‘Little Steubenville’ in the Diocese of Arlington

First slide
First slide
Previous Next

CJ Irvin is a 2016 graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio—  one of the nearly 20 undergraduate and graduate alumni who now work in the Diocese of Arlington’s chancery. Many more work in diocesan churches and schools. Terrence McKeegan, class of 1999 and head of the local alumni chapter, estimates that between 700 and 800 graduates live in the Washington area.

Franciscan is a small university, home to 2,100 undergraduates this year, located a few states away from Virginia. But a large number of its graduates call the Diocese of Arlington home. Though many were born and raised in the diocese, many others moved here, attracted by the closeness to Washington, but also the good reputation of the diocese and the community of friends already here.

Irvin grew up in the city of Steubenville. When it came time to apply for colleges, he began to look closely at the school. “Once I started going on campus more, I realized this is a kind of special place,” he said. “The faith aspect drew me. If you go to daily Mass there, it’s different. Everyone’s involved, everyone’s singing. You could tell the friars had a heart for the ministry they were doing.”

After Irvin graduated from Franciscan, he got a job in his field — hospitality — in the touristy beach town of Cape May, N.J. It was a great opportunity, he said, but there wasn’t a large Catholic community of young people. After a few months, he moved to Northern Virginia —“because of how many people I knew in the area,” he said.

He now lives in a house in Falls Church with other young men, including two other Steubenville grads.

“There are a lot of solid young people but also it’s just a very good diocese here,” he said. “People come here for the jobs, but when it comes down to it, I think Catholic young adults really do stay here and set up camp for that reason.”

McKeegan grew up in central Pennsylvania and transferred to Franciscan after becoming disillusioned with the secular college experience, he said. “Franciscan made my faith real,” he said, especially after his study abroad experience in Austria, where Franciscan has a campus.

McKeegan, a parishioner of St. James Church in Falls Church, now works as an attorney but is also involved in the local arts scene. Like Irvin, he settled in Northern Virginia because of the many friends he had in the area, the diocese and the proximity to Washington. “A lot of my friends from college are from this area or moved down to this area, so that was the big reason. I think there's a little bit of something for everyone no matter what field they are in, and then you also have really strong, vibrant diocese here in Arlington,” he said.

As head of the local alumni group, McKeegan organizes three events a year. “I really believe in what Franciscan is doing and I like to connect people,” he said. The alumni have a yearly reunion at the Appaloosa Festival in Front Royal — a three-day concert run with the help of many Steubenville grads, said McKeegan.

“I get to see many of my old friends on a regular basis — that’s one of the best things about living down here,” he said. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018

@ZoeyMaraistACH