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What I Learned at Franciscan

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From the President

What I Learned at Franciscan

“My time at Franciscan formed me and equipped me to succeed in all the academic ventures I have had since graduating.”

Summer 2022 | Father Dave Pivonka

In This Article

When I was a kid, I told my parents I would never become a priest because priests must go to school for far too long. As you may have guessed, I wasn’t a great student. That didn’t worry me; I figured I would start my own business and be just fine.

After graduating from high school, instead of heading to college, I spent much of the fall semester at Purgatory, the local ski area. (I like to think I’ve already spent my time in purgatory, but God may not agree.) It was 1984, and I found myself very interested and involved in President Ronald Reagan’s run for re-election, so I decided to take a few political science classes at the local college. I did that for the next three semesters, but during that time, try as I might, I couldn’t shake the feeling that God might be inviting me to be a priest.

I spent the next year with NET hoping to discern my vocation, and it was there I learned about the University of Steubenville. I applied and was accepted, but I was terribly anxious about transferring. A local college was one thing, but this was a university. How would I do? Would I be able to make the grades? And how could I spend three years studying theology?

The next three years in the classroom at Franciscan would change my life. To this day, I remember a note my theology professor Father Dan Sinisi, TOR, wrote on one of my papers. He said my work was OK, but he knew I could do better. I met with Father Dan a few times, and he helped and encouraged me to become a better student—to work harder, be more disciplined, and ask for help when I needed it. I took his advice and direction very seriously.

At Franciscan, I became a better and more confident student. I would like to say my grades were amazing, but that wouldn’t be totally true. They were, however, much better than high school. Where I really noticed a change was in seminary. I still wasn’t excited about another four years of school, and again, I was a bit nervous since I would be working toward a master’s degree but felt ready to take the next step.

I soon realized Franciscan had done an outstanding job preparing me for graduate studies. My grades were excellent, and I decided to pursue my master’s in divinity and a second master’s focusing on canon law at the same time. Never before had I chosen a more difficult academic pursuit, one that required more study and work, but I was confident I could manage it. Years later, when I returned for my doctorate in education and then my executive juris doctorate, I approached both with confidence and the habits and skills I needed to succeed. This came as no surprise to me, but it was to my family. As my sister has said on more than one occasion, “I’m not sure what surprises me more: that Dave is a priest or that he got a doctorate.”

My time at Franciscan formed me and equipped me to succeed in all the academic ventures I have had since graduating from Franciscan. Yet, what I learned in the classroom and in my studies at Franciscan was only part of my education. My professors here also witnessed to me a life of faith that was transformative.

Those friars and sisters and lay men and women poured their lives into the Franciscan University mission of educating and forming disciples. They did this by putting their keen intellects at the service of the Church and by living as disciples. It wasn’t only what they taught me but how they taught me and who they were that changed me.

They played a significant role in both my education and vocation. I will be forever grateful for the care and concern they showed me as a young, insecure college student. And I am even more grateful to see our faculty providing the same support and example to our students today.



Father Dave, TOR

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