Friar seeks to spread God’s love and mercy with student body


“Sharing my very incomplete idea of God’s love and mercy” is the primary goal of the Rev. Luke Robertson, TOR, for his time at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Robertson smiled and said, “That’s the most important thing I could do.”

Robertson, the local minister of Holy Spirit Friary, is new to the university this semester, coming from his previous assignment as pastor of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Arlington, Texas.

Robertson is originally from outside of Philadelphia, but he has lived in many different places while growing up, including the United States, the Bahamas, England and New Zealand. Robertson also previously lived on Franciscan’s Gaming campus in Austria for three years. The well-traveled friar describes how it is a “blessing to be a guest in a country.”

Previous to his ministry as a religious, Robertson received a bachelor’s degree in English and American literature from the University of Warwick in England. Soon after, Robertson took what he described as a “180 turn” and earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Kentucky.

After college, Robertson worked as a practicing social worker for seven years, working in areas such as psychiatric fields and juvenile probation.

However, after seven years of social work, Robertson felt called to another “180 turn.”

While still working, he decided to take a three-month absence from his job, wanting “to serve the Church.” After speaking with his parish priest about options available, Robertson was given a job working with Catholic Charities.

While working there, he lived in the novitiate for the local province for the Third Order Regular Franciscans, where he was able to participate in the prayer and work of the friary. After spending three months with the community, Robertson said, “I decided this is what I wanted to do.”

Now Robertson has spent 26 years with the TOR. community. He has even been able to use his skills as a social worker in his ministry as a priest, starting a ministry to help the homeless of Fort Worth, Texas. Rather than working in a traditional homeless shelter, Robertson and his colleagues would take out “hygiene packs” filled with hygiene products and food to the homeless of the city.

Currently, Robertson holds many positions at Franciscan University, but primarily he is the local minister of Holy Spirit Friary, where his main concern is looking after the needs of the friars on campus.

Additionally, Robertson is the chaplain of St. Thomas More Hall, holding office hours in the residence hall three times a week, and an adjunct social work professor.

Helping out the Rev. Gregory Plow, TOR, Robertson is one of the supervisors for the university’s Priestly Discernment Program. To top it all off, the friar is the chaplain for the Lady Barons basketball team, highlighting basketball as one of his favorite pastimes.

Even though it is still early in his time at Franciscan University, Robertson said that he already has “lots of favorite parts” in terms of campus life. He specifically highlighted life in friary as very special to him, saying, “It’s great being with my brothers.”

In reference to the prayer life of the community, Robertson said, “It feeds my soul in a powerful way.” The friar also enjoys being present among the students. “The faith of the students is so inspiring,” he reflected. “I don’t think they realize how inspiring they are.”

Robertson is eager to dive deeper into campus life and to share God’s love and mercy with the campus community. His desire is to accompany people on their faith journey and to meet people wherever they are.

Robertson has already demonstrated this drive by making himself available on the basketball court, in the residence hall and in the classroom. Even though the hats he wears are many, the friar has sought to be present to anyone and everyone, stretching himself to reach as many as possible.