Scanlan honored posthumously
STEUBENVILLE — The Rev. Michael Scanlan, TOR, president of the Franciscan University of Steubenville for 26 years, was recognized Saturday morning with a posthumous presentation of the Poverello Medal, the highest nonacademic honor from the university.
The Rev. Richard Davis, TOR, minister provincial of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and chairman of the university’s board of trustees, accepted the medal from the Rev. Sean Sheridan, TOR, university president.
The presentation was made at the beginning of a ceremony at university’s Mission Immersion Day, the final training for nearly 300 university students before they depart on spring break mission trips.
“The evangelical thrust of Mission Immersion Day –when our students learn how to bring Christ to the needy across the U.S. and throughout the Western Hemisphere –is the perfect occasion to honor Father Mike, who answered the Church’s call to evangelization by leading the renewal of Catholic higher education, as well as with his preaching, EWTN appearances, pro-life work, conferences for youth and adults and in many other ways,” Sheridan said.
Scanlan died on January 7, 2017, at age 85 after an extended illness. As university president from 1974 to 2000, he is known for transforming the then small, struggling College of Steubenville into one of the most renowned Catholic universities in the world, known for its academics and passionate Catholic faith environment.
Sheridan told the students at the Mission Immersion Day that many never met Scanlan.
“But he is the reason many of you are here today,” he said.
The College of Steubenville was struggling in 1974 with declining enrollment, and some were telling Scanlan to close the school, Sheridan said. Sheridan said Scanlan embarked on a spiritual renewal of the college by placing Jesus at the center of campus life.
“We owe much of what Franciscan University is today to Father Mike,” he said.
While president, Scanlan shared his love for Jesus Christ as a retreat and pilgrimage leader and formed a summer conference program that today serves more than 55,000 high school youth and adults who attend Franciscan University conferences in 16 states and Canada. An early leader in the Catholic charismatic renewal movement, he cofounded and spoke at FIRE rallies (Faith, Intercession, Repentance, and Evangelization) in 29 states and 15 foreign countries, reaching more than 400,000 people.
Scanlan also wrote 16 books and booklets on Catholic spirituality and was one of the first priests to get involved with Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, which led to his hosting the theology discussion program “Franciscan University Presents” for 18 years on EWTN.
Davis spoke about the last days of Scanlan’s life.
“As Father Mike closed his eyes on this world and opened his eyes into another world, he received a reward for more prestigious than the Poverello Medal,” he said.
Davis told the students about to embark on mission trips during spring break to bring Christ to the world, much as Scanlan did. He said spring break at Franciscan University means something different compared to spring break enjoyed by other students at other colleges and universities.
Davis said Scanlan believed mission trips were a necessity to serving Christ.
The Poverello Medal bears an image of St. Francis giving alms to the poor. Cast in steel to signify simplicity and poverty, it acknowledges organizations and individuals who follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, also known as “il Poverello,” meaning the little poor man, through strong Christian character, practical charity and service to the poor. Past medal recipients include Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Urban Mission Ministries and the Little Sisters of the Poor.