I didn’t have the pleasure of ever meeting Father Mike. He left Franciscan before I was a student, but he still had such a significant impact on my life that losing him felt like losing a close, personal friend.
His name was present from the moment I stepped foot on campus. I can’t remember the first time I heard his name. It was probably on my tour as a prospective student as we walked past his portrait in the J.C. Williams Center.
Many in the Franciscan community see Father Mike as the man who re-founded the school and helped it find its identity in the Church. Before Father Mike, the college was virtually unknown and struggling. But with humility and support of the Holy Spirit, Father Mike helped Franciscan flourish.
He’s a sort of St. Francis-like figure.
Both men had very different directions they wanted to take their lives. St. Francis wanted to be an honorable knight. Father Mike wanted to be a lawyer. But the Lord called them in different directions.
From the cross, the Lord called St. Francis to rebuild the church. St. Francis took the call literally, rebuilding church buildings in Assisi and the surrounding area. However, out of that grew a movement and an order that transformed the church. Similarly, The Lord gave Father Mike a call, to go rebuild a struggling, small school. And he did. He built households, conferences, mission projects, new majors and programs, actual buildings, and more. Out of his work came fruits that I would argue have transformed the church for the better.
Both men met popes, knew saints, educated their younger brothers and sisters in Christ and sacrificed a lot for the sake of the kingdom. And neither of them did the work that they did for the sake of fame or glory. Recognition was an added perk. It was all for the glory of the Lord.
I had the opportunity to read Father Mike’s autobiographical book as a freshman, and I’m hoping to read it again in the next couple of months. I’ve watched a couple of the videos that Franciscan posted on YouTube of him.
From what I’ve seen, what I’ve read, and what’ve heard about him, Father Mike was a man who radiated holiness in every part of his life, whether he was in mass, in his office, hitting balls at the tennis court, or sitting in the TV studio filming an episode of Franciscan Presents.
Father Mike is an example for us on how to listen to the voice of the Lord and accept whatever call he sends. He’s an example of how to place complete trust in the Lord and allow Him to use you as an instrument for his creation.
Father Mike is terribly missed by those who met him and those who didn’t. But it’s comforting to know that there is now a powerful intercessor for us in heaven who is praying and continuing to work for the school.
So thank you, Father Mike, for the lessons and we are praying for you too.
Hannah Crites is a senior communications arts major (with a concentration in journalism) and theology minor from south-suburban Denver, Colorado. She is the oldest of three and is the first person in her family to attend Franciscan University. She enjoys drinking coffee (particularly in unhealthy quantities), playing the guitar and ukulele, writing, hiking, traveling, and going on random adventures.