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. Fr. 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.
Fr. Michael was born in Boston, Massachusetts and lived in San Diego during his father's 31 years of service in US Navy in the mid-1950s. One of five brothers, he was raised "around the world" on or near Navy bases. After service in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Viet Nam, he joined the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular in Loretto, Pennsylvania in 1978.
He began his study of theology in Canada at St Michael's College and Regis College at the Toronto Schools of Theology, receiving a Master of Divinity and a Master of Sacred Theology degrees there. He also received a MA in Spirituality from the Institute of Formative Spirituality at Duquesne University in 1988.
Fr. Michael was ordained as a priest in 1985 in the Third Order Regular Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Following his ordination, he served as an instructor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville and St. Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania and the Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure University in Olean, New York. He also served for eight years as director of novices for the Third Order Regular in the United States.
After receiving his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University Antonianum in Rome in 1999, he 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 Friars of the Third Order Regular and from 2007-2013 as the Order's Minister General. After his years in Rome Fr. Michael came to the Franciscan School of Theology in 2013 for a year-long sabbatical. He was soon invited to become Assistant to the President under his predecessor, Fr. Joseph Chinnici, OFM and was later appointed as the school's Vice-President for Academic Affairs before being chosen for his new position as President.
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.