Tuesday, August 12, 2008

USA Today: Ave Maria is Affordable Slice of Paradise

Last week the USA Today featured Naples and the "Paradise Coast" - and gave special props to Ave Maria:

Unlike many Florida cities, Naples has a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly downtown, centered on Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South, both lined with shops, cafes and more than 130 art galleries. This commercial core is linked by boardwalk to beaches and parks. Fishing and sailing are popular, but so are inland activities. More than 80% of surrounding Collier County is protected open space, including Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park...

It's also still a place where most home buyers can find something affordable. Although mega-mansions inside double-gated enclaves command eight figures (one recently sold for $40 million), houses and condos in some of Naples' most popular communities can be had for $300,000 to $400,000 and in outlying enclaves for less than $200,000...

If you're looking for something a little less expensive, the new town of Ave Maria (avemaria.com) is 20 miles north of Naples. It opened in mid-2007 and is built around Catholic Ave Maria University. Religious-centric living may not be for everyone, but the prices are: six communities offer single-family houses beginning in the high $100,000s with many options in the low- to mid-$200,000s.
All true - and the beach in the photo is just 45 minutes from the Oratory.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

More Good News: ABA Dismisses Faculty Complaint Against Ave Maria School of Law

Critics of the Ave Maria School of Law's administration are joyless at the good news the school received from the ABA this week. Coming on the heels of last week's announcement that AMU received full AALE accreditation, the ABA rebuffed a complaint made by faculty members opposed to the school's move to Florida. Of the several complaints that were made last year, all but one were dismissed out of hand by the ABA last year (as we pointed out here). The resolution of this last remaining complaint is good news for the school.

Dean Gene Milhizer sent an email to the law school community today announcing that after reviewing the complaint, the ABA decided that the law school remains in compliance with ABA accreditation standards. The school has been fully accredited by the ABA since 2005, after first receiving provisional ABA accreditation in 2002; this was the soonest time possible under ABA rules.
UPDATE: This turn of events is "A victory for campus diversity" according to R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute.

Facts pronounce progress, success of the town of Ave Maria

The Naples Daily News published a nice summary of progress made in the new univesity town of Ave Maria, Florida:

By BLAKE GABLE, vice president, Barron Collier Companies; project manager, town of Ave Maria8:00 p.m., Saturday, June 21, 2008

Recent press reports have suggested that activity at Ave Maria has been far slower than anticipated. Unfortunately, the numbers cited failed to acknowledge that while we originally projected the town to open in 2006, the complicated nature of the project and lengthy permitting time frames pushed back our opening until mid-2007. As such, the numbers shown don’t quite tell the entire story.

In reality, the town and university are doing extremely well, particularly considering the current economic and real-estate environment. Consider the following facts about the town:

 It was just a year ago that the first residents moved into Ave Maria, and now they are some 1,000 strong. They live throughout six neighborhoods that have completed their first phases, from affordable town homes at Middlebrooke to luxury condominiums in La Piazza, the town center; from resort-style villas in BelleraWalk to age-targeted options at Del Webb; and from in-town homes in Hampton Village to family residences in Emerson Park.

 Our retail tenants, which include places to eat, shop for clothes, jewelry, books, bikes and children’s gifts, services such as insurance, and much more, have completed an extremely successful first season.

 Many community amenities already are in place, including an 18-hole championship golf course; the south park with its amphitheater, bocce and pickle ball courts; the north park with its ball fields; the downtown fitness center; and the water park.

 The on-site emergency medical services and fire station is fully operational, and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office has an ongoing presence.

 Medical offices are now open for business.

 A full schedule of town events took place throughout the year, starting with the July 2007 grand opening — and including holiday celebrations, charity events and other festivities.

 The town has its own Little League, and YMCA summer camps and university sports camps are in session.

 Florida Community Bank has completed its headquarters building and will move in shortly.

 Publix supermarket, a BP gas station and convenience store, and DaVita Dialysis have broken ground and are planning to open early to mid next year.

