Archive of April 17, 2011

Architect of Steubenville's Catholic revival to retire after 37 years

Steubenville, Ohio, Apr 17, 2011 (CNA) - The Franciscan University of Steubenville has announced that its chancellor and past president Father Michael Scanlan will be retiring on June 30, 2011. Dr. Alan Schreck, a professor of theology at the school described how the 79-year-old priest took a leap of faith to renew the school's Catholic identity.

“He saw his appointment as an opportunity to step out in faith, and do something radical – because a radical solution was needed,” Schreck told CNA. In 1974, the school was a “typical Catholic college,” suffering from cultural and financial upheavals. But the Franciscan priest set out to “make Jesus Christ the Lord of the campus in every aspect.”

“Fr. Michael said we had to establish a clearer Catholic identity, both in the campus life and in our academic offerings,” explained Schreck, who has taught at the school since 1978. In this way, the school took a different path from many other Catholic institutions of its day. “They began hiring people who were solidly Catholic and believed in faithfulness to the magisterium.”

“The rest is history,” said Schreck. Fr. Scanlan was president for 26 years, and has now been chancellor for 11 years.

The school's history began in 1946, when the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular founded the College of Steubenville. But the college might not have survived, if not for the radical decision of a young Harvard law school graduate.

Michael Scanlan had been engaged to be married, and held a position in the legal department of the Air Force. “But one day, at some point, he went out into the woods for a day – just to pray and ask God to reveal his will,” Schreck recalled. “He really wanted to dedicate his life to God, but didn't know how.”

“At the end of the day, he came out convinced that God was calling him to become a priest.”

After entering the Franciscans of the Third Order Regular in 1957, and being ordained a priest seven years later, he eventually became rector of St. Francis Seminary in Pennsylvania. Early in 1974, he met Alan Schreck – a recent college graduate – on the campus of Notre Dame.

“There was an international conference that I was helping to organize at Notre Dame, and Fr. Mike came out to be one of the speakers at the conference. We decided to go out for a little jog around the campus – and as we were going, he requested my prayers.”

“He said he had a big decision to make. He was being considered for the presidency of this small, struggling Catholic college called the College of Steubenville.”

At that time, Schreck said, the College of Steubenville was a “typical Catholic college,” where faith was “part of the campus life,” but not emphasized. “It wasn't fervently religious in any sense. There wasn't anything distinctive about its identity that would have set it apart in that area.”

The college had other problems as well. The school “was never bankrupt, but it was at the point of serious financial difficulties. This was not unusual, because it was the early 70s – when many, many Catholic colleges around the country were closing up, due to low enrollment.”

Schreck recalled that Fr. Scanlan's experiences with the “charismatic renewal” in the late-1960s, along with his own Franciscan identity, provided him with a vision for reviving the College of Steubenville.

“Fr. Mike is a priest to the core, and a Franciscan to the core. He brought a spirit of joy, and a certain simplicity and poverty of spirit. Even though Fr. Michael is a very intelligent man, and a very astute lawyer, he has a certain joy and exuberance. A lot of that is a reflection of St. Francis' spirituality.

“The charismatic dimension became important,” Schreck added, “and it was very much compatible with his Franciscan identity. Because of some of the same graces – openness to God, joy, and simplicity – the charisms of this movement and his Franciscan vocation really complimented each other.”

“He really wanted to focus on the clear teaching of the Catholic faith, and a powerful proclamation of the Gospel.”

Soon, he began making significant changes to the school's academics and culture. Although the college offered a few required theology classes during the early 1970s, it did not offer a degree in the subject.

“He said, if we're going to be truly Catholic, we have to recognize theology as central to our identity. Theology became a major, and they began hiring people who were solidly Catholic and believed in faithfulness to the magisterium.”

“The second thing was in campus ministry,” Schreck explained. At the time Fr. Scanlan became president, the most popular Mass for students was held at midnight. “A lot of students would go out and party, then they'd sort of drift into that Mass so they could sleep in all day the next day.”

“Fr. Michael said he wanted to take over the 10 o'clock Mass on Sunday morning, and it wasn't going to be shortened – it was going to be long, because he would be preaching. He personally said, 'I want this to be the focal point Mass.' It gradually became that, because people were attracted to his preaching of the Gospel.”

He also wanted to develop a stronger sense of community, having read studies that showed college freshmen were at risk for depression and suicide. His solution, which remains a distinctive feature of life at Steubenville today, came from the charismatic movement.

