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New Franciscan University President Keeps Focus on Christ

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Kelly Conroy - published on 10/15/13

Franciscan University of Steubenville welcomes a sixth president, Reverend Sean Sheridan, who is eager to continue the university's work in following God's plan.
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At his inauguration as the sixth president of Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS), the Rev. Sean Sheridan, TOR, said that he believes they have “only seen a glimpse of what God has planned for Franciscan University and for each one of us.”

Fr. Sheridan recounted the history of Franciscan, and the heroic actions of the friars who established the university stating, “We stand on the shoulders of giants. But we have much more to do.”

Patrick Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society, attended the inauguration and said he was quite impressed with Fr. Sheridan’s repeated appeals to the university’s Franciscan charism and steadfast fidelity.

“The students and faculty clearly love Fr. Sheridan, and they applauded loudly when he was formally installed as president,” Reilly said. “But what most impressed me was Father’s immediate turn away from the crowd to point to the Franciscan crucifix above the stage, giving all honor to Christ.

“And the audience loved it, cheering and applauding even louder. I came away convinced that Franciscan University is a very special university, with the right leader at the right time.”

Fr. Sheridan has a special connection to FUS.  He visited the university when he was discerning a Franciscan vocation, and even wrote his thesis on the implementation of the mandatum at the school. He will teach undergraduate and graduate courses during his tenure as president, sharing that he “always enjoyed being in the classroom to engage in the sharing of ideas with students.”

The newly minted leader affirmed his commitment to lead Franciscan University to continued academic excellence and passionate Catholicism, both on campus and in the university’s mission outreach programs. He noted how the Rosary Circle—a large outdoor display consisting of a rosary fashioned from flowers and shrubs—is an obvious external expression of the university’s Catholic identity, but that this identity should go even deeper. Sheridan stated:

A key distinguishing factor that separates a Catholic university from other universities is its Catholic identity, which should pervade every aspect of the university’s operations. A visitor to a Catholic university should not have to look for indications that the university is Catholic. It must be evident that such a university is in name and in fact a Catholic university.

Fr. Sheridan added, “Being a Catholic university faithful to the magisterium means not only adhering to Church teaching, but in some circumstances rejecting the goals of society that are inconsistent with Church teaching.”

Future plans for Franciscan include hosting additional conferences similar to the recent symposium on Catholic Higher Education and the New Evangelization, fostering continued outreach like mission trips and pilgrimages while developing new methods of evangelization, bringing back the Franciscan University Press to publish scholarly works, and building a larger chapel to hold more students on campus.

The new president is relying on the help of heavenly aid: “I like to think that [St. Francis, the college’s patron] oversees all that I do and will make opportunities to intercede for us and to keep us from getting in the way of God’s plan for this university.”

Franciscan University of Steubenville is recommended in The Newman Guide for its strong Catholic identity.

Originally published by The Cardinal Newman Society's Catholic Education Daily on 14 October 2013.

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