August 27, 2018

Memorial of St. Monica • August 27, 2018

Homily by Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR

President of Franciscan University of Steubenville

Today we gather as Franciscan University to celebrate the beginning of this academic year. We welcome back our returning students. We again welcome the 680 new students who have been with us these past few days and are eagerly awaiting their first class tomorrow. I have been blessed over this past weekend to meet the vast majority of them. They are a dedicated and joyful group, with big plans for the future about how they can put themselves at the service of Christ and bring about change in the world.

It is important for us at the beginning of the school year to renew the tradition of inviting the Holy Spirit into our lives and our studies, our work, and our ministry. For many years, we have been an institution open to being led by the Holy Spirit to where the Lord is calling us. We invite an outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, counsel, knowledge, understanding, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. It is especially important for us as a faith community to embrace these gifts as we respond to the recent accounts of the failures of so many people, including spiritual leaders, to protect so many from acts of sexual abuse and violence. Like so many of you, I am shocked and angered about what has occurred.

It is essential for us as individuals, and as a Catholic and Franciscan University, to acknowledge the pain and suffering of the victims of sexual abuse and violence and the compounding of these actions by the failure of Church leaders, apparently ranging from pastors in parishes to very high levels of authority within the Holy See, to appropriately address the issues.

Franciscan University has prided itself on being an academically excellent and passionately Catholic institution. But, like any institution, we, too, are comprised of flawed individuals who make mistakes from time to time and who sin from time to time. And so, on behalf Franciscan University and myself, I want to extend an apology to anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse or violence, especially those who have been subject to abuse by any member of the Franciscan University family, and I ask for your forgiveness. I also apologize for any way that we have failed to protect you or have not taken seriously any concerns you have voiced, and I again ask your forgiveness.

Those of you who have been with us this past week know that we have been praying at our Masses for victims of sexual abuse and violence and will continue to do so. I asked our chief evangelization officer, Father Nathan Malavolti, TOR, to plan a Holy Hour of healing for any victims, reparation for any failures, and reconciliation within the Church. This will take place on Wednesday of this week at 3:00 p.m., the Hour of Mercy. I encourage you all to participate in that Holy Hour. And, please, if you are aware of anyone who has been harmed by a member of the University family, I ask you to let us know about that so we might have the opportunity to address the situation.

Perhaps it is providential that today we also celebrate the Memorial of St. Monica, whom most of you probably know as the mother of St. Augustine. As a mother, she made heroic efforts for the sake of her children and the salvation of their souls to lead them to heaven. She prayed constantly and gave alms to the poor. Her example of patience and kind Christian love was a model for many. It was her prayer, her ability to love, and the witness of her life of holiness that led her son Augustine to change his life and to become the saint that he is recognized as today.

Like St. Monica, God calls us to holiness. He calls us to a deeper relationship with him. Monica proved it is possible to bring about conversion in the life of others through prayer, merciful love, and the witness of a holy life. As we begin this new academic year, let us call upon the Holy Spirit through the intercession of St. Monica to lead and guide us all to the life of holiness for which God created us.