Saint Francis University

Mission and Character

Founded on Catholic Franciscan Values

In an age of complexity, the simplicity of the message of St. Francis of Assisi has more appeal than ever before: Virtue. Truth. Compassion. These guiding principles of the Franciscans are the values we embrace at Saint Francis University.

Our Vision

Saint Francis University is a Catholic and Franciscan university that provides high quality education and innovative learning experiences so students become that someone that God calls them to be.

175 ribbon logo over Francis fountain

Our Mission

As the oldest Franciscan institution of higher learning in the United States, Saint Francis University draws inspiration from our Catholic tradition and expresses the lived example of Saint Francis of Assisi in the modern world. Saint Francis University promotes an inclusive learning community and a lifelong path to virtue, truth, and compassion. Within a culture that seeks understanding through innovation and collaboration, we champion both the inherent dignity of the individual person and the common good. 

Painting of St. Francis feeding the birds

St. Francis of Assisi


The vision embraced by the community of learners that became Saint Francis College originated more than 800 years ago in the person and the dream of the Poverello, Francis of Assisi, who delighted in calling himself the Troubadour, the story teller, of the Great King. 

Goals of Franciscan Higher Education: Aggiornamento


Saint Francis University is a vibrant, growing community of learners grounded in the Catholic faith thanks in no small part to the guiding themes espoused in the Goals of Franciscan Higher Education. Since 1991 these goals, drafted by then Saint Francis College President Fr. Christian R. Oravec, T.O.R., have permeated every aspect of University life.


Explore the Goals in-depth here.

Goals List

Aggiornamento Version of the Goals of Franciscan Higher Education

  • Franciscan Character
  • Humble and Generous Attitude Towards Learning
  • Community of Faith and Prayer
  • Respect for the Uniqueness of Individual Persons
  • Service to the Poor and Needy
  • Solidarity and Reconciliation
  • Reverence for All Life and Care for Creation 
  • Spirit of Simplicity and Joy

Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular

Fr. Lehman and Fr. Malachi walking on campus

Saint Francis University is founded and animated by the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. As a result one of our distinctive goals is to enable Franciscan values and the Catholic tradition to shape intellectual inquiry and decision-making, both on a personal and institutional level.


It all started with six friars ...

Our Founding Friars

It all started with six friars from Ireland.

Brother Giles Carroll along with five of his friar brothers from the Archdiocese of Tuam in Ireland requested permission from the bishop of the Pittsburgh diocese to bring their dream, rooted in sharing the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi, to fruition in the Americas. 


In 1847, nearly fifteen years before the start of the Civil War, they began to clear land in the forests of Loretto, Pennsylvania, to build a school that would one day become Saint Francis University.  In doing this, they fulfilled the request of Demetrius Gallitzin, a former Russian prince who had settled here had made almost twenty-five years earlier in a letter to Archbishop Marechal for "...a college, seminary, and all that is required for an episcopal establishment" one day be built on this land.

An Invitation to "Walk with Francis" 

Welcome to Saint Francis University!  I invite you to enjoy a “virtual tour” of our beautiful campus.  Here on our website you will learn about our academic programs, student life, opportunities to enrich your faith, co-curricular activities of our campus, and much more.   

In 1847, six Franciscan friars came to Loretto, Pennsylvania from Ireland to found what was then known as Saint Francis Academy.  From such humble beginnings, Saint Francis University has become the oldest Franciscan institution of higher learning in the United States.  The Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular have been teaching and ministering on campus continuously since our founding.  Our mission is to provide each student with a Catholic and Franciscan education of the highest caliber.  

Each student has unique gifts and talents.  The Saint Francis University experience offers you the opportunity to “become that someone” that God wants you to be.  My prayer is that your experience at Saint Francis University will allow you to explore new ideas and discover truth, embrace your faith, and, in the words of Pope Francis, “stake your lives on noble ideals.”

Here at Saint Francis University, our students have a unique opportunity to “walk with Saint Francis of Assisi.”  The spirit of Saint Francis is manifest in friars, faculty, and staff.  Whether you are a prospective student, a member of the university community, or simply learning more about who we are, may your walk with Saint Francis be blessed. 

- Fr. Malachi Van Tassell