 Arthrex, a major manufacturer of medical supplies, will break ground shortly on its 200,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.

 The landmark Oratory was dedicated on March 31 and now is welcoming hundreds of worshipers each week.

 The visitors center reports an average of over 1,000 visitors every week.

 The private kindergarten-through-12th-grade school, Ave Maria Grammar and Prep, operated at capacity during its first year and recently graduated its first seniors. Next year, it will increase its enrollment by nearly 40 percent to 180.

The university, too, is thriving. Having recently completed its first year on its permanent campus, Ave Maria University is growing quickly:

 The first commencement at the permanent campus, which included about 100 graduates, was celebrated May 10.

 The student body includes residents of 49 states and more than 20 foreign countries.

 New student enrollment will climb to 370 from 185 last year.

 To keep pace with enrollment, the university’s fourth dormitory is under construction, and a fifth $25 million dormitory will be added shortly, doubling the capacity of residences for students to 1,200.

 In addition to expanding academic resources and cultural programs, the university also will field its first extramural athletic teams this fall.

 More than 40,000 donors and over 500 volunteers currently support the university’s work.
Two additional points are offered as clarification: First, regarding the widening of Oil Well Road, it is important to note that our 2005 agreement with Collier County on this expansion was essential to our decision to proceed with Ave Maria as planned. It’s very clear that we have met — and even exceeded — all of our obligations to the county under our agreement, and we are confident that the county will live up to its obligation.

Also, in terms of affordable housing, the recent amendment granted by the Collier County Commission simply changed the eligible income category for purchasing the homes in our Middlebrooke community, as allowed in current state statute. The statute does not permit — nor do we have any intention of — raising the price of these town homes as a result of the board’s action.

Ave Maria is a new hometown — a place where families can live, work, play and learn; where neighbors will know neighbors, and friendships will span generations. We are encouraged at how far Ave Maria has come in such a short time.

We welcome you to visit and experience Ave Maria for yourself. We believe the future is very bright, and we think you will agree.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ave Maria Obtains Full Accreditation from AALE

The American Academy for Liberal Education (AALE), a national accreditor of liberal arts colleges,located in Washington, DC, granted accreditation to Ave Maria University(AMU), thus rendering AMU a fully accredited institution of higher education that offers quality baccalaureate degree programs in the liberal arts and sciences.
The announcement was made by AMU Chancellor, Thomas S. Monaghan. "This is a significant day for the University as we receive accreditation from AALE," Monaghan said. "This affirmation of our strong commitment to providing our students with a rigorous and well rounded liberal arts education is another step in our growth as a university. I am grateful to our faculty,staff and administration for their diligence exhibited throughout the accreditation process."
As an AALE accredited institution, AMU is recognized as having institutional integrity and a strong commitment to liberal education. Membership certifies that the university meets or exceeds the Academy's independently established Education Standards which require students to complete demanding core studies in the arts, sciences, and humanities taught by senior as well as junior faculty. AALE's Education Standards provide stakeholders in higher education,including parents and prospective students, with a clear means for identifying curricula with a focused, well-articulated core of languages, history,mathematics, science, literature, philosophy, and other elements of a liberal education.
"We are very proud of the education that we offer at Ave Maria University,and we are pleased that the AALE has recognized the hard work and dedication that has gone into developing this strong academic program," said Ave Maria University President, Nicholas J. Healy. "An Ave Maria degree has always stood for outstanding quality of Catholic liberal arts education. Our graduates are prepared to be among the intellectual leaders of the 21st Century."
"I am personally grateful to the AALE for its efforts and due diligence," Healy continued. "Ave Maria is committed to building a university that will earn a continued reputation for excellent teaching, cutting-edge research, and joyful fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church."
Since its establishment in 1998 in Michigan, AMU has progressively developed a well-rounded liberal arts education program offering majors in Biology, Classics & Early Christian Literature, Economics, History, Literature, Mathematics, Philosophy, Politics, Sacred Music and Theology.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ave Maria at 8 months: Milestones and Progress Continue

