Franciscan Life ONLINE

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Franciscan Life ONLINE

How Franciscan is providing online students with a transformative student life experience.

Autumn 2021 | Jessica Walker

In This Article

“A student’s a student, no matter how far.”

The Dr. Seuss-esque saying is Lindsey Schrock’s slogan. As director of Franciscan Life Online, Schrock works to provide the University’s 860 online students with the spiritual community and transformative Franciscan experience that’s on campus—in other words, an online student life.

And Franciscan online students can be far indeed. They call all 50 states and 20 countries home, from as near as Canada to as far away as Asia and Australia. Their ages are just as widespread. Some are young adults attending college for the first time. Others are in their 20s and 30s earning a master’s degree to advance their careers. Still others are grandparents with a love for lifelong learning.

“We can have anyone from 18 to 80, but what unites them is a desire to learn within a faithful Catholic community,” Schrock says. “A great majority of our online students are seeking something different. They want to feel fed from their online courses, both academically and spiritually.”

Franciscan Life Online’s pilot programs rolled out during the 2020–21 academic year. Students could join small group chats, enjoy livestreamed academic talks, and even participate in a personal vocation seminar. Franciscan employees also joined an “Online Student Prayer Team” to ensure all are being prayed for by name.

“What makes Franciscan University distinctive is that we lead students to conversion through an encounter with Jesus Christ and the Gospel,” says Father Jonathan St. André, TOR, vice president of Franciscan Life. “We now have an opportunity to provide students who might never come to campus with an authentic Franciscan formation.”

That, Schrock adds, also means helping students connect with one another.

“It’s not just about creating programs for the sake of programs but rather being intentional with what we create and how it serves the students and forms relationships,” she says.

Junior Sophia Lebano from eastern Pennsylvania started working toward her undergraduate degree online with Franciscan over a year ago. She enjoyed her classes but, once the Franciscan Life Online programs began, having those conversations made it feel like a true college experience, she says.

“The best part was the community and friendships I made online, even becoming good friends with people who are in Canada,” Lebano says. “The personal vocation seminar especially was a blessing.”

And ultimately, she decided to transition to on-campus classes this fall. To those learning online, she says, “Take advantage of the activities. You expand your network, meet people you wouldn’t have otherwise ever met, and grow in your faith.”

More Franciscan Life Online programs are in the works for this year, including lunchtime learning workshops, “Friarside Chats” with chaplains, and other faith and prayer events. But, with each new initiative, the goal remains the same: to welcome all Franciscan students, near or far, into the University community where they can grow closer to the Lord and each other.

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