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O Sacrament Most Holy!

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Cover Story

O Sacrament Most Holy!

The Franciscan community reflects on the power of the Eucharist.

Summer 2024 | Lisa Ferguson

In This Article

Twenty-six years ago, we brought a job candidate to Franciscan University for final interviews. Tom Sofio’s visit began on the feast of St. Francis, so we attended the all-campus Mass in Finnegan Fieldhouse. As we chatted afterward, he said, “You don’t usually have that many people at a daily Mass, do you?”

I acknowledged that, as the major feast of the Franciscan calendar, it had drawn more attendees than most Masses, adding, “But our daily Masses are very well attended.”

I could tell Tom didn’t quite believe me, but I didn’t press the point. The next day, as we arrived for the 12:05 p.m. Mass in Christ the King Chapel, he opened the foyer door for me and started to follow me in. He stopped dead when he saw the filled pews and blurted out, “Geez! You were right!”

Many campus visitors feel a similar shock at seeing hundreds of students, faculty, and staff at a weekday Mass. I still feel it myself on rare occasions when I drag myself to a 6:30 a.m. Mass and find a full chapel. Or open the heavy wooden Portiuncula Chapel door on a Saturday and see the tiny space packed with Baron athletes kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament.

The Chapel Office reports an astounding 7,544 people on average—most of them students—attend Mass in Christ the King Chapel every week. Each semester, 400 members of our campus community sign up for 24/7 eucharistic adoration in the Port, covering over 5,300 hours.

But the stats don’t begin to tell the story.

Countless minds, souls, and lives have been transformed and healed because Jesus Christ gives himself to us in the Eucharist at every Mass. Because he remains hidden in tabernacles in every residence hall, offering comfort and aid to all who seek his Real Presence. And because Jesus looks on us with love from the monstrance in the Port, Holy Hours, Festivals of Praise, and eucharistic processions.

No matter the number of people in any chapel at any given hour, Jesus comes to each person individually. And each of us has a story to tell about that mysterious encounter with our Eucharistic Lord. Here are a few from our Franciscan University community. In this time of Eucharistic Revival, may they cause us to reflect with thankful hearts on our own stories—and inspire us to seek Jesus more in the Sacrament Most Holy.

“The Lord Healed Me”

In the middle of my first semester on campus as a freshman, I stepped off the sidewalk on the way to class and twisted my ankle. I was still able to walk up the hill to Egan Hall, but by the end of that three-hour evening class, my ankle had swelled up so greatly that I could no longer walk on it. My buddy Brian Kelsch ’07 gave me a ride on his back all the way to Tommy More.

The next morning, since I couldn’t go to class, I hopped across the hall to the dorm chapel. I prayed there alone with the Lord for an hour or more. When I was finished, I was able to walk out of the chapel. My ankle no longer hurt, the swelling was gone, and I resumed my life.

Two years later as a junior, I sprained my ankle again, in much the same way, and that injury took months to recover. I now know the Lord healed me that first semester, and I cherish all the hours I spent with God in the dorm chapel that year.

–Allison (LeChevallier ’07) Auth, Catechetics


“He Remains”

When I graduated from Franciscan, I was terrified. I’d grown complacent in the University’s vibrant, faith-filled culture, and the “real world” turned out to be as scary and painfully lonely as I’d feared.

Missing my friends and the campus I had called home, I clung to frequent Mass and adoration for comfort. For the first time, I fell deeply in love with Jesus personally.

My loneliness ultimately saved me by driving me to a habit of seeking the Eucharist in a way I never knew before. As much as I missed the campus and community, it took me leaving Steubenville to fully realize what I needed most was Christ himself. When everything else goes away, he remains.

As a typical 20-something, I don’t know exactly where my life is headed. I don’t know what my ultimate career will be, or if I will ever live in Steubenville again and enjoy the Port as my local adoration chapel. Sometimes that uncertainty can hurt. But when I kneel down in front of the Real Presence, I know Jesus is not only leading me to a destination he is preparing—I know I’m already home.

–Victoria Snell ’18, Mathematics


“A Real Love”

I came to personally know every moment at Franciscan as inevitably formative through experiences at Festivals of Praise, weekly Port Holy Hours, hall Masses, and Monday night dorm commitments as a sister in Crown of Creation Household. I was struck by the devotion and commitment of each individual in the collective community and was definitely formed and motivated in my own growth and devotion by these active witnesses every day.

