STEUBENVILLE, OHIO—The late Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville from 1976-2000, was recognized March 3 with the Poverello Medal—the University’s highest non-academic award.
The medal, which bears an image of St. Francis giving alms to the poor, was presented to Father Richard Davis, TOR, minister provincial of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and chairman of the Franciscan University Board of Trustees, by Franciscan University President Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR.
The setting for the ceremony was Mission Immersion Day, at which nearly 300 Franciscan students received training for spring break mission trips to 13 locations across the Western Hemisphere.
Though few students in the audience ever met him, “Father Mike is likely one of the reasons you are here today,” said Father Sheridan, who went on to recount many of Father Scanlan’s accomplishments as president that made Franciscan University what it is today.
The first challenge he faced as president in 1974, Father Sheridan said, was to rescue the then College of Steubenville from possible closure. “While some in his position might have tackled financial issues first, Father Mike felt called to first lead a spiritual renewal that enthroned Jesus Christ as the center of campus life,” said Father Sheridan. “We owe much of what Franciscan University is today to Father Mike’s yes to God.
From the award citation, Father Sheridan read, “Few Catholics in the latter half of the 20th century loomed quite so large as Father Mike. He was a scholar, a lawyer, a soldier, a civil rights activist, a pro-life leader, an author, a speaker, and a priest. Above all, he was a humble follower of Jesus and an imitator of Il Poverello, the little poor man of Assisi from whom his order, the Franciscans, takes its name.”
Accepting the award in Father Scanlan’s memory, Father Davis applauded the students about to leave on mission trips. “To bring Christ to the world,” was central to Father Scanlan’s evangelistic vision for Franciscan University, he said.
While “proclaiming nothing” definitive, Father Davis, who was with Father Scanlan during his final hours of life said, “As Father Michael closed his eyes on this world and opened them on the next, he received, I am quite certain, a reward far more prestigious than the Poverello Award—great as it is—but the reward of eternal life.”
Prior to the award presentation, the audience watched A Father to Us All, a video on the life of Father Scanlan, who died on January 7, 2017, after an extended illness.
Cast in steel to signify simplicity and poverty, The Poverello Medal acknowledges organizations and individuals who follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, Il Poverello (“the little poor man”), through strong Christian character, practical charity, and service to the poor. It was first presented in 1949 to the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and most recently in 2016 to Aid to the Church in Need.