In Brief

In Brief – Winter 2022

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In Brief

In Brief – Winter 2022

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

Winter 2022

In This Article

New Appointments

Archbishop Gintaras Grušas

Archbishop Gintaras Grušas

Archbishop Gintaras Grušas, 60, of Vilnius, Lithuania, was appointed president of the European Bishops’ Conference.

Born in Washington, D.C., Archbishop Grušas attended Franciscan University from 1989-1990 and studied theology while in the Priestly Discernment Program.

He was ordained a priest in Vilnius in 1994, then ordained a bishop in 2010 and served as head of Lithuania’s military ordinariate until this appointment as archbishop in 2013.

Pope Francis appointed Father Joseph Williams as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Bishop Williams attended Franciscan University from fall 1996 to spring 1998 as a member of the Priestly Discernment Program.

Ordained a priest in 2002, he has served in parish ministry and as the archdiocese’s vicar for Latino Ministry, and he is known for his work with the poor, undocumented immigrants, and young adults. Bishop Williams was ordained on January 25, 2022.

Bishop Joseph Williams

Bishop Joseph Williams


Franciscan Among Top 20 Midwest Universities

U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 Best Colleges Guide ranked Franciscan University 19th among all Midwest universities.

Among the leading factors for the top-tier ranking are an 87 percent first-year retention rate, a 77 percent six-year graduation rate, and a low 13-1 student/faculty ratio.

Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, president of Franciscan University, said these factors speak to Franciscan’s strong academics as well as its campus culture.

“Students come here and stay here to complete their education because of our academic rigor and vibrant faith life that infuses all aspects of our academics and student life programs.”

Of note, U.S. News ranked Franciscan 9th among Best Value Universities, which considers academic quality relative to the amount of financial aid a student receives that does not need to be paid back.


School of Spiritual Direction

In partnership with the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois, Franciscan University’s School of Spiritual Direction conducted its first-ever remote training session last September. The two-week intensive training continues for two more years in the diocese until participants are certified.

The goal is to “raise up an army of spiritual directors for the Diocese of Joliet” who can go out and “bring hearts closer to Christ and help them encounter the love of Christ,” said Robert Siemens ’94, director.

The School of Spiritual Direction now offers on-site training in conjunction with dioceses, in addition to continuing to offer its spiritual direction training at Franciscan University. More information is available at

Robert Siemens ’94 leads a spiritual direction workshop in Joliet, Illinois.

Robert Siemens ’94 leads a spiritual direction workshop in Joliet, Illinois.


Distinguished Alumni

Six Franciscan University alumni were honored at the annual Alumni Awards Banquet during the 2021 Homecoming Weekend. University President Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, ’89 said the honorees “give witness to the Lord’s goodness, give witness to his faithfulness, and give witness to a world where hope is possible.”

For Jim Campbell ’04, that witness means ensuring Ecuadorian children have an education. While accepting the Alumni Citizenship Award, he spoke about how “the Gospel came alive” during a 2007 mission trip to Ecuador, which led him to establish the Mission Santa Maria charity.

Brian McCarthy ’01 received the Professor Edward J. Kelly Award for business success and leadership. He’s chief revenue officer for Rubrik, Inc., and has served on the board for Vagabond Missions, mentored young alumni, and now serves on the University’s Board of Trustees.

The Bishop John King Mussio Award was given to Martha (McMenaman ’92) Reichert for her service to the Church. She’s a founding member and former president of Endow, an international apostolate for women, and currently works with several religious organizations.

Dr. Marlo Cavnar Vernon ’01 received the John J. Carrigg Award for her research and innovation in preventive health education, especially for mothers and children. She’s an assistant professor at Georgia Cancer Institute and board chairwoman at Hope House, Inc.

Shawn Salamida ’92 received the Father Dan Egan Award for leadership in mental health and child welfare. He’s president of Behavioral Health Services at Lakeview Center in Florida and was appointed to a state commission for mental health and substance abuse.

Edward Wamala ’17 received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award for his organization, Bugumiro Foundation Uganda. Co-founder Brendan Avila ’17 accepted on his behalf, saying, “What drew me into ministry with Eddie was that we’re going to welcome Christ into what we do.”

Front: Rebecca Rook ’01, Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, ’89, Dr. Marlo Cavnar Vernon ’01; Back Jim Campbell ’04, Shawn Salamida ’92, Brian McCarthy ’01, Tim Delaney ’99. Not pictured: Honorees Martha (McMenaman ’92) Reichert and Edward Wamala ’17.

Front: Rebecca Rook ’01, Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, ’89, Dr. Marlo Cavnar Vernon ’01; Back Jim Campbell ’04, Shawn Salamida ’92, Brian McCarthy ’01, Tim Delaney ’99. Not pictured: Honorees Martha (McMenaman ’92) Reichert and Edward Wamala ’17.


