STEUBENVILLE - Jim Nicholson, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and secretary for veterans affairs; told members of the Franciscan University of Steubenville Class of 2013 Saturday he was one of seven children in a family that was so poor, they lived without utilities.
But Nicholson said his mother always stressed the importance of education, prayer and perseverance.
"When the going gets tough, and it will at times, pray," Nicholson advised as the keynote speaker for the university's 65th undergraduate commencement program at Finnegan Fieldhouse.
ADVICE FOR LIFE — Jim Nicholson, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and secretary for veterans affairs, offered advice to members of Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Class of 2013 Saturday at Finnegan Fieldhouse. -- Warren Scott
"God doesn't want us to fail," he said, noting Jesus Christ is quoted in the book of Matthew as saying, "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Nicholson said with his mother's support and encouragement, he and his siblings all went on to college and successful careers.
Following graduation from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he served in the Vietnam War and prayed daily that he would live and that he would find a woman to love and marry.
Both occurred. Following eight years as an Army Ranger and paratrooper, he served the Army Reserve for 22 years, retiring as a colonel. He also met Suzanne, his wife of 46 years, with whom he has three children and five grandchildren.
Nicholson said his respect for prayer hasn't diminished. He recalled, as secretary for veterans affairs, receiving a call from another government official that a "knucklehead" in the Department of Technology had gone home with a hard drive containing the names and personal information of 24 million veterans, living and dead, and that it had been stolen, with the man's laptop computer, from his home.
Nicholson said upon hearing the news, he prayed to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost articles, immediately and again at an evening Mass. Soon after he returned to his office to learn that not only had the hard drive, an object the size of a wallet, been recovered but FBI officials found it had not been compromised, he said.
Nicholson encouraged the graduating seniors to stand firm against what he perceives as persistent attacks on the freedoms established in the U.S. Constitution and on Christian values.
He said the graduates have the foundation in Christian teachings, leadership skills and motivation needed to reverse a "downward drift in our culture" and lead the church and nation in being "the wonderful institutions they can be."
"Jesus never had a walk in the park, but he never stopped loving, never stopped giving and never stopped working and praying," Nicholson said.
He continued, "It's been said the harder you work, the luckier you are. I believe the more you pray, the more grace you're given and the more blessed you become."
Franciscan University students graduating with master's degrees heard earlier Saturday from Colleen Carroll Campbell, an author and columnist and the only woman speechwriter for President George W. Bush, with whom she worked on such issues as education and faith-based initiatives.
Campbell also will serve soon as anchor of the first nightly newscast aired by EWTN, a global Catholic broadcasting network.
Area graduates include:
Bloomingdale: Phillip Harold Bender, Vanessa LynnMarie Bouchet, Francesca Annamaria Clements, Mark Alexander Erste, John Paul Raphael Foxhoven and Eliza Rose Scarnecchia.
Cadiz: Ashley Marie Baur.
Carrollton: Christopher Rodger Barto.
Colliers: David Allan Lucas and Elizabeth Ann Wood.
Empire: Gina Kaye Kelley.
Follansbee: Gregory Alan Ballato and Breanne Marie Wilkerson.
Hopedale: Julia Elizabeth Carman and Lisa M. Forrester.
Martins Ferry: Jessica Brianna Uhrich.
Mingo Junction: Alexandria Maria Dellatorre, Charles Shane Dickey, Gloria Louise Palumbo and Andria K-Lyn Scott.
Richmond: Rachel Lynn Happ and Rachel Grace Keyser.
Steubenville: Brandon Patrick Albarano, Christopher Alan Beran, Brian James Blue, Jonah Paul Carlstrom, Armando Jose Chavarria, Angela Lorraine Cosentino,Elizabeth Marie Coyle, Elghalia DeAngelo, Marianne Deramo, Jessica Renee DeStefanis, Kimberly Anne Doudna, Anne Elizabeth Evertz, Marcela Garcia, Lucia Guadalupe Gonzalez, Peter Daniel Grodi, Melissa Hagen, Jeremiah Thomas Hahn, Bernadette Clare Harris, Toni Kristine Hendricks, Brother. Matthew Patrick Holladay, Mary Elizabeth Homol, Christopher Hoover, George C. Houston Jr., Nicole Alyssa Janosco, Sarah Lauren Kilonsky, Benjamin Edward Kingland, Lorra Ann Kirk, Michelle Lynne Koch, Jennifer L. Kotsanis, Teresa Clare Kovach, Stephen Lawrence Kramp, James Salvador Livingston, Sallie Brockton Magee, Samantha Ashlynn McCoy, Maura Therese McKeegan, Aubri Kristen McKitrick, Kelley Colleen Michael, Michael Nicolo Milano, Vivian Dawn Minto, Matthew Tyler Norkevicus, Brandon Paul Otto, Robert A. Palladino, James Joseph Panella, Julie Ann Paul, Brianna Catherine Posch, Catherine Therese Recznik, Christopher Aaron Rodgers, Mary Elizabeth Sample, Crystal Estella Santos, Erik Manuel Santos, Matthew Mark Schaefer, Richard Michael Sherrin, Benjamin Robert Spencer, Robert Mitchell Stange, Linsey Marie Stoll, Timothy Philip Sweeney, Armando Ramon Tovar, Scott Joseph Tygett, Morgan Beryl Vincent, Cole Viscichini, Lauren Brianne Vogel, Lauren Rose Yanda, Casey Marie Zapolnik, Kimberly Lynn Zeiler and Donna Maria Zolar.
Toronto: Joshua Curtis Baker, Elizabeth Anna Bodnar, Donald Kyle Elder, Robert Christopher Erickson, Terez Marie Erickson, Joseph Daniel Feeley, MaryRose Therese Feeley, Autumn Angel Stephanie Filby, Kasey Kuntz, Danielle Renee Meek, Shaun Matthew Moore, Jay P. Obertance, Mallory Christine Radvansky,Alexis Paige Ruminski, Mary Katherine Ruminski and Kelley Kristine Skidmore.
Wellsville: Maria Rosina McNicol.
Weirton: Heather Lea Abramowicz, Linda Marie Bish, David Thomas Craig, Maryann Dermargosian, Lisa Ann Kush, James Preston Smith and Kenneth Joseph Owen Thomas.
Wintersville: Brian Chad Biggio, Amanda Lynn Carmine, Katherine Jean Christopher, Amanda Jean Gump, Heather Marie Therese Koehnlein, Marilyn Patricia LaRue, Octavia Leialani Lover, Michael Francis McGurn, Rebecca Ann Medley, Monica Mary Recznik, Lynn Florence Smollin, Anne J. Spiess, Griselda Joan Taylor, Tina Marie Tiberio and Emily Rebecca Whiteside.