Franciscan University Sends Forth Graduates to “Set the World on Fire” | Franciscan University of Steubenville
  • Franciscan University Sends Forth Graduates to “Set the World on Fire”

    May 14, 2019

    STEUBENVILLE, OHIO—Franciscan University of Steubenville’s 71st commencement exercises sent forth 659 graduates from among the University’s 70-plus academic programs. 

    Under sunny skies with low humidity, there were plenty of high-wattage smiles from parents, grandparents, other siblings, and friends who filled Finnegan Fieldhouse and its courtyard for three events, held May 10 and 11.

    The spirit of the weekend was summed up by Communication Arts graduate Hunter McDonnell, from Wells, Maine, who said it brought him back to his freshman orientation where he didn’t know a soul, yet “within days I found myself with dozens of friends, a stronger faith, and an academic mindset invested in learning.”

    Before the May 10 Baccalaureate Mass, Bishop George V. Murry, SJ, of the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, received an honorary doctorate of humane letters for his contributions to Catholic education and for his efforts to combat racism and social injustice.

    In presenting the award, Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, president of Franciscan University, said that Bishop Murry, as one of America’s few African-American prelates, “knew full well just how much progress the Church still needed to make on issues of race” and praised him for dedicating much of his life “to forming hearts and minds in accord with truth.”

    Drawing from the Mass readings of the day—the Gospel of St. John, with its theme “that all may be one”—and his work as chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, Bishop Murry called racism both a plague and a scourge that has been in the U.S. for over 500 years.

    “There are many social problems your generation will have to face, including defending the life of the unborn, a diminishment of respect for life in general, poverty, homelessness, and attempts to reduce or eliminate religious freedom, to name a few. I want to encourage you to add to that list the eradication of racism by rejecting excessive diversity and striving for the unity that can only be found in Christ. 

    “In other words, my brothers and sisters, hold fast to Christ. And through his eyes see every man and woman as they are, created in the image and likeness of God.”

    Bishop Murry also took a moment to praise Franciscan University for having “such a strong and powerful reputation across our country. . . . You are truly committed to the Gospel and are missionary disciples. For that, I give thanks to God.”

    Separate commencement ceremonies were held on Saturday, May 11, for science and arts graduates.

    The speaker at both exercises was Curtis Martin, who graduated from Franciscan University in 1993 with a master of arts in theology. Martin received an honorary doctorate in Christian letters for his evangelistic outreach efforts as founder and CEO of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), one of the fastest-growing college apostolates in the Catholic Church. 

    “For many, many years, this University has been a fire starter, sending out great leaders into every area of the culture, to be the kind of people who can be world changers,” Martin said.

    He challenged the graduates to put to good use the spiritual formation they have received at Franciscan. “What St. Catherine of Siena said about anyone is particularly true of you: ‘If you are what you are meant to be, you would set the world on fire.’ And I believe God is calling you to be world changers . . . who can set the world on fire.”

    He urged students to carve out 10 -15 minutes daily for lectio divina (“divine reading”), the prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture. “It’s not important how long you read and pray but that you do it every day so it becomes a bedrock of your life.”

    Curtis asked the Class of 2019 to consider all the duties and tasks that will unfold for the remainder of their lives and to turn them over to the Blessed Virgin Mary,  “that she will go before you in each of the conversations and tasks in the rest of your life.” 

    Martin then led the audience in a Hail Mary and concluded by saying, “Now, go set the world on fire.”

    Father Jonathan St. André, TOR, ’96, a member of the Board of Trustees, spoke on behalf of Father Malachi van Tassell, TOR, chairman of the Board of Trustees and minister general of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

    After proclaiming Franciscan University’s mission summary, “to educate, to evangelize, and to send forth joyful disciples,” he reminded the graduates of their connection to another joyful disciple, St. Francis of Assisi, who 800 years ago was sent forth by the Holy Spirit during the Crusades to cross enemy lines to bring the Prince of Peace to the sultan, Malek al-Kamil. 

    “Graduates, may you, too, like St. Francis, be joyful disciples that go out into the world [and] may you be led by the Spirit of God,” said Father St. André. 

    One of many graduates ready to be sent forth is Susanna Wise ’19, a theology major who transferred to Franciscan from a Catholic college she said had lost its identity. “To see students alive for the faith has brought me such joy and set me right for the future,” she said. Wise will be working this summer as a Totos Tuus missionary in Charlotte, North Carolina.  

    For Sabrina Bogosian, an education major from San Diego, California, going forth means working in therapeutic recreation and eventually finding a job in special education. She said the highlight of her Franciscan education was her semester in the University’s study abroad program in Gaming, Austria, “a place where you are separated from noise and saturated in prayer.”

    This year’s top 10 home states for the Class of 2019 are Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, California, Virginia, New York, Illinois, West Virginia, Michigan, and Maryland. 

    The Class of 2019’s top 10 majors are theology, nursing, education, catechetics, psychology, communication arts, mathematical science, philosophy, English, and biology.

    All events were streamed online and can be seen at the Commencement 2019 Media Page.

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