University president’s “Metanoia” series calls students to deeper conversion


“If we’re going to make disciples, we need to be better disciples,” said the Rev. David Pivonka, TOR. “I found myself praying about what that would look like and then looking at the very beginning of Mark’s gospel when Jesus is calling the disciples, and the first thing he says to them is ‘metanoia, the word repent. 

Following the success of his The Wild Goose series, Pivonka found himself contemplating this idea of metanoia. 

“It’s a word that means to turn, to change, to convert, to change direction,” Pivonka said. “It’s not a singular event, but it’s this process that we are in constant metanoia. I just found myself praying over that and thinking about areas in our life that we need metanoia to change directions.” 

After prayer and consideration, Pivonka decided to follow up the The Wild Goose with Metanoia, a 10-part series about ongoing conversion. The series was shot by 4PM Media and — excluding some interviews — was fully filmed in the Holy Land. 

“To be there, and to reflect on conversion at that place — there’s something beautiful about that,” Pivonka said. “We do one of the episodes in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, and that’s one of the things about being there and hopefully experiencing conversion myself.” 

Nevertheless, although Pivonka had a beautiful experience while filming the series, he also had some humorously stressful moments in the Holy Land. One of these moments included a drone, a boat and the Sea of Galilee. 

“We were moving on the Sea of Galilee, and the battery on the drone began to run out,” Pivonka said. “If the battery is running out, the drone goes to the place where it left the ground. Well, the problem is that wasn’t where we were anymore because the boat was moving.” 

“The drone was literally about to crash in the water. So, long story short, we had it fly overhead really low and just grab it. It was so stressful,” Pivonka said. “It was so funny that it was stressful. It was awful.” 

Filming in the Holy Land was not the only thing that made “Metanoia” a blessed experience for Pivonka. The series also includes short interviews from lay people, who help unpack the themes of each episode.    

“We do one of the interviews with a couple; they’re both 91 years old, and they’re really reflecting back on their life of faith and it’s just beautiful,” Pivonka said. 

“Another is a young couple: Dave and Amber VanVickle. We’ve prayed for Amber a lot recently,” Pivonka said. “She was just diagnosed with cancer, and they’ve got two kids with special needs. When we interviewed her, nobody had any idea that this was going to happen, but we listen to her in the light of this idea of conversion and transformation.” 

Pivonka’s teachings, the interviews and the Holy Land all make Metanoia a relevant series for the Franciscan University of Steubenville communityconstant conversion is one of the essential charisms of the Franciscan Friars, TOR. 

“Here at the university, I was with two freshmen and they were talking about what they were hoping for while they were going to be here. And I said to them, ‘I hope for you to experience conversion,’” Pivonka said. “They said ‘OK’ and left, and they later shared with me that they were frustrated; they’d already had conversion; that’s why they were here.” 

“But this idea of conversion isn’t a singular event; conversion is a lifelong process,” Pivonka said. “It’s my hope and my prayer that students take away this invitation to a deeper conversion with Jesus and they come to know him more deeply, profoundly and transformatively.” 

There is a surplus of opportunities for students to watch the series, ranging from Metanoia Mondays at 1 p.m. in the International Lounge to showings in all the hall dorms. 

“We decided to show the series to know more about the experiences that Father Dave has had and try to share that with everyone in the hall,” said Iliana Gonzales, residence director of Sts. Louis and Elizabeth Halls. “We are all just trying to grow in our spirituality as students of Christ, as Franciscans, and just try to learn and know Christ deeper and love him.” 

Watching Metanoia has drawn the whole Franciscan community together.  

“I was away when the first episode was shown, but somebody wrote me and they said it was just so cool to see faculty, staff, students and friars all together talking about their faith,” Pivonka said. 

“One of the things that we as Catholics don’t do very well is talking about our faith,” Pivonka said. “We largely make our experiences of God very private experiences, but there is a value of coming together as a community.” 

Nevertheless, campus screenings aren’t the only ways to watch Metanoia. The series is available for free on, so it can also be watched alone. 

“Many of the things we talked about are very personal as well,” Pivonka said. “So I think that just watching it yourself and seeing what the Lord is saying to you is important.” 

Overall, Pivonka encourages all students to watch the series. “Who would be on the fence about conversion?” Pivonka said. “The episodes are really beautiful — give it a shot and see if maybe the Lord wants to convert your heart.”