Friday, March 30, 2012

A College Visit to Franciscan University of Steubenville

I have been preparing her for this all her life. When Gabbi my oldest of three daughters was five, we brought her to Franciscan University of Steubenville for Mass and told her, "you're going to college here some day." I didn't mean it lightly; a good Catholic college education was one of my goals for my daughters, albeit a far off goal when we were beginning homeschooling in 1998.
Gabbi and her friend Annete in front of the Chapel
Fast forward twelve years to last week, and her first visit to Franciscan for a college interview, Gabbi is applying to their RN program.  After twelve hours on the road, I should have been able to sleep soundly this night before her visit to Franciscan University, but I wasted time fighting my own feelings of loss.It was obvious to me that my daughter's heart has flown from our home to the college on the hill above the Ohio River.  A big, silent sob burst out of me. Thankfully Gabbi was already sleeping. Having my oldest daughter live 12 hours away from home is a sacrifice I knew would cost me dearly, but I didn't want to cast a shadow on her big day. It was what we both wanted and planned for during those twelve years since our visit.

She was up before me, nervously doing her hair as she made sure I wasn't late for her 8:30 nursing class. I had time to take in the university while she was gone, blooming flowers and students in shorts as a spring heat wave caused spring flowers to burst into early blooms. I was charmed by the kindness of the staff I met, no question was too detailed, and no story too long to capture their interest. We were soon on a tour of the campus. Statures of St Francis, Our Lady and Christ, soon made us feel at home and we were impressed with the guides' familiarity of the University Mission to bring Christ to the world, which they explained in detail throughout the tour.
The Portiuncula
The Student Center was colorful with bulletins announcing pro-life rallies, prayer vigils at abortion clinics, socials,  and famous speakers on bioethics. Students were sociable and polite, easy to engage in conversation and passionate whenever the Church was discussed. I was falling in love with this school and happily parted with Gabbi as she met one of her friends attending the school for lunch.
During the parents-only luncheon, the Admissions Director was peppered with questions about the faculty's adherence to the Magisterium and how many were Catholic. "We have five faculty members who are not Catholic," she answered, "there were six, but then one spoke to Scott Hahn!" I met parents who knew one of our new priests from the Diocese of Norwich, CT and suddenly home didn't seem so far away.

Prof Helen Alvare
Soon, I found myself alone for the evening, Gabbi was to spend the night in her friend's dorm room. What could have been an awkward moment, Mom feeling at odds in her daughter's school, was more of an opportunity,  as I had noted a number of prominent speakers on bioethics were present for a conference. I spent the rest of the day discussing issues of bioethics and sexual morality with former USCCB spokeswoman,  Helen Alvare who called Franciscan "ground  zero of Catholic Higher Education."
I discussed my book and my advocacy for the rights of babies with Down syndrome to a friendly audience engaged in the struggle against the Culture of Death. Helen Alvare warmly embraced me as thanks for my work and for writing "A Special Mother is Born".
John Paul II Library
I returned to the hotel alone yet grateful that my daughter would be attending a university which attracted such Catholic superstars and important discussions. The morning found us reuniting at Mass, one of three daily Masses packed with the entire student body who participated wholeheartedly, singing the hymns of both tradition and praise, in full voice. Later, we sat in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel, a scale model of St Francis' Portiuncula, amid a dozen students deep in prayer, and thanked God that my homeschooling efforts had been blessed with success, that Gabbi was qualified to study at such a fine Catholic school, but more for the fact that in her heart she longed for such a school where her mind and soul would be prepared to meet the challenges of bringing the culture of life to a darkened world.

We left the college after lunch, reluctantly, taking many photos and buying a shirt for everyone in the family. We were hoping to share our joy in our discovery of this wonderful college with the rest of our family, knowing that words would not be enough to convey the exuberant faith which emanates from this place. I prayed for an opportunity to attend, as my parents had, a summer conference at Franciscan with my husband Francisco, so that releasing our daughter to the world in this worthy college would be a triumph to him as well. We drove home over the Pennsylvania mountains leaving part of our hearts behind in what we knew had already become my daughter's second home, anxious for a chance to share our stories with our friends in Connecticut.

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Allison said...

So grateful to have read this and the timing is perfect! We have plans to visit the University in April with my oldest, a junior.

Looking forward to finding out more in hopes that he will attend.

Thanks, Leticia!

Anton Gonzalez said...

Thank you for this beautiful article! We are praying our son (who is still a junior at St. Michael's Preparatory School in California) will choose to apply and be accepted to Franciscan.

Your writing draws us even closer to the school!

We live in the Philippines which is about 20 hours by plane!

God bless you!

Mia and Anton Gonzalez