“In various charismatic communities, they had established what they called 'households,' which were small groups in which people would support each other,” said Schreck. For several years, all Steubenville students were required to join one of the households, a bold decision that Shreck said was surprisingly successful.

In 1975, Fr. Scanlan also began holding summer conferences on the campus. “He had conferences for priests, deacons, religious sisters, and the big one was for high-school-age youth.” The annual Franciscan University Youth Conferences now host more than 35,000 young people at 18 locations in the United States and Canada.

Along the way, Schreck said Fr. Scanlan never sacrificed the school's academic quality in the service of its dymanic spiritual life. “They were both necessary,” he observed.

The College of Steubenville gained university status in 1980, and became the Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1986. At that point, Schreck recalled, “it seemed that the corner had been turned,” and Fr. Scanlan's experiment had clearly exceeded expectations.

Today, in addition to its expanded summer conferences, the university also offers distance learning, 42 undergraduate majors, and seven graduate programs. Schreck said that he expects the university to continue building according to Fr. Scanlan's blueprint after his retirement to a more private ministry.

“Because we put Christ first, at the center of our campus, I'm very hopeful about the future of the university,” Schreck said.

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St. Adalbert of Prague, bishop and martyr, remembered April 23

CNA STAFF, Apr 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On April 23, the Catholic Church will celebrate the martyrdom of St. Adalbert of Prague, a bishop who lost his life standing up against the pagan practices of Central Europe during the 10th century.
Originally given the name of Wojtech, the boy who would be known as St. Adalbert was born to a family of nobility in the Central European region of Bohemia during the mid-900s. When Wojtech became seriously ill during his childhood, his parents resolved that they would offer their son to God as a priest if their prayers for his survival were granted.
Wojtech survived the illness, and his parents sent him to study with Archbishop Adalbert of Magdeburg, a Benedictine missionary who would later be canonized in his own right. The archbishop gave the young student his own name at confirmation, setting an example that the boy would follow in his own life as a bishop, missionary and monk.
The young Adalbert was 25 when his mentor died in 981. He returned to his native Bohemia, where Bishop Deitmar of Prague ordained him a priest two years later.
However, the end of Bishop Deitmar’s life provided the young priest with a cautionary example that would remain with him until the end of his life. During his last illness, the bishop became terrified of his impending judgment, confessing that he had neglected his spiritual duties in favor of wealth, honors and pleasure.
After watching his bishop die on the verge of despair, Adalbert immediately resolved to live his own life in a more penitential spirit than before. He began wearing a hair-shirt and distributing his money to the poor. Soon, he would be chosen to replace the bishop whose agonizing death had shown him the gravity of spiritual leadership.
Adalbert was consecrated as the Bishop of Prague just months after becoming a priest. “It is an easy thing to wear the mitre and a cross,” Adalbert reflected, “but it is a most dreadful circumstance to have an account to give of a bishopric to the judge of the living and the dead.”
The bishop took steps to reform the finances of his diocese, ensuring that his own expenses made up only a small portion of the budget. Meanwhile, he slept on the floor, fasted regularly, gave sermons almost daily, and visited poor neighborhoods and prisons.
But in six years of constant prayer, fasting, and preaching, Bishop Adalbert made little headway among the Bohemians. The low point came when he unsuccessfully attempted to shield a woman convicted of adultery from a mob that sought to kill her. He responded by excommunicating the murderers, but the public seemed to favor them rather than the bishop.

Frustrated and dejected, Adalbert journeyed to Rome and asked Pope John XV for permission to retire from his diocese in 989. He joined a Roman monastery and purposely took on its most undesirable tasks of work and maintenance.
Five years after Adalbert’s departure, the Archbishop of Mentz – who had consecrated him as a bishop – asked the Pope to send him back to the diocese of Prague. Pope John did so, but made it clear that Adalbert was free to leave if the residents of his diocese continued to resist him.
When their former bishop returned, the residents of Prague welcomed him warmly and promised to change their ways. Sadly, however, this promise proved false, and Adalbert came to fear that he might be driven to despair by the rebellious locals. In keeping with the Pope’s provision, he left and became a missionary to the Hungarians.
In the course of his Hungarian missions, Adalbert taught – among many others – King Stephen I, who would later be canonized as St. Stephen of Hungary. Afterward, he returned to the Roman monastery of St. Boniface, where he served in the office of prior. But Adalbert’s consecrator remained insistent that he should return to Prague yet again.
Pope Gregory V finally ordered Adalbert to resume his duties as the Bishop of Prague. This time, however, the citizens defied him openly. A Bohemian prince named Boleslaus went so far as to kill several of Adalbert's relatives and burn their homes, to make it clear how unwelcome his presence would be.
Nonetheless, Adalbert attempted to obey the Pope’s charge, and sent a message asking whether the other residents of Prague might allow him to return. The response he received indicated he should not come back, and would be in danger if he chose to do so.

