Scott Warden
June 11, 2024 // Bishop

Richey Inaugurated as 11th President of the University of Saint Francis

Scott Warden

On Friday, June 7, the solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Dr. Lance Richey was inaugurated as the 11th president of the University of Saint Francis during a ceremony held in the Fort Wayne campus’ North Auditorium.

Richey, who has worked in various roles during his 13-year career at the university, had been serving as interim president since May of 2023. University officials announced on March 21 of this year that the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration – the university’s sponsoring congregation – had appointed Richey as the school’s next president, succeeding Father Eric Albert Zimmer, who announced his resignation on April 5, 2023.

Provided by the University of Saint Francis
Dr. Lance Richey, center, speaks at his inauguration ceremony on Friday, June 7, during which he became the first lay president in the 134-year history of the University of Saint Francis.

The festivities on campus marking Richey’s inauguration began with a Mass at the university’s chapel, the Oratory of St. Francis of Assisi, which was celebrated by Bishop Rhoades. During the Mass, Richey made a public profession of faith as he led the congregation in reciting the Nicene Creed. He also swore an oath of fidelity to uphold the teachings of the Church as he serves in his role as university president.

In his homily at Mass, Bishop Rhoades spoke of how fitting it was that Richey was inaugurated on the solemnity of the Sacred Heart, noting the special devotion St. Francis of Assisi and Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel, the founder the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, had to Christ’s Sacred Heart.

Photos by Scott Warden

“In many of her letters, [Blessed Maria Theresia] wrote about the overflowing love of Christ seen in the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Mother Maria Theresia encouraged her sisters to be devoted to the Sacred Heart, telling them of the many graces that come from Jesus’ Heart burning with love for them so that they may do much good for others and advance in holiness.

Bishop Rhoades reminded the faithful that in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope St. John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education, the pope wrote that Catholic universities “are born from the heart of the Church.”

“The Church has a mission in the world to proclaim the redeeming love of God in Christ,” Bishop Rhoades said in his homily. “A Catholic university shares in that mission. There are many systems of thought and action which seek to construct the human world on the basis of other things, like wealth, power, and pleasure. But that’s not the Christian system. Our mission is to build up the Kingdom of God, ‘a Kingdom of truth and life, a Kingdom of holiness and grace, a Kingdom of justice, love, and peace.’ The Sacred Heart of Jesus is precisely the image that expresses our mission. It is the image of the infinite and merciful love which the heavenly Father has poured out upon the world through His Son. The goal of all we do in the Church is to lead people to encounter this love. Only this love, the love of the Heart of Christ, can transform the human heart and bring true peace to the world.”

Provided by the University of Saint Francis

During his inauguration ceremony, Richey became the school’s first lay president in its 134-year history. As he addressed the faculty, staff, community members, and other supporters in attendance, Richey acknowledged the responsibilities that come with his new position.

“I am beginning what I hope will be a wonderful and grace-filled adventure for us all as the University of Saint Francis asks itself once again what we are called to do as a Catholic, Franciscan university in a world that needs both those attributes more than ever,” Richey said.

Richey expressed how at home he felt from the first time he visited Saint Francis, including the memory of first seeing the Stations of the Cross embedded in the Pope John Paul II Center on campus.

“When I got to the University of Saint Francis, I saw wonderful things: the sisters as a visible presence of the faith on campus, keeping alive the evangelical work and Eucharistic spirituality of their foundress, Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel; a talented and welcoming faculty and staff who were excited about working at, and dedicated to, the mission of the university; and a wonderful group of students who needed what the university had to offer, not only intellectually but spiritually,” Richey said.

Matt Smith, Chief Development Officer of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, served as master of ceremonies for the inauguration. Father Patrick Hake, chaplain of the university, delivered the invocation. Saint Francis Board of Trustees Chair Richard Poinsatte conducted the installation ceremony, and Bishop Rhoades gave the benediction and joined others in offering statements of congratulations and encouragement, including Fort Wayne Mayor Sharon Tucker and Sister Margaret Mary Mitchel, Provincial Superior of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration.

Provided by the University of Saint Francis

Bishop Rhoades shared how the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend looks forward to continued collaboration with the University of Saint Francis.

“Dr. Richey embraces the Christian spirit of service of this university to our community,” Bishop Rhoades said. “And as interim president and earlier, he has been leader in the mission of service to the Church and community. Dr. Richey, I am grateful for your generous dedication through the years to the University of Saint Francis, and I look forward to the future of the university under your leadership. You rightly see leadership as service, modeled after the example of Jesus the Servant and Good Shepherd.”

The University of Saint Francis contributed to this report.

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