. I had never been skiing, so he spent a great portion of his time teaching me to ski, and, embarrassingly enough, how to ride the T-bar lift which I continuously caused us to wipe out on!
—Rob Franklin

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