Father Joseph O'Connor
attended Steubenville before his
seminary studies at St. Mary's in Baltimore.
explained that what distinguishes Steubenville is its commitment of the student body to Catholicism.
"It's 2,500 undergraduates who are just saying, 'We want to be different, we want to change the world, we take our faith seriously and we're going to hold each other up to living that out,'" said Father O'Connor, the Syracuse Diocese's director of the Office of Vocation Promotion.
Father O'Connor said that a second visit to the school strengthened his resolve to enroll at Steubenville.
As a senior in high school, he
went to Steubenville to visit friends.
arrived at the dormitory, his
friend's roommate said he
was a member of an off-campus fraternity and offered to stay there so that Father O'Connor
would have a bed to sleep in while he
stayed at Steubenville.
However, the next morning, Father O'Connor
found the student sleeping on the floor in a room a across the hall.
When Father O'Conner asked him why he'd done that, the student replied, "I wanted you to feel at home
"It just set the tone that there's something different about the community there that people want you to be welcomed," Father O'Connor
was interested in attending Steubenville, Father O'Connor
said they were less than enthusiastic.
"They said, 'It's six hours away and in the middle of Ohio and it might not be the real world.
I don't know if I want you to be a part of that,'" Father O'Connor
At his parents' urging, Father O'Connor visited other Catholic schools closer to home.
Finally Father O'Connor's parents accompanied him to Steubenville and they were equally impressed with its community environment.
"At the end of the tour, my Dad said, 'I noticed around this campus that people really care about you.
I've been around the world and you don't get that in a lot of places.
I'd love for you to go to school here.' Then I had my parents' blessing to go to college.
That's what led me to the college," Father O'Connor
was considering entering the priesthood during his
years at Steubenville, but he
was also interested in pursuing a career as a history teacher.
said the theology and philosophy classes he
attended alongside history classes provided an underpinning that supported him through the seminary.
"I'm really glad I took philosophy and theology because it really was a sure, firm foundation for my time at seminary," he
also noted that the school's "households program" was a life-changing experience.
"Men's and women's groups come together - 10 to 20 young men, all of different grades - commit their lives together to pray together, to share what's going on in their lives.
But while fraternities often pull you down to the lowest common denominator - partying or beer or whatever - households pull you up to the highest common denominator - being better about your life, taking your holiness seriously, getting up for church and praying together.
That accountability changed my life," Father O'Connor