Franciscan Influences: Community and Gospel Values

Jack Sise Features

Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen and Jack Sise (Photo courtesy of Siena)

This essay is part of a series by Holy Name Province’s partners-in-ministry. In the previous article, a North Carolina resident, whose high school friend became a friar, described what she appreciates about volunteering each year at Philadelphia’s St. Francis Inn, as she has done for eight years.  Here, a Siena college alumnus describes the “pull” of his alma mater and the impact of the friars.

When I stepped on the Siena College campus 44 years ago as a freshman from a little town in Upstate New York, I had no idea the education that I would receive there would have such a major impact on my life. Sure, the academic coursework allowed me to go on to law school and excel in a legal career thereafter; however, it was the influence of the friar community that molded me to become who I am today.

I felt the “welcome” of the friars immediately and knew that I had found my new home. In and out of the classroom, they pushed me to open and expand my mind to what the world had to offer. They taught me by words and, more importantly, by action to respect the intrinsic value of each individual, whether he or she is a fellow student, the dishwasher in Serra Hall or a person who we served at a soup kitchen. They lived the Gospel values simply and made them real for each one of us.

After practicing law for 22 years and having raised a family, the “pull” to come back to this welcoming place resulted in taking the position of director of gift planning in the college’s development office. For 15 years, I had the privilege of working with alumni to structure “legacy” gifts. The common theme of each of those donors was a tremendous sense of gratitude and feeling that they would not have succeeded in life without the Franciscan values that were instilled in them during their time at Siena. Each of them would recount — in full detail — stories that were often 40 or 50 years old about specific friars who meant and taught them so much about life.

During my time working at Siena, I watched incoming first-year students be welcomed in the same way and watched them grow academically and spiritually. I am frequently asked by fellow alumni, “What are the students like?”   My answer is always the same, “Although they wear their hair differently and listen to different music, they are just the same as we were. In a generation that is said to lack caring, that doesn’t happen to our students as they quickly learn and embrace our Franciscan values. The only difference is that they learn this from a new set of friars.”

From being welcomed in the fall of 1971 by Fr. Matthew Conlin, OFM, to having a fellow classmate, Fr. Kevin Mullen, the Provincial of Holy Name Province, officiate at a Mass for my retirement this past August, and the hundreds of friars I have had the privilege of knowing in between, I have the deepest gratitude to the Order and the Province for making Franciscanism a part of my DNA. God bless the friars and Siena College.

 — Jack Sise, a 1975 graduate of Siena College, was given the HNP Francis Medal last summer. He and his wife Mary — who also graduated from Siena —  live in Latham, N.Y., just three miles north of the college campus. Sise chose Siena, he says, because his uncle, Fr. Jack Sise, a diocesan priest,  was a member of the school’s  first graduating class — in 1941.

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