Inauguration Ceremony, October 10, 2013
Rev. Sean O. Sheridan, TOR
President, Franciscan University of Steubenville
Mrs. Jamie McAleer,
Board of Trustees
Franciscan University of Steubenville
On behalf of the Board of Trustees I would like to express our great joy at this historic moment in the history of this amazing University: the Inauguration of the Sixth President of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Fr. Sean Sheridan, TOR.
The presidential torch has passed, but I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to honor and thank Fr. Terence Henry for his many sacrifices and accomplishments during his tenure as President of “the perilous and exciting adventure that is Franciscan University of Steubenville.” When referring to his legacy, the title, Fr. Terry the Builder, has been quoted, in part due to the beautiful campus that has risen up around us, but also in recognition of the growth of everything that those who love this University hold dear: Academic Excellence, Heroic Catholicism, Christ-centered Athletics and of course, the number of young people who come here as students, but leave as beautiful witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis explains that faith is not just a journey, but also a process of building, “the preparing of a place in which human beings can dwell together with one another.” He speaks of Abraham who “looked forward in faith to a city with firm foundations. Through faith we see just how firm or strong the bonds between people can be when God is present in their midst.”
Today we see just how firm and strong those bonds are as God has raised up for us a new President, Fr. Sean Sheridan, whose legacy has already begun. In perfect Marian example and with the humility and obedience of St. Francis, Fr. Sean has given his “Fiat” to not only the Lord, but to all of us as well. He has seized the day and begun to build a new era in the long and faithful history of this staunchly Catholic institution. We all know that we live in dark times and that our beloved university is in danger, however, we also know that it is in the darkest of times that the light of faith shines the brightest. “Faith gives a creative light for each new moment of history and sets every event in relationship to the origin and destiny of all things in the Father” (76). Only God knows what the future holds for us, but today we pledge our loyalty and place our trust in Fr. Sean.
For the past 8 years I have been blessed to serve as Trustee for Franciscan University of Steubenville, but for the past 10 years I have been a parent of a student here. Pope Francis states that parents in their families, “encourage shared expressions of faith which can help children gradually to mature in their own faith.” Parents are the primary educators, the first collaborators with God, endowing their children with important guidance and working to ensure for them a good future, not only in this life, but beyond this life: life eternal in Heaven. If and when parents truly understand and believe that there is life beyond this earthly pilgrimage, then they know the importance and benefit of Catholic education, where other and select persons besides themselves are preparing their children to maneuver this life, but more importantly are shaping and instructing their children to see beyond this life, to see eternally, AND to see beyond themselves: the importance of not only experiencing and believing the good news, but sharing it with others…bringing others along with you to Heaven.
My husband and I are deeply involved in bringing a new Catholic high school to our area. About a month ago our Archbishop Thomas Rodi spoke to our group, encouraging us and stressing the importance of Catholic education. He said that Wisdom comes from Formation and Knowledge comes from Education. Catholic education seeks to provide both: formation and education; Wisdom and Knowledge. Franciscan University of Steubenville does a beautiful job of both formation and education.
Blessed John Paul the Great was sold on Catholic Education, especially at the university level. In his Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, he spoke of the deeply enriching and beneficial experience of university life, which he described as “the ardent search for truth”. The Catholic University provides an “unselfish transmission to youth, and to all those learning, the ability to think rigorously, so as to act rightly and to serve (humanity) better”, which is at the heart of what Franciscan University does so beautifully and in so many different and unique ways. In his 13th Encyclical, Faith and Reason, Blessed John Paul explains that the question becomes not only “What is the truth, but Whom do I trust to tell me or show me what is true? In believing, we entrust ourselves to the knowledge acquired by other people.” Growing in faith is more than a “personal accumulation of evidence”, it is also entering into an interpersonal relationship that is “intimate and enduring.” (Fides et Ratio, 32) In my humble opinion, this is the heart of Franciscan University of Steubenville’s mission: the accumulation of knowledge and the encountering of trusted dialogue and sincere friendship. In other words, where Knowledge matures into Wisdom.
I believe parenthood to be the toughest, but the most important and rewarding task we can undertake, if you understand what you are undertaking: the fashioning of another person’s heart, mind and soul. We as parents are not only the primary educators, but we are responsible for ensuring that our children reach their final destination, which is life eternal with God. This is no small task. That is why it is crucial that we surround ourselves and our children with people who understand this and will help us achieve our goal. Here is where Catholic Education is vital.
In Scripture, Jesus speaks of our “fruit”: it is how we will be known, it is what He asks us to give Him and His Church. For parents it is our children and grandchildren, and for Franciscan University it is our students and our alumni. When those are combined, I believe it to be the best gift a parent can receive: to hope with confidence that your child possesses the Wisdom and Knowledge he or she needs to travel and complete the journey home to God.
As a Trustee and a Parent I would like to take this amazing opportunity to express my deep gratitude to many people:
First, the Franciscan Friars of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, who through their radical commitment to the Son of God, the Way, the Truth and the Life of man, bring us the sacraments and by their living witness inspire and encourage us all;
The highly educated, yet humble faculty who educate, but also mentor so many;
The administration who tirelessly provide the rich environment where all these encounters and conversions can occur;
The students who are the salt and light to each other and to the world…who said yes to God and came here to be formed and educated;
The parents of the students who heard their child’s yes, supported them emotionally, financially, physically and allowed, encouraged and helped their child to come here and be transformed;
And last but not least, I thank God, who either through His amazing sense of humor or His intense love for me, or both!, gave me the opportunity to help build His City of God here on Earth, a City on a Hill, a place where knowledge and wisdom, faith and reason, friendship and love flourish.
God bless you all.