STEUBENVILLE, OHIO—Franciscan University of Steubenville observed its 70th commencement exercises May 11-12 by handing out 725 diplomas —making the Class of 2018 the second largest in the school’s history.
The new graduates swelled the alumni ranks to over 20,000, with graduates now in all 50 states and 66 countries.
Events began with the May 11 Baccalaureate Mass before which Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, DD, received an honorary doctorate of Christian ethics for his courage and fidelity as the shepherd of the Archdiocese of Louisville, for his work as past-president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and for his role as chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty.
“This is an honor that is really given to a cause . . . that is, for us to want religious freedom not only for ourselves but for everyone and to make room for everyone to, in public, express their faith and serve their sisters and brothers,” Archbishop Kurtz said upon accepting the award.
In his homily, he acknowledged Franciscan University for being a University “that is academically excellent and passionately Catholic.”
He told the graduates to root themselves in their “home away from home”—their home parish—and be like a Christian who isn’t completely at home in the world “but someone who is on a journey.”
He urged the graduates to develop “eulogy virtues” of faithful love, sacrificial service, patience, diligence, and selflessness. “Not only are these the virtues people will remember you by when you are gone, they are also the virtues you take with you into eternity.
“Do not be afraid to aspire to greatness,” he concluded. “You do not know right now what act of greatness you will be asked to do. But it will be some heroic action of serving someone else.”
Two Commencement Ceremonies
At the May 12 morning science commencement ceremony, Dr. Stephen Barr received an honorary doctorate of Christian ethics in recognition of his work to promote the relation of science and religion and his service to the Catholic Church.
Barr, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Delaware, is the president of the Society of Catholic Scientists, which he co-founded in 2016.
In his remarks, he called Franciscan University “a shining example to the whole world of what Catholic higher education should be.”
He countered the rise of the atheistic science movement by reciting a long litany of Catholic laity, priests, bishops, and devout Protestant scientists who made important scientific discoveries throughout history—men like Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics and an Augustinian monk; and Georges Lemaitre, the Belgian Catholic priest and scientist who proposed the Big Bang theory—to name but two.
Barr called the Catholic Church, “probably the largest single and longest-term patron of science” in history.
He said that many of the same things that make him a scientist also make him a Catholic: “A sense of wonder at the world. A passionate desire to know the truth and a deep conviction that everything holds together in some coherent way.”
He told the graduates that if someone asks how they can reconcile their faith as a scientist, tell them, “no reconciliation is necessary because there is no need to reconcile things that have always been in harmony.”
At the afternoon arts commencement, Jeanette De Melo ’98, editor-in-chief of the National Catholic Register, received an honorary doctorate of communications for continuing that publication’s mission to inform, inspire, and equip active Catholics to engage the culture with confidence.
She told the graduates about “Vincent,” a 1950s Harvard Law School graduate and JAG attorney who “was on his way to great things” before he took a detour at age 25 and entered the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular, who operated the College of Steubenville.
De Melo recounted how Father Vincent Michael Scanlan, TOR, then turned around the financially struggling and “spiritually empty” College with a renewed commitment to excellent academics and vibrant spirituality.
“Graduates, you’ve become part of a wonderful legacy. Franciscan University today is recognized as among the most authentically Catholic schools in the country and even the world, because of Father Michael’s vision for a university.”
De Melo graduated 20 years ago from Franciscan University with a humanities and Catholic culture degree.
She told the graduates to be filled with constant Christian hope even if they don’t know what’s next, and to rely on the three gifts they received from theiralma mater: A solid education “where you learn to think critically from a Catholic worldview,” a life of prayer and virtue that is “fuel for the journey,” and Christian community.
“Graduates, if you can hang on to those three things and let Jesus Christ be Lord of your life as Father Michael Scanlan did, I don’t know where you’ll go, but I know it’s going to be good.”
Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, president of Franciscan University, congratulated the students on their academic achievements and for “pouring yourselves into your faith, striving to become closer to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And striving for holiness and encouraging others to grow in holiness.”
After each ceremony, the graduates filled the courtyard for final photos with friends and well wishes from family members.
Benjamin Pettingill, who majored in mathematics and was in Franciscan’s 3+2 dual-degree engineering program, said, “Franciscan allowed me to get a wonderful Catholic education, experience great community, grow in my faith and love for the Lord, and helped me excel at Notre Dame,” where he is now a civil engineering major with a concentration in hydraulics.
Psychology graduate Rachael Pearson, who is entering a doctorate program in physical therapy, singled out her professors for thanks for a holistic education that incorporated a spiritual dimension that “can help people mentally as well as spiritually.”
Several faculty members formally received promotions at the ceremonies: Dr. George Ash, associate professor of graduate education; Dr. David Collins, professor of chemistry; Dr. Debra Facello, associate professor of nursing; Dr. Kyle McKenna, professor of biology; Dr. Susan Poyo, associate professor of education; Dr. Christina Safranski, associate professor of mathematics; Dr. Mark Watry, associate professor of chemistry; Sr. M. Johanna Paruch, FSGM, professor of theology and catechetics, Dr. Robert Rice, professor of theology and catechetics; Dr. Stephen Sammut, professor of psychology, sociology, and social work.
More information on the commencement ceremonies, including complete videos of each event, can be found on the Commencement 2018 Media Page.