In Brief

In Brief – Autumn 2021

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In Brief

In Brief – Autumn 2021

A brief look at recent news from the Franciscan University community.

Autumn 2021

In This Article

Summer Mission Trips

Perseverance. Trust. Planners of Franciscan University’s mission trips needed plenty of both as all 2021 spring break mission trips were moved to summer due to health protocols.

From mid-May to August, 150 students traveled to Arizona, Belize (two teams), the Bronx, Denver, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Los Angeles, New Mexico, North Dakota, San Diego, and Steubenville.

“We stayed faithful,” said Rhett Young, director of Missionary Outreach, “and once again, students told us how they saw Christ in the people they met.”

As one student put it: “Serving on the streets of L.A. showed me exactly where I needed to be—at Jesus’ feet.”

As a defense against future hurricanes, students on the Puerto Rico mission trip applied special paint and sealants to a rectory and church run by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement.

As a defense against future hurricanes, students on the Puerto Rico mission trip applied special paint and sealants to a rectory and church run by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement.

New Nigerian Bishop is Alumnus

Pope Francis appointed a Franciscan University graduate as the new bishop of the Diocese of Abakaliki, Nigeria.

Installed at an August 19 ceremony in Abakaliki, Bishop Peter Nworie Chukwu received his master’s in philosophy from Franciscan in 2002. He then went on to receive a doctorate in philosophy from Marquette University.

Bishop Chukwu was born in 1965, in Ededeagu Umuezekohohu, which is in southeast Nigeria. He was ordained a priest in 1993.

Bishop Peter Nworie Chukwu ’02

Bishop Peter Nworie Chukwu ’02

Catechetical Milestones

Franciscan’s Catechetical Institute has now established partnerships with over 90 dioceses, impacting over 17,000 Church ministers in 35 countries.

The milestones come on the fourth anniversary of the CI, which seeks to “serve those who serve others”—priests, catechists, parents, and others—with conferences and especially online training in 10 ministry areas including youth and young adults, Hispanic ministry, RCIA, and parenting and forming faith at home.

Coming in 2022 are tracks in Eucharistic Renewal, Marriage Renewal, Special Needs, Diocesan Leadership, and Music Ministry.

Tracks are taught by Franciscan University faculty, augmented by catechetics experts from around the world. Over 150 ministry formation workshops are on the CI online platform.

“In an increasingly secularized culture, we reach into parishes, schools, and families to help strengthen Catholic culture and the handing on of the treasures of the faith,” said Dr. Petroc Willey, director of the Catechetical Institute. Visit the CI at



Criminal Justice Program

Franciscan University’s new Criminal Justice Program received a $1 million donation from a member of the Board of Trustees.

The funds will be earmarked for the development of seven new courses including Homeland Security and Emergency Response; Cyber Crime; Financial Crime; Police Tactics and Use of Force; and Moral and Ethical Challenges for Justice Professionals.

A Center for Criminal Justice, Law, and Ethics, and a bi-annual journal, Natural Law and Justice, will also be supported by the donation.

Unique among criminal justice programs, Franciscan’s program incorporates a Catholic curriculum grounded in Judeo-Christian principles that examines the interactions between human law and higher laws from God.


Oath of Fidelity

Standing before Steubenville Bishop Jeffrey Monforton, 15 Franciscan University personnel took the Oath of Fidelity at the New Student Orientation Mass. Individually, they pledged in words and actions to “always preserve communion with the Catholic Church.”

This year’s oath takers included TOR friars, a religious sister, administrator, faculty, and numerous staff who work in student life and pastoral care.

Sr. Chiara JoanRiffon, TOR, hall chaplain; Fr. Stanley Holland, TOR ’82, pastoral associate; and Fr. James Angert, TOR, pastoral associate, take the Oath of Fidelity.

Sr. Chiara JoanRiffon, TOR, hall chaplain; Fr. Stanley Holland, TOR ’82, pastoral associate; and Fr. James Angert, TOR, pastoral associate, take the Oath of Fidelity.


A priest in red priestly robes holds up the Eucharist in Christ the King Chapel

Fr. Joseph Marie Krilich, TOR ’13

Brother Joseph Marie Krilich, TOR, a member of the Franciscan Friars, TOR, Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, was ordained to the priesthood by Steubenville Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton on May 22 at Franciscan University.

TOR ordination ceremonies are typically held at the motherhouse in Loretto, Pennsylvania. Due to Father Krilich’s close connections to Franciscan University, however, his ordination took place where he graduated in 2013 with a bachelor of science in chemistry and a minor in biology.

“Franciscan played a significant role in my discernment journey,” he said. “I feel honored to have my ordination take place where, in some respects, my intentional discernment journey began.”

During his time at Franciscan University, Father Krilich was a member of Disciples of the Word Household, on the men’s soccer team, and participated in multiple mission trips.

Father Krilich grew up in Northwest Indiana with his parents and seven sisters—six older and one younger—all of whom graduated from Franciscan.

This marked the first time since the 1996 ceremony for Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, and Father Stanley Holland, TOR, that a priestly ordination Mass was held at Franciscan University.

Father Krilich is assigned to Sacred Heart Friary at Saint Francis University where he serves in campus ministry and teaches religious studies.


Truth of Love Conference

Earlier this summer, Franciscan University’s Theology Department and the Veritas Amoris Project co-sponsored a three-day conference on campus—The Truth of Love: A Paradigm Shift for Moral Theology.