Rejected by his own people, Adalbert decided to begin a mission to the pagan tribes in Poland and northeastern Germany. He successfully converted many of them, but eventually encountered the same hostility that had driven him from his diocese. This was partly because he denounced the native practices of tree-worship and human sacrifice, but also because he was suspected of being a Polish spy.

A pagan priest eventually captured Adalbert and his two companions, binding them and taking them hostage while they slept. Adalbert prayed aloud, offering his own life to God and begging forgiveness for his attackers.

“You had it always in your mouth that it was your desire to die for Christ,” he heard the pagan priest say, as he stabbed Adalbert in the chest with a lance. Six others proceeded to stab him, and he died of his wounds on April 23, 997.

A Polish prince ransomed back St. Adalbert's body from the pagans, exchanging his remains for their weight in gold. His relics were transferred to the Polish city of Gniezno, and kept in the church known as Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Adalbert.

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New Hampshire Catholic reflects on adventure, conversion

Manchester, N.H., Apr 17, 2011 (CNA) - As a kid growing up in Milton, Massachusetts, Dan Egan used to kneel next to his brothers on the church pews, and hearing that he needed to be saved by Christ, he would wonder, “Saved from what?” In 1990, trapped in a snow cave on a blizzard-wrapped glacier below Mount Elbrus, lacking any food or water and on the verge of freezing to death, Dan got his answer.

As he sits today in the headquarters of Egan Entertainment Network in Ashland, New Hampshire, Dan recalls the improbable journey that brought him to that cave in the Caucasus Mountains, and recounts the even more improbable journey that he has been on ever since. The small office where he sits is as modest in its 1980s ski lodge décor as it is in its lack of self-promotion — not a single trophy, ribbon, or certificate to suggest the remarkable achievements of its proprietor. On the wall hangs a single poster, featuring Dan and another skier launching out the door of a Cannon Mountain tram and flying through the New Hampshire sky. Amidst the scattered ski stickers and DVDs on his desk sit two books: the Bible and Rediscovering Catholicism.

Dan explains how he has fashioned a life and a living by following in the daunting downhill ski tracks of his older brother John. Together the two renowned extreme skiers used their entrepreneurial instincts and filmmaking talents to travel the world “in search of steep.” Branded “The Egan Brothers,” they reached speeds on skis that left sanity a distant third. They ascended heights accessible only by helicopter, tumbled through cavernous, rock-lined ravines, averted avalanches by split seconds, and flew in the air like projectiles, landing — nearly every time — on their skis, laughing and living to ski again another day.

On that May morning in 1990, high in the Caucasus of Russia, Dan had left his brother John far behind, pushing on in his exuberance towards the summit of Europe’s highest peak. He was mindful of a storm approaching from below, but was feeling, if not invulnerable, at least lucky.

And why not? Luck had been leading him on an unpredictable road to the sort of success he only dreamed about as a kid. From an early age, Dan often found himself on a bus with his siblings headed towards New Hampshire’s ski slopes. “It was my mom’s one day off a week from the seven kids,” he recalls. They all loved skiing, but never thought they’d make a living from it. Then Dan and John saw their first Warren Miller film. Warren Miller is the legendary ski filmmaker who did for skiing what Bill Gates did for the personal computer. Dan was only 10 when he saw the movie with his brother, who was 16, but he still remembers what his brother said: “I want to ride on every chair lift in the world.”

As a teenager, Dan became a standout athlete in New England. Though a top- ranked skier, his passion was soccer, and his dream was playing on a Division I team. Having underachieved academically, he spent a year after high school at Bridgton Academy. “It was basically a home for wayward jocks, but that one year changed my life.” At Bridgton, Dan learned to transfer his athletic discipline to his schoolwork and was admitted to Babson College.

