WHAT IS THE FRANCISCAN LINK TO EDUCATION?
Franciscans have been involved in education for hundreds of years. A few years after the founding of the Order of Friars Minor, the friars began teaching at the University of Paris (1219), at Oxford University (1224), and at Cambridge University (1230). They quickly became popular teachers of the arts, sciences, and theology because of their knowledgeable scholarship and their practical and matter-of-fact style of teaching.
This popularity was often the source of conflict with non-Franciscan faculty members who saw the friars taking away their students! There were even statutes in many universities that stated Deans of Theology could only be appointed from among the Franciscans. The popularity of Franciscans as educators spread throughout Europe and by the end of the 13th century there were Franciscans teaching in Germany, Spain, and Italy as well. The attraction of Franciscan education lay in its attempts to deal with the most challenging and existential questions of human existence in a grounded and practical way.
For Franciscans, education is not pursued for knowledge's sake alone or to gain a profitable career alone. Knowledge for Franciscans is a gateway to understanding God and God's will in human life and destiny. The "more" that Franciscan education offers is the "more" of faith, where faith is a means to understanding who we are and for what reason we have been created. When you leave a Franciscan college or university, like Siena College, you will not just be ready for a job with good pay; rather you will leave with a perspective on life that is filled with a sense of hope of what can be possible in our world.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PRIEST AND A BROTHER?
The work of Franciscans is often called "ministry." God calls some within the Franciscan community to what is known as ordained ministry, or the ministry of priesthood. As a Franciscan priest a person has the ability to preside at and administer some of the sacraments in the Church, like the Eucharist, Reconciliation, and Anointing of the Sick. This ability to perform sacramental ministry is the most significant difference between a priest and a brother within the Franciscan Order. Above all, however, all Franciscans, whether priest or not, are brothers, and the habit we all wear is the same. So it is always perfectly appropriate to refer to a Franciscan by the title "Brother" or "Friar."
HOW MANY FRIARS LIVE AT SIENA?
There are currently 20 friars in residence at the Friary.
The Friary is the place where the friars live and is named for St. Bernardine of Siena, the patron saint of Siena College. It is located across from the Foy Center upper parking lot, adjacent to Siena Hall. Fr. Mark Reamer is the Guardian of the Friary, and Fr. Ignatius Smith and Fr. Dennis Tamburello are the Vicars. There are currently twelve friars who minister at the College, including Br. F. Edward Coughlin, Siena's President. One friar (Fr. Peter Fiore, OFM) has been honored with the designation of Professor Emeritus, meaning he has served the College with distinction and is now in retirement at the Friary. Five friars who are in residence at the Friary minister at St. Francis Chapel in the Wolf Road Shoppers Park in Colonie, NY.
WHAT IS THE GUARDIAN'S JOB?
The title Guardian is given to the person who is head of the Friary. Fr. Mark Reamer is the current Guardian of St. Bernardine of Siena Friary at Siena College. His job is to look after the friars. He is the one the friars turn to whenever they need something, when they need an ear to listen, or when one has an idea for the community. He sets the tone for the house and, with the help of the Vicar of the Friary, decides on policies and the vision for a particular year. In addition the Guardian is in charge of the upkeep and administration of the Friary, and he acts as the principal liaison between the Franciscan Community and the College.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LIVE AS A FRIAR?
To live as a friar means to live in a community of men bound by a common mission. This mission is to carry out the message of Jesus Christ as St. Francis of Assisi understood it. Friars do this through something called the Vows. These vows are public commitments that each Friar must personally make stating that he will live without property of his own (Poverty), will live a celibate life in community (Chastity), and will sacrifice his needs for the needs of others (Obedience).
Friars share what resources they have or gain so that the whole community may be enriched and that they might enrich the lives of others. The vows are not intended to be burdens, but are embraced as a means of opening one's life to the goodness of God and God's grace in one's life.
Francis always speaks of accepting the vows with joy. If they cannot be embraced as such, then they are not vows but chains. It is hope that the witness of a friar's life will free others from the imprisoning and often times demeaning tendencies of materialism and contemporary culture. In all things, a friar hopes to be a witness to all people of the power of God's love and presence in human life and history.
WHAT BUILDINGS ON THE SIENA CAMPUS ARE NAMED AFTER FRANCISCANS?
Many of the buildings on this campus are named for Franciscans:
The Ben Kuhn House (near McGuire Hall) is named for the affable and gregarious Fr. Benjamin Kuhn, OFM, one of the seven founding Friars of Siena College, who taught everything from History to Chemistry. He served the Siena community for over 50 years.
Clare Center, the home of the Department of Religious Studies, is of course named for St. Clare of Assisi.
The Friary and Siena Hall are named for St. Bernardine of Siena, a fifteenth century Franciscan preacher who was known as a "second Apostle Paul" for his proclamation to all of Italy of the Holy Name of Jesus. He is the patron saint of Siena College, and before 1968, the college's official name was St. Bernardine of Siena College.
All of the residence halls, excepting the townhouses, are named for friars.
Hennepin Hall is named for Fr. Louis Hennepin, a French Franciscan who accompanied LaSalle in his explorations of North America in the 17th century. Fr. Hennepin explored Western New York State and was the first European to see Niagara Falls.
Padua Hall is named for St. Anthony of Padua, the first Franciscan theologian, who was a contemporary of St. Francis.
Plassmann Hall, the first residence hall built on campus (1958), is named for Fr. Thomas Plassmann, a founder of a Siena College, a former Provincial of Holy Name Province, and a president of St. Bonaventure University. It was while Fr. Plassmann was President of St. Bonaventure University that he worked with Bishop Gibbons of Albany to establish Siena College in his diocese. Fr. Plassmann also gave the address that dedicated Siena Hall in 1938.
Ryan Hall is named for Fr. Benvenute Ryan, another Provincial of Holy Name Province from 1925 to 1931.
Hines Hall is unique in that it is named for a living friar, Fr. Hugh Hines, seventh president of Siena College from 1976 to 1989.
The house at 33 Fiddler's Lane, Serra Manor, is named for Fr. Junipero Serra, O.F.M. Fr. Serra was a missionary in the Californias during the 18th century establishing 21 missions along the Pacific coast of United States.
Although Sarazen Student Union is not named for a Friar, it occupies the space of the former library, named for Fr. Jerome Dawson, a former Provincial of Holy Name Province and the first Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Siena College.
Roger Bacon Hall is named for the great Franciscan scientist of the fourteenth century who is credited with discovering the principle of the telescope and the microscope, and for having invented gunpowder -- but because of its destructive capabilities hid the formula in an anagram which was only recently solved in this century. He was a maverick when it came to studies and never fit happily into the academic routine which most of his fellow scholars adopted so readily.
And of course, St. Francis House, where the departments of Institutional Advancement and Development reside, as well as Alumni Relations, is named for Francis of Assisi.
In all, out of 25 buildings on campus, twelve are named for Franciscans.