Franciscan homecoming includes reflection, family, fun

STEUBENVILLE – Franciscan University of Steubenville’s homecoming weekend included a variety of activities that offered a time for both reflection and fun.

Staff, students and guests followed the recognition of several outstanding alumni at an awards banquet Friday with a Saturday filled with family-oriented fun, sports, music and gatherings focused on the university’s mission and God’s call to service.

Many gathered Saturday afternoon near the university’s Portiuncula Chapel to have their dogs, cats, birds and pets of other types blessed by the Rev. Dominic Scotto, the university’s chaplain.

In delivering blessings to the various animals, Scott carried on a tradition begun by the school’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, who is said to have had a deep reverence for all of nature, which he saw as a reflection of God.

Not far from the chapel students and other volunteers served as human chess pieces on a large chess board marked with chalk on the ground outside Christ the King Chapel.

Dressed as kings, queens, knights and other chess pieces, they moved according to the moves made on a smaller chess board by English Professor John Holmes and Rebecca Fix, a former Franciscan student visiting from Lancaster, Pa.

Following the living chess match was a presentation by the Tomato Theatre of the Medieval play, “St. George and the Dragon.”

The theatre is comprised of students in the school’s Theater History I class who assumed the roles of the title characters, various knights, a Medieval doctor and Father Christmas in a spoof of Medieval theater.

Adults and children watching the play from the hillside were given water balloons and encouraged to lob them at the cast whenever their mood inspired them, which was often.

That aspect echoed actual Medieval theater audiences who were known to heckle the entertainers by throwing rotten tomatoes and other food at them.

Hope Ellis, a junior drama major at Franciscan, said the play is actually based on one that was presented in many variations during the Middle Ages.

She said the production’s camp humor and the opportunity to throw water balloons at will have made the event a popular feature of the homecoming festivities over the years.

Visitors to the campus also found various groups selling food and items ranging from jewelry and framed photos to rosaries and prayer candles under the banner of the Franciscan Festival.

The festivities also included the Kelly Roggensack Memorial Races, which are held by the cross country team in memory of a former cross country runner killed in a 2008 car accident and remembered for her exuberant approach to life; a Medieval costume contest for children, crafts for children led by the Franciscan Sisters; and games between the university’s rugby team and Carnegie Mellon University, the school’s women’s tennis team and D’Youville College and volleyball team and the University of Pitt-Bradford.

The Rev. Sean Sheridan, the university’s new president; and other leaders of the university also offered an update on the school and welcomed questions from the audience.

Rob and Lisa D’Orso of Leesburg, Va. were among visitors to the campus. With their sons Matthew, a freshman; and Joey, they said it was the first Franciscan University homecoming they have attended.

“We’re enjoying it. It’s quite a festival – lots of things to eat, see and do, with a very family-friendly atmosphere,” Rob said.