Meanwhile, his brother John, though he hadn’t yet ridden every chairlift in the world, was making an honest try. He had skied on both the U.S. pro mogul and ski racing tours and by the late 1970s was making $50 a day as a dish washer and working for Warren Miller, skiing in the very films he and Dan had gaped at as kids. So while Dan pursued a degree in business and played soccer, he never lost sight of his brother’s tracks. He spent his winter terms cultivating the life of a bona fide ski bum — flipping burgers, washing dishes, crossing the continent, and crashing down the slopes from Sugarbush, Vermont, to Squaw Valley, California. When the snow melted, he would take enough summer courses to keep up with his classmates.

After graduation, Dan coached soccer, but in the winter of 1988 he was slope-side at Sugarbush, “working as the night condo check-in guy. I was riding on a chairlift and my buddy Stan told me he had tickets to the Patriots vs. Broncos playoff game in Denver.” Most people would not have their lives changed by that information, but neither would most people reply “I can’t believe you’re going to go all the way out there and not ski.” This thought would lead to Dan, John, and two friends quitting their jobs, and heading west in Stan’s car. John earned an initial $300 in a Mogul Competition in Aspen. Then Dan made it into the final round of 16 in Vail. Ultimately, the newly-branded Egan Brothers arrived in Squaw Valley and became two of the original members of the Northface Extreme Skiing Team. Dan never made it to the football game.

“John and I became known as the Siamese twins of extreme skiing — joined at the soul.” The two were part of an extreme skiing revival when the industry was just beginning to sponsor non-Olympic skiers and VHS technology was just coming into vogue. The brothers had skied their way into a perfect combination of white powder, new video technology, and east coast chutzpa. “I was promising large retailers a multi-media extravaganza. In reality, all I had was some VHS tapes, a boom box, and a slogan: ‘Skiing to double your exposure.’”

From 1988 to 1994, Dan and John worked for Warren Miller, sub-contracting and producing films. But the films were never just about skiing. “Skiing was always wrapped to something bigger,” Dan recalls. In fact, the brothers used their skis as a passport to the world’s troubled regions. “We basically followed CNN around the world. We jumped off the Berlin wall in 1989, skied in Yugoslavia a week before the war broke out in 1992. We were in Romania after the revolution. We organized the original Peace Ski in Beirut in 1993.”

It was just such a venture that brought Dan and John to the Caucasus Mountains of Russia in 1990. Not until Dan had reached the 18,500 foot summit of Mt. Elbrus did he begin to realize the potential peril that he was in. The other members of his original exhibition, including John, had turned back long before.

After Dan and his Spanish climbing companion celebrated their ascent with the last of their water, they saw a large figure emerging from the clouds. This was Sasha, a Russian guide in search of lost hikers. In the long, treacherous hours of the next two days, this man would save the lives of a dozen people, including Dan Egan.

Sasha instructed the two men to follow him, which meant leaving behind their packs. The storm, which now engulfed the three men and other stranded climbers they joined along the way, was packing 100 mph winds and burying the mountain in over five feet of snow. The group trudged on their precarious descent when suddenly the second man in line vanished into one of the hundreds of hidden crevasses of the glacier. Without hesitating, Sasha tied a rope around himself, plunged into the snow, and rescued the man. The incident made clear that there was no pressing forward in the dark. It was time to dig caves and try to survive the night on the side of the unforgiving mountain.

In the confusion that followed, Dan dug frantically for more than four hours before discovering he had apparently been abandoned by his fellow climbers. He collapsed in exhaustion inside a cave that he was certain would be his tomb. “God was with me in that cave,” he says. “I remember shivering, struggling to keep my extremities warm.” As he approached what he was certain was his death, he recalls seeing the proverbial bright light. He believes that he met his guardian angel, who told Dan: “Follow me.”

“Suddenly, this large body bursts into the cave. It was Sasha. He engulfed my body and said, ‘We sleep together like brothers.’” Though Dan spent the night vomiting blood and having hallucinations, the body warmth provided by this experienced guide saved his life. The next day Dan and the makeshift band of stranded climbers maneuvered slowly through a minefield of hidden crevasses, determined to try to avoid a second night on the mountain.

As he and Sasha took turns leading the group, he came to understand the literalness of the words that had been spoken to him in the cave: “Follow me.” One wrong step could have plunged them to their death, but ultimately, all 14 of the climbers stranded with Dan made it down safely. Thirty-four hours after setting out, Dan re-united with his brother John. Twenty-five climbers had died in the storm in what is still regarded as one of the worst climbing disasters in history.

Dan regards his survival on Mt. Elbrus as a miracle, one that has caused him to refocus his professional ski career more on teaching and safety. As for his personal life, the experience of “essentially having died and come back” continues to shape him every day. “I don’t regard it as a singular event that happened, but rather as the beginning of a story that I am still living today — a life of deeper understanding, contemplation, and prayer.”

