Whether surrounded by leaves or sprinkled with snow, Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Portiuncula Chapel shines year-round as a beacon for faculty, visitors and students in need of a little more grace, which is found at this site in the form of a plenary indulgence.
Housing perpetual adoration throughout the academic semester, the Portiuncula, affectionately called the Port, is open for personal prayer from at least 6 a.m. to midnight on almost every day of the year.
Franciscan’s Port is styled after the original Portiuncula inside Our Lady of the Angels chapel in Assisi, Italy, one of the churches that St. Francis of Assisi literally rebuilt after hearing the call from Christ to rebuild the church. The Italian word “portiuncula” means “little portion,” representing the chapel as the little portion given to Francis during his life and his corresponding mission to care for the Church.
Because it is a replica of the Italian Portiuncula, the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary granted the university the plenary indulgence in 2009 that continued for seven years after it was issued.
When this indulgence expired, the university petitioned for its renewal, which was granted during the 2016 Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Found in the back of the chapel, holy cards promulgating the indulgence read, “The faithful may gain a plenary indulgence by devoutly visiting the Portiuncula Chapel, praying there the Our Father and the Creed for the intentions of our Holy Father, and meeting the ordinary conditions.”
Ordinary conditions include, “an interior disposition of complete detachment from sin” and receiving the sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist “within several days (about 20) before or after the visit to the Portiuncula,” according to the university’s prayer card.
A plenary indulgence consists of the elimination of any and all temporal punishment due to personal sin, effectively shortening time spent in Purgatory after death by perfecting the soul more quickly. An indulgence may be offered for oneself or one’s deceased loved ones, who may be awaiting their entrance to eternal rest.
There are four days in the year that a visitor to the Port can receive the plenary indulgence: three specific dates and one special option. One day is Aug. 2, the feast of Our Lady of the Angels (the name of the church housing the Portiuncula Chapel in Assisi) and a second is Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis.
Most notably, a unique plenary indulgence can be merited on Jan. 22, the date of the Dedication of the Tomb of the Unborn Child.
According to director of Chapel Ministries, Rob Palladino, Franciscan is one of the first places to dedicate such a Tomb to the Unborn. The tomb, located outside the Port, recognizes children killed by abortion, listing over a dozen children by name.
A letter from the Rev. Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, that hangs in the chapel says that offering an indulgence on Jan. 22 “is a clear affirmation of the sanctity of human life and of the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death.”
The generous indulgence extends to any day of the year on which a pilgrim makes a holy pilgrimage to the Portiuncula with a group, and once per year on a day of his or her choosing.
Visitors are invited to sign their names in the record book located in the back of the chapel, signifying that they have made the pilgrimage and merited an indulgence. This record tells the university how many Catholics take advantage of the Port’s special status as a Franciscan pilgrimage site, which enables the university to show the Apostolic Penitentiary that their lavish recognition of the Port is well-loved and appreciated.
So, grab your rosaries, find a friend and make your annual pilgrimage to the Portiuncula Chapel, place of plenary indulgences and the heart of Franciscan University.