One form of these encounters, which is special to me, is the love I saw from so many of our eucharistic ministers. I watched friends, like Jill or Elizabeth, as well as strangers physically carry Christ to others. I saw on their faces a real love that saw the persons and the Person in the sacred moments before them.

Their reverence and passion for Christ, his beloveds, and bringing the two to each other brought me to tears and revealed to me, with a new, revitalizing, and impactful depth, the weight and grandeur of his Presence in the Eucharist, the goodness of the human person, man’s fulfillment in this sacrament, and the reality and intensity of Christ’s desire for complete intimacy with each of his greatest loves. This will stay with me forever.

–Alyssa Mondarez ’23, Clinical Psychology

God’s Loving Home

This is a blessing to share how we, alumni and current students, use the campus grounds as God’s loving home. I was born in Steubenville and never developed a daily communication with the Eucharist until I came to the University.

When I converted from Methodist to Catholic, I first found the 24/7 eucharistic adoration at the Port. Since then, I often walk the grounds to see the beauty and communicate by prayer to our Holy Father in each nook and cranny of our beloved campus. I pray as I walk the campus and stop in at Christ the King Chapel to attend Mass or just feel the divine.

–Florence James ’16, Theology/Writing


“My Refuge and Strength”

The Eucharist has always been my refuge and strength, especially during my college career. I chose to go to Franciscan because I knew I could first and foremost prioritize the Eucharist as the center of each day.

Whether it was the 6:30 a.m. or 4:45 p.m. Mass, the Eucharist was always the highlight. As much as my schedule allowed, when 3:00 p.m. hit, I went to the Port to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Finally, living on the top floor of Louis/Liz, I was steps away from the chapel and had the privilege of starting and ending my day there, and all the moments in between. If I didn’t have as much access to the Eucharist as I did at Franciscan, I don’t know how I would have made it through tough exams, busy class schedules, and moments of homesickness.

–Dominica Bean ’20, Theology


“A Patch of Floor”

In my time at Franciscan, Christ the King Chapel was the only place for prayer in front of a tabernacle. Each semester, I created a daily/weekly schedule (with pencil and paper) of class times, meals, study, intramural sports, and at least one Mass in addition to Sunday. I asked myself, “When are you going to pray?”

I learned my freshman year that the chapel would be packed. There I was in college, and I had to weave my way through the chapel to find an open spot to pray! A patch of floor, a piece of wall! It was a good crazy.

Quiet adoration in front of the Lord helped me. At times, the hour flew by; it could be rocky as well. He called me back in the midst of my failings and only asked me for fidelity and time. The relationship with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament kept me grounded and gave me the strength I needed.

–Father Eric Weldon ’89, History

“Welcome Home”

I have received such beautiful moments of grace and healing through the Eucharist—particularly while visiting campus—it is hard to simply name one, but one experience at the all-campus Behold Retreat in February 2024 stands out.

During eucharistic adoration Friday night, I was struggling deeply with this idea of not knowing my earthly father, who died when I was 9. I was overcome with a wave of sadness for the relationship I never had with him and not seemingly able to access my spiritual Father’s love to fill that void.

I found myself blaming alumnus Jake Khym ’01’s pretty amazing talk that day for bringing up these deep-rooted emotions. That is, until I allowed Jesus to speak to me from the Eucharist in the monstrance.

I asked for words that were not my own, but from him: “What do you want to say to me, Lord?” I heard as clear as day, “Welcome home.” At that moment, by the grace of God, I experienced a divine revelation of my spiritual family and their loving embrace. I felt an overwhelming sense of love and peace. That moment marked the start of my new journey to know the Father and his love for me more intimately. Thank you, Jesus.

–Laura Werner, Outreach Liaison, Franciscan Center for Evangelization and Renewal


Hymns of Adoration

I had the honor of playing for the Festivals of Praise (FOP) during my time at Franciscan alongside some incredibly talented and holy musicians. The FOP experience captured both the highest expressions of passionate praise and deep moments of reverence in silence, which paved a path to bring that type of encounter of God into the world. Since graduating, my wife, Stephanie (Kerchinski ’07), and I have been leading worship in the context of eucharistic adoration on the East Coast for many diocesan retreats, conferences, large rallies, parish events, and various ministries.

