Wednesday, May 16, 2012

10 Years Later Episode 1: Ode to Franciscan University

Ten years!  It has been ten years since I graduated from college.  I can’t believe it has been that long.  I never thought my life would be what it is today when I drove out of Steubenville 10 years ago.  Franciscan University was an amazing place to go to college.  I honestly don’t think people who didn’t go there can ever really grasp what my college experience was like.  It was so incredibly unique and marked by so many experiences that seem completely foreign to the average college student. Most college students are encouraged by their fellow classmates to get laid and hammered while most of us at Franciscans had friends who challenged us not to do those things.   Everything about Franciscan was unique, odd even; from the household system, to the professors, to the eclectic people that went there to the cafeteria food and to the semester abroad program in Gaming Austria.  It was a place that deeply changed me and forever left an imprint on my soul.  I would not be the man I am had I not gone to school there and if I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. 

I still very vividly remember the day I arrived on campus in August of 1999.  My dad and I got up very early and began the 8 hour drive from Rockford, IL to Steubenville, OH. We pulled up in front of Marian Hall and we were instantly greeted by some very welcoming and energetic students that were part of the Orientation team.  I remember one of those happy faces being my friend Mary who I knew from Rockford.  My dad and I barely had to lift a thing.  They unloaded the entire car and moved me into my dorm room.  My dad and I then walked around to get me checked in and get things in order.  I remember taking my dad to show him the Port.  On the way to the port I remember meeting a girl named Sarah.  Sarah was in a household called the Roses of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  She introduced herself to us and took the time to make sure we knew our way around.   After that my dad called my mom to check in and I will never forget him saying to her, “This is a good place.  There is something different about this school.  Our son picked a good place to go to school.”  This meant the world to me because my parents had been having a tough time with my decision to go there and major in Theology.  Shortly thereafter my dad left and I was left to unpack and get ready for the orientation activities.  I was placed in a small group where a guy named Courtney Brown was my leader.  I instantly felt like I was home within hours of arriving on campus. 

Within that first year I made some incredible friends.  I joined the Knights of the Holy Queen, got involved in SENT, which was a retreat ministry, and dove head first into the life of the campus.  Daily mass and adoration became part of my daily routines.  Instead of going to parties and getting hammered I filled my weekends at the Castle.  The Castle was an old house off campus where the older members of the Knights lived.  Evenings there consisted of meaningful conversations, laughter over ridiculous things, playing mafia, guitar playing, and just a general atmosphere of joy and genuine friendship.  Don’t get me wrong the beer would flow there but not in a frat party sort of way; but more in a Chestertonian drink life in sort of way.  The brotherhood I had with the Knights was solidified there and the friendships I made out of household where made there.  It was a place that for me embodied not what the college experience in our culture is but what it should be. 

My three years there went by fast but I also feel like I was able to drink in every single moment.  My second year I spent my first semester in Austria.  I made some incredible friends there and traveled all over Europe.  I experienced the universality of our Church.  I prayed in front of Maximillian Kolbe’s starvation cell in Auschwitz, knelt before the image of Our Lady of Chestahova, saw the Shroud of Turin, drank sangria in a square in Barcelona, went to the Prado in Madrid, saw the flesh of my Lord in Santarem, experienced Fatima on October 13th, prayed before the tomb of St. Therese in Lisieux, saw an incorrupt St. Katherine at the miraculous medal shrine, bathed in the waters of Lourdes, went to a papal audience with JP II, walked through the Holy doors of St. Peters, took in the ancient city of Rome, visited St. Anthony in Padua, saw the original Portiuncula in Assisi, walked the streets of Venice, hiked through the Swiss Alps, and enjoyed the beauty of Austria.   I got to do all that with some of my best friends in the world.  We laughed with one another, irritated each other on long trips, drank beer from a giant glass boot, and experienced mass in some of the most beautiful churches in the world.  That semester was one of the most formative of my time there.

My last three semesters on campus continued to bring new adventures and joys.  I was humbled to be coordinator of the Knights my senior year.  I soaked in every ounce of my Theology classes and continued to enjoy the brotherhood in my household and the other friendships I had.  There were many late nights studying, some serious foosball playing in Adrien’s basement, and random bonfires down by the river.  It really is hard to sum up my entire experience there but it was one that I will always look back on with a heart full of joy.  I am blessed beyond words to have had the opportunity to be a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville. 

To conclude I give you my top 10 things, in no particular order, I miss about my time in Steubenville (although there could be many more but for the sake of bringing this blog to a close I’ll keep it to 10): 

1.       Skipping class to go to Twines (A dumpy out door trailer bar at the bottom of the hill).

2.       Nights at the Castle on fourth street.

3.       A Knight with the Flowers (Formal wine and cheese Christmas party we did with the Little Flowers)

4.       Bull Dog Nights with Adrien, Trina, and the gang

5.       Lords Day and Household Holy Hour

6.       Spanky’s after mass on Sundays

7.       Bonfires down by the Ohio River

8.       Driving to Pittsburgh to go to Mulayney’s Harp and Fiddle

9.       Being able to easily scandalize the overly pious people

10.   Parties and Foosball at the Angel House Senior Year

Here’s to the memories we all hold dear and the friendships we are blessed to still have from our years at good old Franciscan U.  Happy 10 years class of 2002!


Mary said...

Oh my goodness, what I wouldn't give to go back to that time in our lives, just for a little bit, to remember....and for the record, Jose, you are awesome!

Marian Ninja said...

#9 makes me smile...thanks for your reflection! It inspires me as I look forward to my next 3 years there! (God willing)

letlovebesincere said...

I adore, 'being able to scandal overly pious people'. I think I was particularly good at that :)
BTW- 10 years means we are really, really, really old. But doesn't it just seem like yesterday?

Jose said...

Yeah it seems like I blinked, and 10 years passed! I thought 10 years since High School made me feel old but 10 years since college really does! :)