President’s Column: To declare His name

Alex McKenna
Student Government President

“O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!” (Psalm 96:1)

In his opening homily to the student body, Fr. Dave Pivonka made no bones about what Franciscan University of Steubenville is called to do. Joshua is in the desert. The Israelites are losing faith in God and on the verge of revolt. Recognizing the struggles of the people, Joshua asks a simple question: Whom will you serve?

Fr. Dave asked the same question of every student: Whom will you serve? The media says fame. The politicians say power. Wall Street says money. Our peers say pleasure. The culture says comfort.

But Fr. Dave did not answer with the culture. We will serve the Lord. I hope that we each have the same answer in our hearts, and most likely we all do; but how is that lived?

First, we live it through joy. Joy does not fake happiness when we are hurting nor present a feeble smile to cover up sorrow. Joy is a lifestyle that bears in it the hope we all have within, regardless of circumstances.

Joy has a particular importance for students. As the semester progresses, life becomes heavy.
However, we must have self-awareness to recognize again and again that the Lord is still risen and calls us to joy.

But how can I be joyful in sorrow? More importantly, why should I?

As Scripture tells us, there is “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). A time to laugh and a time to mourn, a time to dance and a time to sit quietly. So too, there is a time to exude joy through happiness and there is a time to pursue joy, hope for joy and ultimately find joy in sorrow.

Why? Because the Lord cried with Martha and Mary at the death of Lazarus but had hidden joy knowing he would rise. Joy is not a feeling but the hope that is within us for the Resurrection.

However, I want to address how joy relates to student leadership. First, take a moment of introspection and ask yourself: Am I a student leader? I am not speaking about the titles, fanfare, wages or people who work under or with you. A student leader is first and foremost someone who has a passion for service.

If you have a passion for serving those around you, then you are a student leader. If you do not see this in your own life, become it. If a seed dies it bears much fruit. The Lord has placed seeds of leadership in each of our hearts, so let us produce their fruit. It is not optional — we are called to take our talents and use them for God.

Drawing back to the original point, what does joy have to do with student leadership? Joy is the lifeblood of the student leader. It is the outward sign of a hidden reality, the symbol that you have hope in Christ both for yourself and those with whom you work. Even in times of sorrow, the leader looks with joy to the future and recognizes the paradoxical beauty of the present.

In conclusion, I lay down a challenge. I am student body president and very excited to work on a variety of policies I pray will benefit my fellow students. I cannot do it alone. If Franciscan wishes to retain its culture, to fight for the truth and to send missionary disciples to the world, then let us first look at ourselves. Where is our joy?