Still, Dan has discovered that a crash down the side of a mountain is not the worst fall one can have in life, and not all injuries can be repaired by orthopedic surgery. A decade and a half after the Elbrus experience, Dan was reeling in the wake of a painful divorce. A relative of his recommended that he attend a retreat, and he found himself at a Cursillo in 2005.

For Dan the experience was a profound re-acquaintance with the Catholic faith in which he had been steeped as a child. When Dan was growing up, his dad served as the physician for pilgrimages to Lourdes in France. Dan had made three pilgrimages and witnessed several miracles before he had graduated from high school. “The entire experience — the priests and nuns I met, the praying of the rosary, the cures I saw — really shaped my faith.”

What these pilgrimages had shaped in Dan as a child, Cursillo re-awakened. “Cursillo is like rocket fuel for your faith. Prior to Cursillo, I had never really seen my whole life within the context of my Catholic faith. This was the first time I saw my Catholic faith come alive in the laity. That spark solidified for me my many experiences from Lourdes and beyond.

“As a kid, I didn’t know how much I was going to need saving. I didn’t know I was going to be freezing to death in a snow cave in Russia. I didn’t know the pain of divorce. And yet Christ was with me through all of it. I never could understand how the divorce experience could ever be positive. Now I see that Christ can turn even that to good. I never would have seen that if I didn’t stay centered in the Church.”

Many years ago Dan left behind year-round travel and settled in Campton, NH. He is about to publish a third book, White Haze. Egan Entertainment includes his syndicated TV show broadcast in households across the country each week, and Dan is the video producer for the U.S. Sailing Team. He still tours from ski resorts to auditoriums to orthopedic centers, showcasing his passion for skiing. But today, Dan is just as likely to speak to a youth group, coach youth soccer, or lector at Holy Trinity Parish. He also helps lead a divorce support group and serves as Cursillo team member. He describes his life as “shifting from what a friend calls ‘success to significance,’ towards an understanding of the purpose of all that has happened. The whole idea now is how I can use all that I have experienced to positively affect others.”

Dan praises his parents who “remain so faithful in the practice of their faith. The fact is I’m as Catholic as my eyes are brown, and believe me I’ve tried pretty hard not to be. I’m now able to celebrate my Catholicism instead of run from it. When I speak to confirmation groups I tell the kids, ‘Hey this is not French or Math you are studying here. This defines who you are.’” The teens likely listen to his words, not because he has been to the top of the mountain, but because he has skied down it so fast. But having found what it really means to be saved, Dan tells them what he himself has discovered at the heights and in the depths of his life: “You will become who you are through your faith.”

Originally printed in Parable, the Magazine of the Diocese of Manchester. To read more articles in Parable, visit

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'Happy Birthday,' Palm Sunday crowds wish Pope

Vatican City, Apr 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

“Happy Birthday Holy Father!” That was the rousing chorus serenading Pope Benedict XVI April 17 as he concluded this year’s Palm Sunday ceremonies in St Peters Square. The Pope, who turned 84 Saturday, had earlier used his Sunday sermon to warn the world that advances in technology won’t necessarily save mankind from future catastrophes.

 “With the increase of our abilities there has been an increase not only of good. Our possibilities for evil have increased and appear like menacing storms above history,” he said. “Our limitations have also remained: we need but think of the disasters which have caused so much suffering for humanity in recent months.”

The Palm Sunday service recalls the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago. In imitation of those events, today’s papal ceremonies began with a solemn procession of bishops, cardinals and the Holy Father himself carrying palm leaves. This is how the Jerusalem crowd welcomed Jesus himself.

Over 50,000 pilgrims basking beneath the Roman sun joined the churchmen in waving palms.

Today’s events also mark the start of Holy Week, the most sacred time of the year for Christians. Over the next seven days the Catholic Church will recall the death, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, culminating in Easter Sunday.

Pope Benedict concluded his sermon by highlighting the life and work of St. Augustine of Hippo. The fifth century Christian philosopher, he suggested, had outlined the best solution to the question of human evil.

“(H)e should have despaired of himself and human existence had he not found the One who accomplishes what we of ourselves cannot accomplish; the One who raises us up to the heights of God in spite of our wretchedness: Jesus Christ who from God came down to us and, in his crucified love, takes us by the hand and lifts us on high.”

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