A keynote speaker was Monsignor Livio Melina, former director of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, who spoke via livestream from Rome on “The Truth of Human Action.”

Other talks centered on how to live the moral life and themes related to St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.



Our Newest Faculty

Dr. Sabrina Bierstetel

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Dcn. Dr. Stephen T. Frezza

Professor of Software Engineering

Dr. Juan Jauregui

Associate Professor of Economics

Dr. Robert McNamara

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Fr. Luke Robertson, TOR

Instructor of Social Work and Field Coordinator

Dr. Deborah Savage

Visiting Professor of Theology

Teaching in Iraq

Franciscan University’s relationship with the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, Iraq, continues to grow.

Five Franciscan University students, including two graduates of the Class of 2021, are now in Erbil teaching theology, language, literature, religion, and other subjects at a Catholic elementary and middle school, and at the Chesterton Academy of St. Thomas the Apostle.

This summer, Alex McKenna, a political science and humanities and Catholic culture major, spent six weeks in Iraq teaching religion to grade school students.

In 2019, Franciscan University President Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, and Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda, CSsR, signed an agreement to jointly develop cultural and educational exchanges.

If you are interested in teaching in the Archdiocese of Erbil, Iraq, contact Dr. Tiffany Boury, coordinator of Global Academic Partnerships, at [email protected].

Franciscan graduates teaching in Erbil are William Coup, Mary Rooney, Rebekah Nevarez, Bianca De Leon and Aaron Lanier.

Franciscan graduates teaching in Erbil are William Coup, Mary Rooney, Rebekah Nevarez, Bianca De Leon and Aaron Lanier.


Franciscan Saints

St. John Jones (c. 1530 – 1598) and St. John Wall (1620 – 1679)

Decades may have separated St. John Jones and St. John Wall, but they were united in one desire: to give their lives to evangelize England.

John Jones grew up in a faithful Catholic family in Wales. Historical accounts conflict on when and how he joined the Franciscans, but he did join the order and lived abroad in France and Rome. In the 1590s, he requested to return home and minister to persecuted Catholics under Queen Elizabeth I’s reign. With Pope Clement VIII’s blessing, John Jones cared for people throughout the English countryside, using various aliases as he did.

In 1596, the cruel “priest catcher” Richard Topcliffe accused John Jones of saying Mass for some Catholics at their home—even though the Catholics were in prison at the time. Nevertheless, John Jones was tortured and imprisoned.

On July 12, 1598, he was taken to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, but the hangman forgot his rope. During the delay, John Jones is said to have prayed and preached to the crowd with his final breaths.

Born in England in 1620, John Wall likewise came from a Catholic family. He studied at the English College in Douai, France, before being ordained and sent on mission. Upon returning to France, he joined the Order of Friars Minor and took the religious name Joachim of St. Anne. In 1656, he went back to England and secretly ministered in Worcestershire for over two decades until his arrest in 1678. Although found innocent of an alleged treason plot, John Wall was convicted for his priesthood and refusal to renounce his faith. He was hanged, drawn, and quartered on August 22, 1679.

St. John Jones and St. John Wall were canonized in 1970 as the two Franciscans numbered among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. They share a feast day on July 12.



Living Metanoia: Finding Freedom and Fulfillment in Christ

Father Dave Pivonka, TOR ’89


In Living Metanoia, Father Pivonka explains that metanoia is not a one-time event but a process. “As Christians, we are called to live a life of constant metanoia, of ongoing conversion, of continually turning away from things of the world and the flesh and turning to God,” he writes. Living Metanoia is laced with poignant stories from pilgrimages Father Dave has led and colorful childhood tales. These encounters become gateways to profound teachings on sin and mercy, power over the evil one, and other themes that encompass ongoing conversion.


Ten Minutes With Jesus

Chris ’10 and Rebecca (Patten ‘10) Mann

(SOS Publishing)

Designed for Advent, Ten Minutes With Jesus is a simple way to help children see faith as more than a list of rules and memorized prayers. Using everyday objects and arts and crafts, the authors devised simple activities based on the daily Mass readings to illustrate aspects of God’s love preparing for Christmas. With parents leading the way, the goal is to build a sense of wonder in children of the glory of God in daily life and to support family prayer with personal prayer.



Understanding Divine Mercy

Father Chris Alar, MIC

(Marian Press)

Why does God allow suffering? Who is St. Faustina? Does Divine Mercy differ from other forms of God’s mercy? Father Alar, who took philosophy classes for a year at Franciscan University, summarizes the entire Divine Mercy message and devotion in one easy-to-read book. He also shares new details on the life of St. Faustina and how the Marians of the Immaculate Conception became the keepers of the Divine Mercy message. In these pages, readers will come to understand the meaning of suffering—and God’s endless mercy—on a whole new level.


When the Son Frees You

A.J. Benjamin

(TAN Books)

This book follows one man’s journey from same-sex attraction as a teenager with wounded masculinity to healing and ultimately marriage and family. Written by a Franciscan University alumnus, A.J. tells of his life-changing encounter with the Mother of Jesus, which led him to embrace the teachings of the Catholic Church, the sacraments, and Jesus, the man on the cross. The book is filled with compassion for people who struggle with same-sex attraction. With the increasing normalization of homosexuality in society, this book offers true hope for men who struggle with same-sex attraction.


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