The Festivals of Praise (FOPs) that have been a focal point at Franciscan University of Steubenville for several decades have recently been put under new oversight that has come with very noticeable changes.
The past three FOPs have been different from previous ones, exhibiting changes to the placement of the monstrance, new themes and an absence of the typical Eucharistic procession.
These changes have come from the direction of Bob Lesnefsky, who recently became the head of evangelization on campus, according to junior Alex Lamparella, student head of liturgy and the liturgy committee, who makes decisions from a liturgical standpoint about the FOPs.
The Christian Outreach Office was previously in charge of the FOPs until Lesnefsky stepped into his new role, which includes taking charge of the monthly nights of praise and worship coupled with adoration in Finnegan Fieldhouse.
This role was given to Lesnefsky because the Christian Outreach Office could not properly judge what Franciscan students needed, being located in the back of Assisi Heights and away from most of campus, according to Lamparella. He noted that some speakers at FOPs would not hit on a topic that was relevant to the students at the time, and since Lesnefsky had a more impactful role on campus, he could better evaluate what the students needed.
Lesnefsky began to make changes to the FOPs right away.
“In Bob taking over,” said Lamparella, “he wanted the first one to be something a little bit different, something that we haven’t really seen before — just to change things up a little bit, because the usual layout is like the summer conferences.”
Previously, the typical FOP included an hour of music and a talk followed by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and a procession around the fieldhouse to close out the evening.
The first FOP Lesnefsky put on had a candlelight theme with no Eucharist procession. The second FOP had an Advent theme and did include a Eucharistic procession. Finally, the most recent FOP on Jan. 18 was simplistic, with the altar and monstrance set up in the middle of the room and lights shining down from all angles. Previously, the altar has been set up at the front of the fieldhouse in front of all the chairs, and in January, the altar was surrounded by the seating on two sides, with free space on the narrower sides of the altar for participants to spread out as desired.
“Each time, Bob tried to take a look at what’s going on campus, what can we facilitate better, and what can the theme be of the night,” said Lamparella.
The recent FOPs have been produced with the mindset of intimacy. Lamparella explained the thinking as, “You come as you are, however you feel comfortable,” instead of the previous thinking that was along the lines of, “Jesus is far away and we’re going to bring him to you.”
“They didn’t really want the band as the focal point,” said Lamparella. “They wanted Jesus as the focal point. So, the stage has been much smaller, and the servers have been to the side, and Jesus has been the only thing on the altar.”
The recent FOPs have gotten mixed reviews from people, but Lesnefsky’s main goal has been to simply “change things up.”
Junior social work major Gianna Davison commented on the most recent FOP, saying, “I thought it was cool. I like how they had (the monstrance) in the center, but I missed the procession.”
Lesnefsky, the Rev. Matthew Russick, TOR, and the Rev. David Pivonka, TOR, all work together to run the FOPs.
“This is their dream and this is their vision,” said Lamparella. “We’re here (as students) for a short period of time, and then we continue on, and they’re here for the long haul. So, they can kind of see a much wider spectrum and view of the university. … I think that the (recent) FOPs have been … really good in the fact that it gives us something different.”
Lamparella’s goals for this year’s FOPs is for every encounter the students have with the Lord to be impactful.
“Every time someone enters the fieldhouse, I want them to have that,” said Lamparella. “We do everything we can as liturgy committee to facilitate that for the students and the faculty and the locals here.”
The Festivals of Praise have always been a highlight at Franciscan University and will continue to be so even with the new changes and leadership.