We now witness the transformative eucharistic power of Christ’s love, especially in our Diocese of Rockville Centre, which has brought forth numerous vocations, new conversions, and people returning to the faith. Along with our fellow alumna, Katie (Bumstead ’07) Keogler, we recorded a live album titled Hymns of Adoration, featuring original music and traditional hymns (available on YouTube and all streaming platforms).

–Anthony Muhs ’07, Catechetics/Theology


“Eucharistic Amazement”

The late Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, had a gift for stirring up love and fervor during the Mass. I remember several times when, after Communion, he would exhort us to spend a few silent moments in “eucharistic amazement.” What I remember most was his contagious joy and how I longed to love Jesus as he did. This “amazement” carried over to time spent in adoration and praise before the Blessed Sacrament. Those Masses were so formative for me, and they’ve stayed with me all these years.

–Sister Mary Gemma Harris, TOR ’10, English/Communications

My First Eucharistic Experience

I came into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 2000 when I was 30 years old. I was received into the Church by Bishop Robert Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg at the Cathedral of St. Jude in St. Petersburg, Florida. My wife and I were regular parishioners at St. Jude then and had been so since 1998 when we first moved to that area. It was a good experience and, after starting RCIA in 1999, I came into full communion with the Church just under a year later. In those early days, I was very enthusiastic about my faith, and it led to some very beautiful experiences. However, one really stood out to me.

It was during a normal Sunday Mass in 2001, and Father DeJulio, the celebrant, was beginning to consecrate the Body and Blood. As Father was saying the words of consecration and lifting up the host, I saw a pillar of fire over the altar descending upon the Eucharist as it was consecrated. To this day, that is still one of the most powerful things I ever experienced.

–David Thrower MA ’18, Catechetics and Evangelization


Timeless Love

One afternoon during my senior year, I scrolled through my email only to find another company had turned me down for a job. What was I going to do with my life? What was next? How was I going to make a living for myself after graduation? These were some of the many questions that consumed my every waking moment during those last few months of senior year. So, I did what any Frannie does: I ran to the Father.

There, alone with God in the Kolbe/Clare Hall chapel, before the Blessed Sacrament, I finally decided to let God “have it.” Through angry tears, I demanded that God explain to me why he’d brought me all the way to Franciscan to get a degree in business and grow as a Catholic, only to be jobless upon graduating.

After I had exhausted myself asking why, I fell completely silent and just started listening. Isn’t that how it always happens? God speaks the moment we finally quiet our minds and open our hearts to receive whatever he has to say. What I heard next shocked me.

“My daughter, what would you like the rest of your life to be like? Show me.” —God to Me

“Show you? How can I show you?” I thought.

“Walk me through it from this moment to the moment you breathe your last and join me for eternity.”—God to Me

What an idea! So, I closed my eyes and, using my imagination, walked with God through what I envisioned my ideal life to be, moment by moment, not skipping anything. Together, we took infinite potential paths: I saw myself walking out of that chapel, graduating, receiving a great job offer, and working that for the rest of my life. I also saw building my own business and becoming an author, speaker, traveling content creator, wife, and mother, among many other things. Still, all paths led to me being 120 years old, going for one last horseback ride to the top of the hill on my ranch/vineyard, overlooking my kids and grandkids doing the evening chores, leaning against a sturdy oak tree, thanking God for a wonderful life, and taking my last breath.

I opened my eyes, which were now filled with tears, and gazed upon the tabernacle, then heard the Father’s voice, so loving and warm, say, “That was beautiful, daughter, but do you have any idea how much more beautiful a plan I have for your life?”

At that, I just started laughing and sobbing. In between snotty nose blows into tissues, I looked at the clock and saw it had been three hours! To me, it only felt like 20 minutes! God’s love truly is timeless.

Here I am, almost four years later, traveling the world as a content creator, having visited 18 countries and been hired to make content for businesses in almost every one of them! My life looks nothing like I thought it would, but you know what? It’s better!

