Saturday, February 23, 2008

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.