Franciscan Pilgrims' Progress

by Daniel Conway | Jun 12, 2015
Pilgrims - Susan Jennifer Ellen

Five days into our time in Assisi, the pilgrims from Marian University have all experienced in new ways what our Franciscan sponsorship values mean—for us as individuals and for the Marian community.

Prayer has been a constant for us. Daily Eucharist—whether in small chapels, large basilicas or our hotel--has become the centering experience of our journey. More than half of us are not Catholic, but this most significant of all Catholic rituals has embraced all and engaged us in the formation of a community of individuals renewed in our commitment to the mission of Marian University—to be a great Catholic university dedicated to excellent teaching and learning in the Franciscan and liberal arts tradition.

Reverence for the dignity of every individual stands out as the first, and perhaps most treasured, Franciscan value. Meeting Francis and Clare as we have done—intimately and in amazing detail—has shown us how different they were from each other and from us. But we have also witnessed how much they cared for each other and for others, especially the poor and the sick, the outcast and the vulnerable. Through their eyes we see that every man and woman is made in God’s image, a wonder to behold, no matter how different from us. Marian’s commitment to serve a diverse student body has been reaffirmed as an incredibly important feature of who we are and what we stand for as a Catholic Franciscan community.

Pilgrims at Porziuncola BReconciliation takes on new meaning when seen through the eyes of Francis and Clare. Their calling from God required a near-total break from their families and their culture. Such a radical separation sadly resulted in bitterness and anger on the part of some parents, family members and friends. Certainly it was painful for all concerned to “let go” and embrace new ways of living, strained relationships and an uncertain future. But the story does not end with brokenness. It ends with reconciliation and hope. As Franciscans have experienced throughout their history, what has been severed, God can heal— if we allow him. So, we pilgrims ask ourselves, “How can the brokenness in our personal lives, in the university community and in our world can be mended? And what roles are each of us called to play in the work of reconciliation?

Francis and Clare were born into an unjust and warring world not unlike our own. Their commitment to peace and justice made them countercultural figures. Clare saved the town of Assisi and held the Saracen invaders at bay by confronting them with the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ. Francis confronted the Sultan in the Holy Land and emerged unharmed because his enemy recognized him as a holy man, a man of peace. The witness of these great saints speaks to us today. Justice is more than an abstraction. Peace is possible. Everything that we teach at Marian must convey this message. Transformational leaders are women and men of character who stand for something more than the status quo. True leaders inspire others to build a better world, one that is just, one in which peace can flourish.

And, finally, we pilgrims see responsible stewardship with new eyes. Certainly we are called to conserve and to recycle, to be prudent and generous, to take care of and share all God’s gifts. But why? Because everything that God has made is good—a gift to be treasured, we have been called to nurture, cultivate and share the bounteous gifts of our Creator. We are stewards, co-creators—charged with an awesome responsibility to “give back to God with increase.”

How are we stewards?

  • Mark Apple stewards the messages we send, sharing with others the good news about Marian University.
  • David Haire holds in trust our mission and identity as Catholic and Franciscan.
  • Sr. Jean Hegelskamp prepares leaders to be stewards of the schools where young minds and hearts are formed.
  • Mark Henninger builds character in the more than 100 men entrusted to his care, teaching them to be student athletes who are winners because they truly are good sportsmen.
  • Russ Kershaw shows students how to learn by doing so they become wise and successful women and men of business.
  • Jennifer Plumlee guides students, helping them succeed in all they do personally and professionally.
  • Ruth Rodgers shares her many gifts to create a mature, caring and disciplined approach to student affairs.
  • Jennifer Waning invites talented men and women from southwest Ohio to come to Marian where their gifts can be developed carefully and shared gratefully.
  • Ellen Whitt nurtures relationships with business, civic and non profit organizations in order to help Marian students learn experientially and develop marketable skills now and in the future.
  • PJ Woolston invites parents and students to “come and see” what a Marian University education can mean for them so that we can achieve our aggressive enrollment goals.
  • Dan Conway stewards the Vision and Priorities of Marian University helping us to be accountable for successfully implementing the Power Goals that are the engines driving our strategic plan.

 But responsible stewardship is not restricted to these 11 pilgrims and the spouses who have joined us. All trustees, faculty and staff at Marian University are called to be servant leaders in the Franciscan and liberal arts tradition. All are invited to let the inspiration of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi guide them in carrying out the great work first begun here by the Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, Indiana, whose “courage to venture” lives on in this great Catholic university.

News Media Contact

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