It's been about eight months since the university moved and the town opened. Ave Maria continues to pass new milestones while it unfolds as a new university town. Homes keep selling, new residents keep arriving, townsfolk keep starting new activities and traditions, and the university keeps moving full speed ahead. These same things happen in many other places in the nation; some will find it interesting to keep up with what is unique about how these things happen in a new community where the people and institutions aim to keep Christ at the center of each and every act, throughout each and every day. Here is a peek at some of what's been happening since Bishop Dewane dedicated the oratory:

Friday, April 18, 2008

Reality: Ave Maria School of Law to Moves to Vineyards Campus

Reeking RumorSweet Reality

A picture is worth a thousand words!

One of these is a picture from that other website next to the title "AMSL Announces New Home in Florida." The other is Ave Maria School of Law's new location. Guess which is which correctly and you'll receive a special prize.

For more information, click on the title to this post, or go to the link below on just how nice a facility this will be.


Monday, March 31, 2008

Jesus is in the house: Town Overjoyed as Bishop Places Eucharistic Lord in Tabernacle of Ave Maria Oratory

Under sunny blue skies, the residents and students of Ave Maria, joined by hundreds of others, celebrated the day that the Incarnation was made known by the message of an angel as they delighted in the long-anticipated dedication ceremony of the absolute center of town: the Ave Maria Oratory.

As the sounds of the university schola cantorum filled the oratory with rich angelic songs of praise, the worshippers praised God for all He has done and prayed that their own efforts might give some small glory to God, each one contemplating how it is that they came to be part of this great apostolate - and this new parish.

For some it has been a journey of over 10 years and thousands of miles. For others it was an unexpected and more recent journey across town. But for all, it was a journey TO the heart of the Church: the altar and tabernacle of the Lord.

Bishop Frank Dewane was jubilant throughout the Mass and most gracious at the press conference held immediately afterwards, during which he repeated his delight in Ave Maria University and Town and his expectations and hopes that both will rapidly grow. His public and enthusiastic embrace of Ave Maria was not what the assembled press corps expected -- and they tried in vain to provoke some sign of anything but warmth and joy in his excellency.

It was a day to savor the sweet splendor of Truth.

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Naples News Photos, top to bottom: Bishop Dewane before liturgy begins. Bishop Dewane delivers homily. Newly announced parish administrator, Father Robert Tatman, greets residents. Bishop Dewane annoints walls with oil. Priests process into the oratory.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fresh Air: Reporter Covering Church Affairs Actually Does Some Homework!

Kudos to Naples News reporter Liam Dillon, who has recently written several articles (here, here, and here) that indicate he actually did some research about the religious topic he was covering.

Pointing this out is no slap at Mr. Dillon, but at his profession, wherein his colleagues across the USA normally cover religion as cliche and simply refuse do the hard work of chewing on foreign concepts and different paradigms, understanding them, and then actually informing their audiences. Maybe it's laziness, maybe it's their own belief that religion is cliche.

But it appears as if Liam Dillon is really interested in getting it right, and in doing the hard work associated with that. Perhaps it is because through his interactions with the people he meets as he covers Ave Maria University and Ave Maria, Florida, he has come to realize that their story and what makes them tick are much more important than a cliche.

While no doubt he will continue to get a few things wrong (almost every article in every newspaper in the country has a few errors), he is to be commended for the effort he is putting into covering Ave Maria. Lets hope that continues.

(Now, if we can only do something about the misleading and/or sensational headlines his editors attach to his work.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Gaudeamus Hodie: The Parish of the Ave Maria Oratory to be Dedicated

So much to celebrate! It's Easter - He is risen, alleluia! And we have even more reason to rejoice:

Bishop of the Diocese of Venice to Dedicate the Quasi-Parish of the Ave Maria Oratory

The Dedication of the Church and Holy Mass to be Celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on March 31, 2008

WHAT: His Excellency Bishop Frank J. Dewane of the Diocese of Venice in Florida will dedicate the "Quasi-Parish of the Ave Maria Oratory" and celebrate its inaugural Mass on Monday, March 31, 2008. The Quasi-Parish,* equivalent to a parish, will be erected to provide pastoral care for the students, faculty and staff of Ave Maria University and the residents of Ave Maria Town.

