Kathy Schiffer is a Catholic blogger. In addition to her blog Seasons of Grace, her articles have appeared in the National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Zenit, the Michigan Catholic, Legatus Magazine, and other Catholic publications. She’s worked for Catholic and other Christian ministries since 1988, as radio producer, director of special events and media relations coordinator. Kathy and her husband, Deacon Jerry Schiffer, have three adult children.
Mike Scanlan was a student at Harvard Law School, and he kept a tight schedule: studying hard on six nights each week, then partying on Saturday night, and just making it to Mass on Sunday morning. “When Lent came around,” he said, “I looked around—and I realized that I wasn't really living any differently than all the other students.”
Scanlan decided that during Lent, he would try to make it to daily Mass. He would fast, and really be faithful as a Catholic. And after only a few days, as he walked home from Mass early in the morning, God stopped him in his tracks. Mike heard within his heart the voice of God, asking, “Michael, will you give me your whole life?”
It's hard to say no to God's direct invitation! And while Scanlan was apprehensive about just what might have to change, he accepted the challenge. He had been engaged to be married—but unsure in what direction God might be leading him, he broke up with the young woman.
Michael Scanlan went on to complete law school, then to serve as a lawyer in the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the Air Force, eventually earning the title of certified Judge Advocate. But the call to the priesthood was unrelenting; and he left the Air Force in pursuit of his vocation. After visiting several religious orders, he joined the Franciscans of the Third Order Regular.
Following his ordination in May 1964, Father Scanlan was offered a position at the College of Steubenville, a small and faltering school. Five years later, he left to become rector of St. Francis Seminary. In 1974, he was named president of the College of Steubenville—but the school to which he returned was losing students and losing money.
As president, Father Scanlan believed that a renewed emphasis on faith was needed, if the college was to survive. He instituted a charismatic renewal—incorporating praise and worship into the Sunday liturgy, preaching passionately to the student population. He instituted the “households” for which Franciscan University of Steubenville is known, small groups of men and women devoted to personal and communal growth; and he required that students join one. He developed a Renewal Center on campus which offered retreats and seminars to instruct students in their Roman Catholic Faith, as well as the popular summer conferences.
But there's more: Father Scanlan instituted an Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium, which all theology professors were required to sign and which preceded the U.S. Bishops' institution in 2000 of the Mandatum, which was to be signed by theology faculty at Catholic institutions. He created a Human Life Studies minor, and under his guidance the theology program at FUS became the largest of any college in America. By the time Fr. Scanlan stepped down as president of the university in 2000, his renewed focus on the Faith had resulted in a near doubling of the student population.
Father Scanlan's outreach extended beyond the university which he revitalized. He led retreats and conferences across America and around the world. For 18 years, he hosted a popular show on EWTN Television. He published more than 16 books and booklets, including the autobiographical Let the Fire Fall and The Truth About Trouble: How Hard Times Can Draw You Closer to God.
“God is clearly leading me,” said Father Michael Scanlan about his mission, his life work. On Saturday, Jan. 7, God called his servant Fr. Michael Scanlan home. The current president of Franciscan University, Fr. Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, said of his predecessor:
Father Scanlan used the gifts and talents God gave him and, guided by the Holy Spirit, turned things around at the struggling College of Steubenville and led to its prominence as Franciscan University of Steubenville.
May God now lead Father Scanlan home to the place which He has prepared for him where, with the angels and saints, he will gaze upon His Holy Face for all eternity.