I choose to let the words, “Jesus, I trust in you,” be my daily battle cry. I have no idea what tomorrow holds, but I know that no matter what, our God is the best Father we could ever ask for, and with him, my life will continue to be the greatest of adventures. Keep pursuing his heart in the Blessed Sacrament and spending time with him in adoration, and I promise you, he will speak.

–Kendal Huntsman ’21, Marketing


“A Flight of Stairs Away”

During my junior year, I had the worst stretch of anxiety in all my life. I barely slept and got by on some carrots and celery I would buy in Egan in the morning.

I went to counseling, and my roommate was supportive, but every day, I just wanted to go home. I lived in Tommy, and my only real moments of peace were when I dragged myself upstairs to the chapel and sat against one of the pillars.

I didn’t have the energy to say my Rosary. I’d just sit there and look at Christ in the tabernacle and feel him with me in my desert. The pain didn’t go away, but I didn’t feel alone then. I still think back on those days and thank him that he put himself so close to me, just a flight of stairs away.

–Felicity Moran ’20, History

“It’s Jesus!”

I started going to the Port on a regular basis, but I did not know why. The Eucharist was just Communion I received every Sunday. So, what was the big deal? Why was I drawn to the Port? I would sit in the little Portiuncula Chapel, pray and watch. I never had a set time in all my four years at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I just went. Then, something happened, something clicked.

I looked at the Eucharist and realized it was Jesus! I was so excited, I wanted to burst it out! I got up and went outside, and I said to the first person I saw, “It’s Jesus inside.” The person nodded, yes. I answered, “No, that really is Jesus!” My life changed that day!

–Vicky Cain ’97, General Studies


A Healing Mass

For 21 years now, I have been the principal of Faustina Academy in Irving, Texas, a PK-12th private independent Catholic school started by alumnus Reev Rohter ’94. When I first discerned a master’s program in counseling, I only wanted to attend Franciscan University due to the emphasis on the Catholic faith in the counseling classes.

When I arrived on campus, the University advertised a Healing Mass in the first week of school. I had been doing a year-long novena, the Way of the Cross, for healing of past wounds, and I was in my 10th month. I felt it was a great opportunity to pray for this specific intention at this Healing Mass.

After Mass, the monstrance with the Eucharist was processed around the chapel.

A priest I recognized from one of my counseling classes but who did not know me, approached the front, and said, “There is someone here tonight who came to this university to be healed of past wounds; this person is doing the Way of the Cross.”

I looked up in shock at what was said, and to my surprise, the monstrance was facing me at my aisle. I was healed. I felt it from head to toe. When I went back to my place that evening and for many weeks after, my heart was filled with a joy I had never experienced before. My past wounds were gone.

–Christina (Zeiler MA ’00) Mehaffey, Counseling

The Source and Summit of Franciscan Life

15 Eucharistic Chapels (Steubenville) + 3 (Gaming)

1,505 Masses/Year (Steubenville + Gaming)

275,000 Communion Hosts/Year (Steubenville)

24/7 Eucharistic Adoration in the Port /Semester

888 Adorers Signed Up/Year (Steubenville)

2,212 Hours of Adoration/Year (Gaming)


Daily Bread

Our broken nature flirts with Satan’s fire While grace, it bids us kneel at pierced feet. Wherefore, will we not make the time to meet Our Eucharistic Lord, our only sire?

Our God has deigned, through hand and word of priest, To come among the fallen human race, To fill unleavened bread with holy grace And bid us all be welcome at his feast.

The sacrificial lamb is slain each day We, in denial, about our business go. This vale of tears distracts us even though We take the name of Christian. Let us say:

“My soul, that you would not forsake this chance To join with Christ, his love poured out for thee, To humbly bow and pray on servile knee, And take your place within th’Eternal Dance.

“Take not for granted, scorn you not the love Of self-oblated, true-begotten Son Born from the Virgin’s womb, the only one To heal the breach ‘twixt earth and heav’n above.”

‘Tis truly he who, veiled in bread and wine Doth cleanse and call thy sin-stained soul to rise. Be mindful then, and dare ye not despise This priceless gift of God, our king divine.

May we, the faithful, ever more and more Attend unto his presence in the Mass Until from earthly sacrament we pass And in his presence, Christ himself adore.

—Jason Negri ’92 History, MSE ’96 © 1993

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