The dedication of the new Church begins with a sprinkling rite of the new structure and the faithful gathered therein, followed by the Liturgy of the Word. Then the Litany of Saints, and a special prayer of dedication is recited. After the prayer both the altar and the Church building are anointed with sacred Chrism oil, a long-standing tradition since the days of early Christianity. The anointing of the altar makes it a symbol of Christ, the "anointed One". The anointing of the walls in four distinct places sets the building aside as a house of worship. The Holy Eucharist will then be celebrated on the newly-anointed altar of the dedicated Church.

The 104-foot Oratory is at the center of La Piazza in Ave Maria, Fla., and has a seating capacity of 1,100.

WHO: Most Reverend Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of the Diocese of Venice will be main celebrant of the Dedication of the new Church and the Holy Mass. Priests in the area are invited to concelebrate.

WHEN: 2 p.m. Monday, March 31, 2008

There will be a press conference immediately after mass (approximately 3:45 p.m.):

-- Most Reverend Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida

-- Adela Gonzales White, Spokesperson for the Diocese of Venice in Florida

-- Thomas S. Monaghan, Ave Maria University Chancellor

-- Nicholas J. Healy, Ave Maria University President

WHERE: The Parish of the Ave Maria Oratory, Ave Maria, FL 34142

NOTE: Reserved seating and camera areas at the dedication and Mass will be available to the media. Please confirm attendance with Branden Blackmur at 239.774.9797 x 22 or bblackmur@robertfalls.com to ensure adequate space will be available.
* Editorial Note: Canon 516-1 provides that "a quasi-parish is equivalent to a parish; a quasi-parish is a definite community of the Christian faithful within a particular church which has been entrusted to a priest as its proper pastor but due to particular circumstances has not yet been erected as a parish."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ave Maria University offers wholesome "Guys & Dolls" conversion story; NDU offers Holy Week "Vagina Monologues"

This week, the students of AMU presented a wonderful production of the Broadway musical Guys & Dolls, which is a humorous story about wayward craps shooters who find redemption in the women they marry. It was a nice evening of wholesome entertainment before the sober mood of Holy Week arrives tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the president of Notre Dame University, Father John Jenkins, spent this week defending his university's intellectually stimulating production of the filthy and pornographic Vagina Monologues - its annual Lenten orgy. Kudos to Bishop John D'Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, for taking Father Jenkins to task for sponsoring such harmful sewage at Notre Dame.

Congratulations to AMU President Healy and the entire campus for its wonderful Performing Arts program and its wholesome and vibrant atmosphere.

Round the Clock Emergency Services Now in Ave Maria, Florida

Ave Maria now has a medical clinic staffed during the week and emergency medical teams in town 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And residents know that you can't drive through town without seeing a sheriff driving by or the AMU security patrol making their rounds through the town. One more reason the people in Ave Maria find it such a great place to live. Here is an excerpt from the Naples News:
The first beneficiary of Collier County commissioners’ decision to bail out its Emergency Medical Services is Ave Maria. On Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. — the morning after the county ratified a budget amendment to stave off substantial cuts in emergency services — Collier EMS began staffing a transport unit with two medics 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the town’s new emergency services facility. EMS officials moved the unit from North Naples. The unit was waiting for a station to call its own and was previously working out of NCH’s North Naples Hospital, according to EMS Chief Jeff Page. Collier EMS will share the Ave Maria facility with firefighters from the Immokalee Fire District, which began a 12-hour daily shift in Ave Maria last month. The Collier County Sheriff’s Office provides police protection for the town, but does not have a staffed station on site.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pediatrician to Immokalee's Poor Finds Support at Ave Maria University

God has big plans for Ave Maria, Florida, and one of them is close ties to the people of Immokalee. AMU's support of the work of pediatrician Dr. Melanio Villarosa with the people of Immokalee is but one example of those ties. Pray God, both communities will benefit from further interaction and mutual support.

