With less than two weeks before Fr. Mark Francis, CSV, retires from his role as president of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, administrators and colleagues alike wanted to celebrate his leadership.

Fr. Robert Egan, left, with Fr. Mark Francis

During a one-hour virtual celebration, everyone from Fr. Kurt Hartrich, OFM, immediate past board chairman, to Cardinal Joseph Tobin, CSsR, to Fr. Robert M. Egan, CSV, Superior General reflected on Fr. Francis’ legacy.

Fr. Egan recounted how his long friendship with Fr. Francis began on the school bus, more than 50 years ago, taking them to Saint Viator High School. Their lives have crisscrossed ever since, from serving as teachers and administrators at Viatorian institutions, to traveling around the world during their separate terms as superior general.

“Mark is a scholar,” Fr. Egan said, “and his belief in the importance of recognizing the need for inculturation and cross-cultural experiences in theological formation are part of his genuine convictions.”

Cardinal Tobin of the Diocese of Newark developed a friendship with Fr. Francis when they both served as superior generals of their respective religious communities in Rome, and they have stayed in touch.

Fr. Mark Francis, CSV, with Sr. Barbara Reid, OP

“Mark enhanced the work of CTU by promoting religious life and the pastoral life of the church,” Cardinal Tobin said, “as well as rethinking the identity of religious working with the laity.”

As chairman of CTU’s board of trustees while Fr. Francis served as president, Fr. Hartrich commended Fr. Francis for “working tirelessly for CTU and continuing the legacy of academics at CTU.”

“But he has also reached out to new religious communities,” Fr. Hartrich added, “and been instrumental in reaching out to the Muslim and Jewish communities in welcoming them to CTU.”

The evening included a musical performance and prayer of thanksgiving, as well as remarks by the president-elect, Sr. Barbara Reid, OP.

For his part, Fr. Francis thanked the more than 100 people who participated as well as CTU’s administrators, faculty and students for the opportunity to lead them.

“Being president of CTU has been a wonderful and life-changing experience,” Fr. Francis says. “I will remain forever grateful to God for the privilege of this ministry. I have often said that I have had three incarnations in this institution: as student, faculty member, and president. CTU has been an integral part of my religious and ministerial life since 1978.”