Franciscan University’s beloved friar passes away at 85


Franciscan University of Steubenville’s beloved President Emeritus the Rev. Michael Scanlan, T.O.R, passed away on Jan. 7, 2017 at 85 years old.

The entire university community cherishes every memory of him, particularly through memorial pages on the school website and other social media sites, and many are already calling him a saint.

According to the tribute page for Scanlan on the university’s website, it was the life work of Scanlan that shaped the university into the faithful Catholic school that it is today.

Photo FUS provided.

Scanlan’s focus on Catholic higher education inspired other Catholic schools to greater heights academically and spiritually, according to the tribute page.

According to the tribute page, Scanlan was a priest of the Franciscan Third Order Regular Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, and served the community as president of Franciscan University of Steubenville from 1974-2000, chancellor from 2000-2011, and from then on president emeritus in 2011.

After becoming president of the then-College of Steubenville in 1974 during “turbulent times for Catholic higher education,” according to the tribute page, he transformed the college over the next 26 years into Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Along the way, he established a reputation for both excellence in academics and its passionate Catholic faith environment, known worldwide, according to the tribute page.

Scanlan’s success “helped spark a restoration of authentic Catholic education in the United States and beyond, with many colleges and universities renewing their Catholic identity and new schools imitating his emphasis on Catholic church teaching,” according to the tribute page.

Photo FUS provided.

“One of Father Scanlan’s first priorities was to form a uniquely Catholic culture that emphasized faith and reason,” the tribute page states.

Scanlan was responsible for many of the things that set the university apart from other universities, and truly makes it the unique experience that it is for college students and the surrounding community.

Just a few of these accomplishments include founding households, nine undergraduate programs, such as nursing, communication arts, the largest undergraduate theology program in any US University, and the Priestly Discernment Program (PDP), according to the tribute page.

Scanlan instigated the Oath of Fidelity, caused the college to become a university, established the Austria Study Abroad Program, and ushered in an era of construction of buildings such as the St. John Paul II Library and the Finnegan Fieldhouse.

Hundreds attend Father Michael Scanlan’s memorial mass held January 11th at Franciscan University in the Finnegan Fieldhouse. (Photo by Elizabeth Feudo)

Going far beyond his simple duties, Scanlan engaged in an “active evangelistic ministry,” according to the tribute, as a conference, retreat and pilgrimage leader and writer.

According to the tribute page, Scanlan began and set the stage for the future success of the Steubenville Conferences through his passionate love for Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. His 16 books and pamphlets will guide the faithful in years to come.

In addition, through his involvement in Eternal Word Television Network, Scanlan became the host of Franciscan University Presents on EWTN for many years, according to the tribute page.

Scanlan was an intense advocate for the pro-life movement, according to the tribute page, as is evidenced by his approval for the construction of the Tomb of the Unborn Child in 1987 as well as his arrest during a peaceful protest at an abortion clinic in Youngstown, Ohio.

According to the tribute page, Scanlan received many awards during his lifetime for his work for the church as well as education, including the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal from Pope St. John Paul II.

Following his time at the university, Scanlan retired to the Third Order Regular Sacred Heart Province’s motherhouse in Loretto, Pennsylvania, according to the tribute page.

Due to declining health he moved to Garvey Manor, a Catholic nursing home in nearby Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania in 2013, according to the tribute page.

Scanlan remained involved with the university since then, meeting students and fostering community even though no longer on campus. Just last year in 2016 he met with the champion tennis team, according to the tribute page on the website.

Junior Jarek Sulak, member of the team who had a rosary blessed by Scanlan, said that he enjoyed witnessing the care Scanlan had for each person he met.

“He was so at peace with his relationship with Christ,” said Sulak. “You could see that emanating in every part of his life and how he would interact with other people.”

On Saturday morning, Jan. 7, 2017, Scanlan died after an extended illness, according to the tribute page.

Funeral arrangements, according to the school’s website, included viewings on Jan. 10 and 11, a memorial mass at Franciscan University of Steubenville on Jan. 11 and a Mass of Christian Burial at the T.O.R Motherhouse in Loretto, Pennsylvania on the Jan. 12.

“The legacy left by Father Scanlan will take years to truly appreciate,” according to Our Sunday Visitor.

Thousands have taken the time to write brief tributes to Scanlan’s impact on their lives using social media.

“(I) wouldn’t be a priest without his vision and fire,” said the Rev. Ryan Rooney on Twitter.

“I shudder to think who I would be, the Holy Mother I may never have taken as my own, all the people I never would have called friend-sister-brother, the saints I never would have come to know, the True Presence I might not have come to love and depend upon, and the truths I never would have learned, known, and lived, without the ‘yes’ of Father Michael Scanlan,” said Mary Collins on the tribute page.

“Father Michael was like a father to me,” said Karen Getzel on the tribute page.

“Frannies are known for their joy and Father Mike was known for his joy and he would say to us ‘don’t weep over me, I’m finally home,’” said the Rev. Richard Davis, chairman of the Board of Trustees, according to WTOV9.