Our Catholic Identity and Mission

Our Catholic Identity and Mission

Ave Maria University is proud of its Catholic identity  The Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida, established Ave Maria University as a Catholic University according to the guidelines of the Code of Canon Law.  The recognition of Ave Maria University as a Catholic University is granted upon the University’s commitment to continue to be guided by the teachings of the Catholic Church and faithfulness to the apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae

“The University provides such a clear expression of the mission of Catholic education.” (William Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith)

“And today, here at Ave Maria, here in Southwest Florida, the Church is alive and young.” (Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami)

“If ever there was an institution that exemplified the spirit of the John Paul II Generation, it’s Ave Maria University.” (Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of The Knights of Columbus)

About Ave Maria
Ave Maria University is a vibrant University located in beautiful Southwest Florida. It is an academic institution that pledges faithfulness to the teachings of the Catholic Church and is committed to offering one of the finest classical liberal arts curricula available, as well as opportunities for specialized study in all of the sciences and humanities.

Ave Maria is known for its exceptional academics, faithfulness to the magisterium of the Catholic Church, dedicated faculty and caring staff, and a unique educational philosophy that strives to develop the whole person. For more on this, see the Mission Statement of Ave Maria University and brief account of Our History below.

The university's superb faculty, challenging curriculum, professional staff, and a student community where it is easy to form lasting friendships, provide graduates with a training that empowers them to step out into the working world as future leaders and wealth-creators, with a solid understanding of contemporary challenges, and a strong confidence in their own intellectual training and foundation.

Our Mission Statement
Founded in fidelity to Christ and His Church in response to the call of Vatican II for greater lay witness in contemporary society, Ave Maria University exists to further teaching, research, and learning at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the abiding tradition of Catholic thought in both national and international settings. The University takes as its mission the sponsorship of a liberal arts education curriculum dedicated, as articulated in the apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, to the advancement of human culture, the promotion of dialogue between faith and reason, the formation of men and women in the intellectual and moral virtues of the Catholic faith, and to the development of professional and pre-professional programs in response to local and societal needs. As an institution committed to Catholic principles, the University recognizes the importance of creating and maintaining an environment in which faith informs the life of the community and takes expression in all its programs. The University recognizes the central and indispensable role of the Ordinary of the Diocese of Venice in promoting and assisting in the preservation and strengthening of the University’s Catholic identity.

Our History
Ave Maria University began as Thomas S. Monaghan’s dream to build an institution of Catholic higher education that would be faithful to the Magisterium and could produce the future faithful educators, leaders, and mentors that our challenged society needs. Through his initial financial donation of $250 million, in partnership with a generous donation of land from the Barron Collier Family in Southwest Florida, the dream began to take shape.

The United States leads the world in higher education, with more than 4,000 institutions of the most diverse kind—State, private, secular, and religious. The Catholic Church in America came late to the table in establishing colleges and universities, but by 1960 there were some 230 institutions, mainly founded by religious orders. Since then, the total number has hardly changed. The growth of older Catholic colleges and universities has often been accompanied by a degree of secularization. In a number of these institutions, the Catholic identity has become quite attenuated, with many (and in some cases most) of the faculty non-Catholic or hostile to the Church.

In the 40 plus years since the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic population has increased by some 50 percent. Much of that growth has occurred outside the traditional Catholic enclaves in the cities of the northeast and midwest, as Catholics followed the burgeoning economies of the southeast and the west. Yet the religious orders, many suffering a drastic fall-off in vocations, did not respond to these demographic changes with new institutions in areas of growing Catholic population. Indeed, the last Catholic institution inaugurated as a university was in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1963.

By the time Mr. Monaghan began his dream, it was evident that higher education needed a fresh, faithful voice. It can well be argued that, if for no other reason, a Catholic university is essential to the transmittal of the faith to successive generations. "Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it." —Proverbs 22:5-7 The role Ave Maria University intends to fill is not merely catechesis (although that has been woefully deficient in other institutions), but rather the ongoing reflection of theologians and philosophers on the integration of the truths of the faith with the social, cultural, economic, and political developments in society. This is perhaps the single most vital task for Catholic academicians: to explicate the truths of the faith, and measure against them the evolving societal propositions or practices in politics, the arts, the economy, etc. Two hundred or more years ago, those practices included slavery, laissez faire capitalism, and child labor. Fifty or more years ago, they included Marxism, Nazism, and Freudianism. Today they include abortion, fetal research, cloning, same-sex "marriage," moral relativism, and world terrorism. It is the graduates of Ave Maria University who will become the Catholic intellectuals needed to bring the truths of the faith to bear on these issues.