ALLEGANY, N.Y. — St. Bonaventure University announced this month that its School of Franciscan Studies, the teaching component of the Franciscan Institute, is suspending new enrollments in the master of arts program taught during the academic year.
The summer session, which features master’s degree offerings in addition to an Advanced Certificate Program and general orientation courses, will continue to be offered, according to a March 19 news release from SBU.
Faculty in the school and Franciscan Institute, founded in 1939, concluded through program assessment that the M.A. in Franciscan Studies was not generating enough enrollment to be viable beyond the 2010-2011 academic year.
Students already enrolled in the master’s program will be able to complete their degrees. By virtue of current endowments and gift funds, the university said it is committed to continue the salaried positions of current tenured faculty while a transition to new programs and goals is taking place.
“To see a program that has educated in the Franciscan tradition so many friars, sisters and laity from North America and across the world coming to an end — at least for now — is, of course, very sad,” said Fr. Michael Cusato, OFM, director of the Franciscan Institute and dean of the School of Franciscan Studies.
Future of the Institute
The declining enrollment of Franciscan vocations in the United States and the fact that “most of our international students come to us scholarship-dependent has forced the institute and the university to face certain inescapable financial realities,” said Fr. Michael.
“It would appear that the Franciscan Institute is at a crossroads in its history,” said Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM. “The status of the Franciscan Institute will be discussed at the April meeting of the OFM English-speaking Conference.”
“Conversations have begun, focused on new programs and directions for the institute,” said John, who will be participating in the ESC meeting April 11 to 16 in Ireland. “We, Holy Name Province, will closely monitor those discussions and help in any way necessary to ensure the future of the Franciscan Institute and the important role it has in the ongoing life of the ESC and the Order.”
“It is important to acknowledge the extraordinary support of Holy Name Province — given at multiple levels — since the governance of the Franciscan Institute was delegated to that province, and later, to the university. Many other provinces and institutes of the Franciscan Order have joined in various ways to offer financial aid and personnel,” Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, SBU president and former director of the institute, said in a letter to FI students, alumni donors and others.
“While it is difficult to suspend a program that has produced so much good for the Franciscans of this era, the university must now aggressively seek ways to expand the institute’s reach and resources. We are equal to that task and welcome the opportunity it provides,” said Sr. Margaret.
“This period through the end of the 2011 academic year will allow time to plan for the teaching program’s future,” said Sr. Margaret. “The institute remains a vital and critical resource for Franciscan scholarship, and we have no intentions of abandoning that commitment. Our board of trustees joins me in assuring members of the Franciscan order that this commitment is not subject to cancellation.”
The university is embarking on a planning process to determine how the programs of the school of Franciscan Studies can be developed for future needs.
Editor’s note: Articles about the programs and activities of the Franciscan Institute, from past issues of HNP Today, can be found on the HNP Web site, using the search feature.