In Brief

In Brief – Autumn 2022

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In Brief

In Brief – Autumn 2022

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

Autumn 2022

In This Article

Visit to India

Fr. Dave Pivonka,TOR, president, Franciscan University, outside the TOR provincial house in Bengaluru, India.

Fr. Shibin Kurian,TOR, director of Formation, St. Louis Province, Bangalore, India; Fr. Amando Trujillo Cano,TOR, minister general,TOR Franciscans; Fr.Thomas Palakudiyil,TOR, minister provincial, St. Louis Province, Bangalore, India; and Fr. Dave Pivonka,TOR, president, Franciscan University, outside the TOR provincial house in Bengaluru, India.

New, international educational opportunities are being forged with colleges in India. This summer, delegates from Franciscan University traveled to India to visit Rajagiri College of Social Sciences and Kristu Jayanti College—two colleges with which Franciscan signed Memorandums of Understanding in May.

The Franciscan delegation included President Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Daniel Kempton, and Coordinator of Global Academic Partnerships Dr. Tiffany Boury. They toured each campus and met with administrators, professors, and students. They also visited historic and cultural sites, as well as a Carmelite seminary. Both colleges were established by the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, the first indigenous religious congregation for men in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India.

“They showed us great hospitality and were such witnesses of deep faith,” Boury said. The new partnerships will create pathways for collaborative academic and cultural opportunities. “There is no greater way to understand our faith, ourselves, and the world than to travel to meet others and be in community with them,” Boury said. “St. Francis knew this, and Franciscan University continues to invest in this mission.”


Our Newest Faculty

This fall semester, Franciscan University welcomed three new faculty members: Dr. Alex Burns, visiting assistant professor of history; Dr. Matthew Shea, assistant professor of philosophy; and Dr. Benjamin Reinhard, associate professor of English.


Free Online Courses

Woman on laptop

In June, Franciscan University launched the first of its new, free online courses. These non-credit classes feature video lectures from University professors and other experts to help participants grow intellectually and spiritually.

Each course includes between four to six sessions with optional reflections and reading assignments, as well as a final quiz. Participants can also receive a statement of completion.

The first course available now is “The Theology of Pilgrimage” with President Father Dave Pivonka, TOR. More than 1,000 people signed up within the first week after its launch. New courses will be added periodically on topics such as literature, science, and theology.

Learn more at


Chesterton Schools Partnership

Dale Ahlquist, president of the Chesterton Schools Network, and University President Father Dave Pivonka,TOR, sign the partnership agreement on April 8.

Dale Ahlquist, president of the Chesterton Schools Network, and University President Father Dave Pivonka,TOR, sign the partnership agreement on April 8.

Chesterton Academy students now have easier, more affordable access to a Franciscan University education. Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, president of Franciscan University, and Dale Ahlquist, president of the Chesterton Schools Network and Society of G.K. Chesterton, signed the agreement making this possible on April 8.

The Franciscan Advantage program, the first of its kind for both institutions, enables Chesterton high school students to enroll concurrently in designated Franciscan University and Chesterton Schools Network partnership courses during their junior and senior years. They will earn college credit from Franciscan upon successful completion of college-level exams. College credit earned may also be transferred to other institutions.

“Concurrent enrollment makes college more affordable and possible for many students, and Franciscan’s outstanding classes fit well within authentically Catholic schools,” said Tom Costello, program manager for Franciscan Advantage. In the program’s first year, Chesterton students concurrently enrolled in designated Franciscan philosophy and theology courses will be eligible to earn up to 12 college credit hours. The agreement could expand to 36 credit hours across additional disciplines in the future. All 50 member schools in the worldwide Chesterton Schools Network are eligible to participate.

Learn more at


‘‘Hand the Lord that fear, that uncertainty, that instability, those plans we so desperately want to control and let him . . . show us how much he’s willing to show up for us. ’’


Oath of Fidelity

At a Mass on August 26 during new student orientation, 11 faculty, staff , and pastoral personnel of Franciscan University took the Oath of Fidelity before Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of Steubenville. They were also joined this year by five graduate assistants for Evangelization. Individually, each promised, in both their words and actions, to “always preserve communion with the Catholic Church.”


Science News

Peter with his Wind Tunnel

Peter Assaf with the wind tunnel he built.

Over the summer, engineering student Peter Assaf started designing and building a 13-foot-long wind tunnel using Plexiglass shields left over from the pandemic. Once completed, the wind tunnel will be used in the Engineering Department, particularly for fluid mechanics classes to simulate an object moving through air. Assaf is continuing his aerospace engineering studies this fall at the University of Notre Dame as part of Franciscan’s Dual Degree Program, but all his work creating the wind tunnel will greatly benefit future Franciscan engineering students.