He’s the male Mother Teresa, Garcia says....At times, he relies on nurses Garcia and Lisa Gomez to translate the medication treatment for patients. Villarosa takes Jesus over to the wall of the exam room, pointing to an article hanging on the wall. The headline is “Ave Maria, a Town Built by Faith.” That’s faith, but it’s also education. The university supports his mission because it’s in line with Ave Maria’s mission, including pro-education and pro-life agendas, says Carole Carpenter, Ave Maria president of university relations. Ave Maria plans to honor him with an honorary doctoral degree during its commencement ceremony in May. Villarosa encourages parents to read to their children and tells parents to be serious about their education, so that one day their children can attend Ave Maria University or any other higher education institute. He hopes they listen to him. “Education is very important to help them get out of their poverty level.”

Ave Maria's Incense Welcomes Naples News Readers

The Editors wish to thank the Naples News for linking to us on their main “Ave Maria” page. Welcome! We thought it appropriate to introduce our perspective to new readers, so here is a start with more to come in the weeks that follow.

1. What is Ave Maria? Well, there is no official definition, but as people who have been associated with Ave Maria for a long while (some for almost a decade), we do have opinions on the matter. The group of entities started by, supported by, or funded by the Ave Maria Foundation (see the "links" section of this blog for a listing) all exist to further the goals of the Catholic church, primary of which is to advance the Gospel and assist people in obtaining salvation. Education, and specifically higher education, has become the primary focus of Ave Maria. The town in Florida is a pleasant side-benefit that manifested providentially as the university came into being in Florida.

2. Is the town Catholic? Anyone is free to move to the town, visit, study, work, or buy property there. Religion is not a criteria for any of that. But logically, one asks who would want to live in a town where the main institution in the town is geared toward advancing the Catholic faith? Where a Catholic church building is so obviously the epicenter of the town? Where the town and the streets are named after Catholic landmarks and heroes? Those who know well-informed and practicing Catholics will understand that we are kind and generous to our neighbors regardless of who or what they are, do or say. That is why a rabbi feels comfortable teaching at the university and a man who practices the Bahá'í faith is a regent of the university.

3. What about laws in the town? Government actions affecting the town can never discriminate based on religion or impose religious laws as civil laws. Property owners are also forbidden to discriminate in that way. But property owners can impose limits on what activities happen on the property they own. For example, a business lease can lawfully contain a provision that prohibits the business from selling pornography, condoms or cigarettes. (As of now the private company that owns most all commercial property in the town indicates that no such lease prohibitions exist, so perhaps the town residents should weigh in on what sort of businesses they don't want in town!) Word has it that murder and false swearing are unlawful in Ave Maria, despite being violations of the Ten Commandments. Don’t let the sensationalized reporting fool you: the ACLU loves to make headlines and imagine constitutional violations where none exist. Catholics (and other groups) have a right to develop institutions that advance their beliefs and to live in close proximity to those institutions and each other. Finally, the only laws that apply to people in Ave Maria, Florida, are the same laws that apply to those who live in Golden Gate.

Up next: stay tuned and be surprised.

Father Fessio Loves Ave Maria University

Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, is to be commended for his charity, among other things, which shines through in this exchange excerpted from an interview by Sober Inebriation:

Q: The university you are in residence at, Ave Maria, has taken a lot heat publicly for difficult situations such as the university in Naples. I remember back when you were released from your former position at the university and then brought back in again after mass student protest. What if anything can you tell us about what transpired in your relationship with the university before and after that incident and do you see the university as having changed course at all in the past 5-7 years?

Father Fessio: There's no question in my mind that the mission of the university has remained what it has always been, We want to be faithful to the Magisterium, we want to be united in faith and reason, we want to offer a solid education in the liberal arts as a core, and professional training in certain areas. As we grow, we want people who are faithful to the Church, we want students who are eager to deepen their faith. For reasons I have still not been given, I was asked to resign as provost. I refused to resign, so I was fired. I was asked to come back the next day in a different position. I came back because I believe the university is bigger than one person, me, or anybody else, and I think that we have a tremendous opportunity for the truth and for the faith. So, if I refused to come back, there would be some people who would be very skeptical of the university; donors, parents, and students. I didn't want that to happen.