Two Professors Ordained to the Diaconate

The Franciscan University community joined with the Steubenville diocesan community November 20, 2021, in Finnegan Fieldhouse to witness Steubenville Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton ordain theology professor Dr. Bob Rice MA ’97 and business professor Dr. Michael Welker ’89 to the permanent diaconate.

During the ceremony, Rice and Welker stood before the bishop and affirmed their intention to serve the Church as deacons for the Diocese of Steubenville. Both men then knelt before Bishop Monforton and placed their hands between his hands.

Rice and Welker prostrated themselves before the altar during the Litany of the Saints, then knelt before Bishop Monforton, who, in silence, imposed hands upon each of them and invoked the Holy Spirit.

This sign, in conjunction with the prayer of ordination, constituted the essential rite of ordination to the diaconate.

In his homily, Bishop Monforton said, “As deacons, that is, as ministers of Jesus Christ, who came among his disciples as one who served, do the will of God the Father from the heart, with love and joy: Serve the people in love and joy as you would the Lord.”

Deacon Rice now serves at Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of Lourdes parishes in Wintersville, Ohio, and Deacon Welker at Holy Family Church in Steubenville.

Cynthia (Menk ’91) Welker, Deacon Michael Welker ’89, Steubenville Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton, Deacon Bob Rice MA ’97, and Jennifer (Denman ’97) Rice.

Cynthia (Menk ’91) Welker, Deacon Michael Welker ’89, Steubenville Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton, Deacon Bob Rice MA ’97, and Jennifer (Denman ’97) Rice.


Blessing From the Pope

Ashley Buck came into the Church as a freshman at the Easter Vigil Mass on campus. She spent last semester at Franciscan’s Austrian study-abroad program, and during her 10-day pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi, she got an unexpected surprise—a personal blessing from Pope Francis, who also blessed a rosary for Ashley’s grandmother.

“Becoming Catholic was one of the best decisions I have made. I have many people to thank, but ultimately it was Jesus who led me on a journey of growth, healing, love, and conversion,” she said.

Joined by Austrian Program Director Tom Wolter, Ashley Buck visits with Pope Francis.

Joined by Austrian Program Director Tom Wolter, Ashley Buck visits with Pope Francis.



After a one-year coronavirus-induced hiatus, Homecoming Weekend returned October 1-3, 2021, with a full slate of activities.

In addition to time-honored favorites such as the Kelly Roggensack Memorial Races, student talent show, and the St. Francis Festival, new activities included a shuttle service to the First Friday on Fourth celebration in downtown Steubenville, a student research symposium, and an online students and faculty brunch.

Fr. Jonathan St. André, TOR, blessing pets during homecoming.

Fr. Jonathan St. André, TOR, blessing pets during homecoming.


This Present Paradise: A Spiritual Journey With St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

Claire Dwyer ’97

Sophia Institute Press

Intertwining the life of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity with her own spiritual memoir, Claire Dwyer echoes the saint’s own words by emphasizing that the laity, not just priests and religious, are called to a life of holiness. The book shows that to truly acquire union with God, one should receive the Eucharist with true devotion and offer the inevitable sufferings of life in union with the sufferings of the Savior. After all, St. Elizabeth taught that when God seems silent, one must go to him in faith because “you are loved.”


The Adventures of Ozzie Nelson: The Life and Career of America’s Favorite Pop

John R. Holmes

McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers

In the only published full-length biography of Ozzie Nelson, English professor Dr. John Holmes draws attention to the forgotten impact “America’s Favorite Pop” had on early television pop culture. Not only did Nelson create the longestrunning TV sitcom in history, but he also formed and led one of the most successful big bands of the 1930s. Holmes illustrates how Nelson’s offscreen life as attorney, songwriter, college football star, and more, contradicts his on-screen character of a “bland” yet relatable father in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.


My First Church Tour

Zack Hinger ’10

Joyful Little Catholics LLC

In this board book, Zack Hinger uses graphics and brief descriptions to teach children about the different features in the interior of a church. Throughout the book, “Father John” at “the parish of Saint Andrew” explains important church items, such as the baptismal font, the confessional, the tabernacle, and statues. For each item, a “Try this” box at the bottom of the page prompts children on ways they can engage at Mass and make use of church accessories for prayer. It’s the perfect book to bring to Mass to keep your child occupied.


Glory of the Logos in the Flesh: St. John Paul’s Theology of the Body

Michael Maria Waldstein

Sapientia Press

From an overview of Humanae Vitae to an in depth “map” of Theology of the Body (TOB), Franciscan University theology professor Dr. Michael Waldstein guides the reader through St. John Paul II’s major points on TOB. Waldstein uses the ideas of early philosophers to debate the “breadth of reason.” He also details John Paul’s thesis of man and woman as an image of the Trinity, and he summarizes the pope’s main points on TOB, emphasizing that despite the consequences of sin, the body is still beautiful and good.


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