Psychology professor Dr. Stephen Sammut recently published a new study on the relationship between pornography addiction and mental health. Drawing from a survey of more than a thousand University students, he found faith, morals, and personal motivation helped aid in addiction recovery. Sammut’s research was featured in Forbes, as well as numerous other publications.

Chemistry professor Dr. James Vranish was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation that enabled him and student Benedict Crowley to conduct research with Dr. Holly Goodson at the University of Notre Dame this past summer. Their research studies the regulation, function, and evolution of proteins that function at the tips of micro-tubule structures inside of cells; these structures are involved in maintaining cellular shape and movement, cell replication, and transport functions. This research collaboration will continue at Franciscan over the next year, and the findings have the potential to further scientists’ understanding of diseases including cancer and Alzheimer’s.

student research

Benedict Crowley conducts research at Notre Dame.


Franciscan Saint – St. Marguerite Bays (1815-1879)

Marguerite Bays was a lay seamstress whose simplicity paved her way toward sanctity. Born to Swiss farmers in 1815, Marguerite was the second of seven children. She apprenticed as a seamstress as a teenager and practiced the trade throughout her life. As her faith grew, she also taught students the catechism and visited the poor, sick, and dying—or, as she called them, “God’s favorites.” Many saw Marguerite as a deeply holy woman and assumed she would join a convent. But she felt called to remain at home to care for her family and instead joined the Secular Order Franciscans. Marguerite’s family would indeed come to rely on her. Her older brother’s wife ridiculed her piety relentlessly; however, through Marguerite’s prayer and patience, her sister-in-law softened—so much so that on her death bed, she only asked for Marguerite. This compassionate, young woman also cared for her sister after a broken marriage, assisted a brother following his prison sentence, and helped raise a nephew born out of wedlock. In her 30s, Marguerite developed intestinal cancer. She turned to Our Lady, asking Mary to intercede for her and exchange her current suffering for one that shared with Christ’s suffering. Marguerite was miraculously cured on December 8, 1854—the very day Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Afterward, she received the stigmata and experienced mystical pain on Fridays. She died on a Friday afternoon on June 27, 1879. Due to Marguerite’s great devotion to Jesus, Mary, and those around her, she was beatified in 1995. Pope Francis canonized her in 2019, saying, “She speaks to us of the power of simple prayer, enduring patience, and silent self-giving. That is how the Lord made the splendor of Easter radiate in her life, in her humbleness.”

St. Marguerite’s feast day is June 27.



Creation A Catholic's Guide to God and the Universe

Creation: A Catholic’s Guide to God and the Universe

Christopher Baglow ’90

Ave Maria Press

Are faith and science compatible? Christopher Baglow, director of the Science and Religion Initiative in the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame, explores how the Christian doctrine of creation and scientific knowledge complement each other. He draws from Scripture and Tradition—while also referencing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, and G.K. Chesterton—to show how creation is not a singular event but a continual outpouring from God the Creator. The result is an engaging guide for any curious Catholic.


The Church and the age of reformations

The Church and the Age of Reformations (1350–1650)

Joseph Stuart ’01 and Barbara Stuart

Ave Maria Press

Historian Joseph Stuart and theologian Barbara Stuart delve into a turbulent historical period to shed light on the deeper context surrounding Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses and the Protestant Reformation. They show how Catholic Church reform began long before Luther and extended after the Council of Trent. Their examination illustrates the true virtues of reform—charity, unity, patience, and tradition—and the saints of the era including St. Teresa of Avila, St. Philip Neri, and St. Francis de Sales who embodied them.


A Catholic Pilgrimage through American History

A Catholic Pilgrimage Through American History: People and Places That Shaped the Church in the United States

Kevin Schmiesing ’90

Ave Maria Press

Kevin Schmiesing, director of Research at the Freedom and Virtue Institute, takes readers on a road trip to more than two dozen shrines and sites across America, from the first Catholic parish in Florida to Franciscan missions in California to the frigid wilds of Alaska. Along the way, he highlights the roles Catholics have played during key moments, both of triumph and tragedy, throughout the nation’s history. Readers will discover a deeper appreciation for America’s Catholic heritage and the men and women who shaped it.


The Night the Saints Saved Christmas

The Night the Saints Saved Christmas

Gracie (Williams ’17) Jagla Illustrated by Michael Corsini

OSV Kids

Oh, no! It’s Christmas Eve, and St. Nick has a cold. How will all the presents get to children around the world by morning? In this picture book, author Gracie Jagla crafts a charming tale of the saints coming together to fill in for St. Nick and deliver gifts to their homelands. Kids will learn more about the saints in heaven who help us and be reminded of how God’s love is the true gift of Christmas.

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