Q: You certainly have a direct relationship with Tom Monaghan- do you still see him as the right fit as CEO and director of that university?

Father Fessio: Well, I think he's the right fit in the historical circumstances. He was not only very wealthy because he was a successful businessman, but he became wealthy by learning how to organize groups of people, achieving goals and so on. So, he believes, and he's right in this, that his contribution to the university is not only in the hundreds of millions of dollars he's given--and he's almost out now because basically he's spent his fortune on this university--but his ability to achieve goals and to organize, and that's good. I think it's possible to find someone who has a fuller set of skills better adapted to the university environment, and if you asked Tom Monaghan, I think he'd be the first one to say that himself. But it would not be reasonable for him to say "I'm just going to give you this money and let you run things". he wants to make sure that the university has the highest quality programs, and that we're going to achieve the goals, and have spiritual enrichment and growth, and that's his perogative.

Q: I appreciate your candor and your honesty on that subject- Do you see yourself at Ave Maria in five years?

Father Fessio: I don't see any need to go anywhere else. Ignatius Press just bought a house here, and we're moving our textbook activities here, and then we're partnering with a group in St. Louis called "Theater of the Word Incorporated" and we have a branch out here at Ave Maria called "Morning Star Players". The idea is to put on Catholic and Family-friendly plays and dramas around the country. Morning Star Players specializes in doing that for young people. They've got some wonderful pro-life, pro-family- pro-chastity plays that they put on for youth groups and high school groups and they're amazingly effective. We want to encourage students to take part in that. We are hoping to construct a small community theater here in town for students to put on their plays and their concerts, so I have a lot of things I'm doing here.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Esprit de Corps at Ave Maria University

Ave Maria University offers full four-year tuition at the school for Marines, special forces from other branches of the armed forces and all combat veterans. The annual black-tie “Gyrene Gala” benefit to honor veterans and raise scholarship funds will be tonight at 6 p.m. at the Naples Grande Resort. Attendees at the 2008 Gyrene Gala will have the opportunity to commemorate posthumously two extraordinary military chaplains: Father Vincent Robert Capodanno and Cardinal John O'Connor. Both are models of strength, courage, and Christian love. Both served in Vietnam and received medals for their military service.

What's the link between military service and Ave Maria? This is what Naples News found out:

On the surface, the association between the Marines and Ave Maria isn’t readily apparent. But [AMU founder Tom] Monaghan said the connection strikes to the university’s core mission. The role of the Marines on campus, Monaghan said, is like a “leavening” agent, a group whose leadership raises the level of the general student body. “We did this university because we want to change the world,” he said. “I’ve always felt that Marine Corps training is the best leadership training there is. It just made sense to me that we bring in students who have this kind of experience, which is unavailable anywhere else. “Marines typically are idealistic, and if they aren’t they become that way. They rise to a higher level of being human beings. The environment that we promote here, with the strong spiritual and strong academics and strong student life, we create great leaders to go out in the world.” [Retired Maj. Gen. J.T. Coyne, a member of the school’s board of regents] added there was a “natural marriage” between the values of honor, courage and commitment promoted by the Marines and Ave Maria’s theological values. “You bring in someone even if he considers himself non-religious; if he comes from the Marine Corps he has maybe a secular religion,” Coyne said. “He’s got a belief that there are enduring values that are meaningful, that are essential not only to a good Marine Corps, but a good society.”...The Marines currently at the school already see themselves as leaders. “Everybody is fully active at all times,” Henley said. “That’s a parallel I see with the Marine Corps. There’s always something to do, there’s always a little further you can go with your education and your spiritual life in all aspects.”
Click these links if you want more information about cathlolics in the armed forces or the Archdiocese for the Military Services.