The bells of Mission San Luís Rey in Oceanside, California rang out over a festive crowd gathered for the Installation of the eighth President of the Franciscan School of Theology. Father Michael J. Higgins, TOR, was officially installed in his new role by the Chairman of the school’s Board of Trustees, Fr. David Gaa, OFM on November 19th.
After service with the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Vietnam, Michael entered the Sacred Heart Province of the Third Order Regular in 1978. He received a Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree from St. Michael’s College, a Master of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.) from Regis College, both member schools of the University of Toronto, and a Master of Arts (M.A.) in formative spirituality from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. His ordination to the priesthood in 1985 was followed by service in collegiate education and religious formation for both friars and lay members of the Franciscan family.
After receiving his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University Antonianum in Rome in 1999, Fr. Michael was awarded a PhD in Higher Education Administration in 2007 from Capella University in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
From 2001 to 2007 Fr. Michael served in Rome as Vicar General of the Franciscan Third Order Regular Friars and as the Minister General of the Order from 2007 to 2013. In 2014 he served at the Franciscan School of Theology as Special Assistant to the President and Dean and assumed the position of Vice President for Academic Affairs this past year. A distinguished Franciscan friar, scholar, educational administrator, and global churchman, Fr. Michael will lead the school with confidence and vision at this important time in its history.
“His vision is that of Pope Francis.” remarks Father David Gaa, the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Franciscan School of Theology, “He is committed to the Franciscan theological tradition and its relevance to the work of the men and women who wish to serve the people of God in the twenty-first century. Enhanced by the school’s affiliation with the University of San Diego, this vision establishes the Franciscan School of Theology as a dynamic and unique center of theological training in the United States.”
Fr. Michael assumed the presidency this August following the five-year service of Franciscan friar Fr. Joseph Chinnici, OFM, who led the school’s move in 2013 from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, to Old Mission San Luis Rey.
The Franciscan School of Theology traces its origins to the 1854 founding of the Apostolic College for the training of Franciscan missionaries at Mission Santa Barbara. In 1968 the school moved to become a member of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. In 2013 the school moved to its new campus at Mission San Luís Rey in Oceanside where it offers graduate degrees in theology (Master of Divinity and Master of Theological Studies) for men and women, lay and religious, preparing for many different forms of ministry in the Catholic Church today.