The kids had Spring Break last week, so we took off on Wednesday for a quick tour of Franciscan University (a college visit for Jack (17)) and Pittsburgh.
On the way, we stopped at the Sorrowful Mother Shrine, in Bellevue, Ohio, which is south of Cedar Point. I wanted to stop years ago, but I normally get to this area only on my way to Cedar Point with the kids, and they’re usually not in a prayerful mood when we’re less than an hour from the world’s greatest ride amusement park.
The Shrine is very neat . . . and free . . . and definitely worth the stop, even though two different GPS devices in our car failed us and we had to find it the old fashioned way (looking at a map and swearing a lot). The Shrine is Eastern Rite. It features a main chapel, lots of little chapels, the stations of the cross, and various statuary across a 126-acre parcel of land. It also has a gift shop (a “must” for any family with smaller children).
We then drove to Steubenville, the Home of Dean Martin, the seventies funk rock group Wild Cherry, Franciscan University . . . and nothing else. The City is a dump. It was depressing just driving and looking around its downtown.
But Franciscan University pretty much knocked our socks off. Regardless of whether Jack attends or not, we’ve decided to make it a regular target of our charitable donations. Consisting of nearly 3,000 students from every state in the union, it’s uncompromisingly Catholic to the hilt. It exudes Catholic goodness. They’ve taken the virtues of hospitality, kindness, joy, peace, patience, and modesty, then instilled them across a college community of over 3,000 people: students, professors, administrators, kitchen staff. I was stunned. I wouldn’t have thought such a thing possible, but that’s exactly what Harvard-lawyer-turned-priest Fr. Scanlon pulled off after he reformed the (somewhat derelict) college back in the 1970s. And it’s respected academically (“Franciscan University of Steubenville’s ranking in the 2014 edition of Best Colleges is Regional Universities (Midwest), 28“).
We then traveled 45 minutes across West Virginia (the panhandle; it took ten minutes) to Pittsburgh. None of us had ever been there. As we emerged out of the mountain through the tunnel to the west of Pittsburgh, we were amazed at the beauty that is downtown Pittsburgh. I searched for a picture on the web that would capture what we saw, but I couldn’t find one. (Note to photographers in Pittsburgh area: Get on U.S. 22 in late afternoon on a sunny day, go across the river, and turn around as you get near the mountain. Then snap a bunch of pictures. They’ll be better than any Pittsburgh pics I was able to find on the web this morning.)
We then spent the next 24 hours blitzing through as much of Pittsburgh as we could. We also took the amphibious “Ducky Tour,” which was very cool. During the Tour, I learned that Pittsburgh had just recently completed its restoration. Back in the 1970s, the City was so polluted that you had to turn your car lights on at 2:00 in the afternoon, men couldn’t wear white dress shirts outside without turning the shirts grimy-grey, and most of the buildings were black from all the soot. It’s hard to believe that was the case. The City first eliminated (or greatly reduced) the air pollution, then it set about cleaning the place. The cleaning was completed about ten years ago, and now it’s a beautiful place.
Pittsburgh pics from my iPhone:del.icio.us | Reddit | Slashdot | Digg | Facebook | Technorati | Google | StumbleUpon | Window Live | Tailrank | Furl | Netscape | Yahoo | BlinkList