Student Spotlight: Cecilia Berry

Junior Cecilia Berry is just one of the many students soaking in the opportunities that Ave Maria University affords to grow and excel spiritually, academically, and socially during the college years. Hailing from Denver, Colorado, Cecilia was drawn to go to college halfway across the country because, when she visited AMU, she found something worth staying for.

“I came to Ave because when I visited, I immediately fell in love with every aspect of the school–the faith life, the social aspect, and the academics,” Cecilia shares. “Being pretty close to the beach doesn’t hurt either!”

When asked about her experience at AMU so far, and how she feels prepared for the future, Cecilia responds:

“First of all, I love the friends that I’ve made here, and I know that my friendships will last a lifetime, which is such a blessing. What I’ve learned from my classes is a different kind of blessing. I’m a Catholic Studies major with an Education minor, and my experience with student teaching combined with a solid theological background gives me the confidence I’ll need pursuing a teaching job in a Catholic elementary school or high school someday.”

Cecilia is spending this semester studying abroad with the Rome Program. She is excited about using this opportunity to continue pushing her limits and growing as a person. “Another important thing I’ve learned from Ave is how to go outside my comfort zone, since I’m so far away from home,” Cecilia explains. “I’m acting on that by spending this semester in Rome!” Going on, she says: “While I’m here, first and foremost, I really want to deepen my faith life. I also hope to make new friends and try new things (like authentic gelato), take different classes, and experience a new culture!”

Ave Maria University offers opportunities to study abroad in Ireland and Rome. Like Cecilia, many AMU students find these experiences abroad life-changing; they come away transformed by the encounter with a new culture, their horizons are broadened, and their AMU education is marked by a new dimension of understanding. But the chance to study in another country with one of AMU’s programs is only one among many ways in which students are challenged academically, spiritually, and socially. Find out more about the vibrant student culture, strong Academics, and faithful spiritual life at Ave Maria University!

Saint Patrick’s Day Makes for an Extra Festive Battle of the Bands Competition

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of our SAB and SGA, the annual Battle of the Bands competition was extra festive! Sunset on the canal, live music, themed food, a selection of drinks, and Saint Patrick’s Day all made for an evening to remember. 

The crowd gathered to sing along, enjoy the food and drinks and find out which of the four student-bands would be named this year’s winner by the panel of AMU Staff judges. Using a point system of scoring, the judges listened to each song and gauged the audience’s responses.

Four bands playing four songs each made for a diverse and eclectic evening of fantastic music. This year’s bands and their set lists were:

Tom Monaband, this year’s Runner Up: 

Whose members are –

Daniel Zoumaya, Nicholas Cummins, Aaron Ockenfels, Casey Knox, Joe Schoenle, and Sean Hanley.

1. Joker & the Thief by Wolfmother

2. Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi

3. Don’t stop Believing by Journey

4. (Encore) Long time by Boston

The Upstate: 

Whose members are –

Francesco D’Agostino, Michael Davy, Daniel Zoumaya, Nick Cummons, and Joseph Blaso.

1. You Know It – Colony House

2. Am I Pretty – The Maine

3. Talk Too Much – COIN

4. All the Small Things – Blink 182

The Black Velvet Band:

Whose members are –

Jacob Kessler, Gabe Kessler, Luke Johanni, Luke Bisceglio, Michel Shahid, and Zack Johanni

1. Rocky Road To Dublin

2. Galway Girl

3. Star of The County Down 

4. Rorin Mary

And last, but certainly not least, taking the crowd by storm and being awarded as this year’s WINNING BAND,

(S)cool Kids:

Who’s members are –

Jon Babineau, Joe Free, Jon Larochelle, Carter Chell, Michaela Flynn

1. Do You Wanna Do Nothing With Me – Lawrence

2. Are You Gonna Be My Girl – Jet

3. The Wolf – Mumford and Sons

4. Mama’s Broken Heart – Miranda Lambert


Thanks to all of these great musicians for coming out to entertain us for another year of the Battle of the Bands competition!

Learn more about SAB and SGA events by visiting their webpages.

An Evening with Bishop Dewane: Advice on Faith and Life

We are midway through the season of Lent, a time of greater sacrifice, almsgiving, and prayer. Before Lent began, long-time friend of Ave Maria University, Bishop Dewane, visited AMU students on campus in the Gyrene Cafe to provide valuable advice on what the Church wants from them, especially during the season of Lent. Our students took advantage of the Bishop’s presence at their University and asked a variety of questions concerning his vocation to the religious life, the Church’s expectations of the students, advice for entering into society after college, and their Lenten duties.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane serves in the Diocese of Venice, Florida. He grew up on a farm in Wisconsin with loving parents, one brother and two sisters. Prior to entering seminary, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences from the University of Wisconsin. He went on to earn a Master’s Degree in International Administration from The American University in Washington, D.C. He also holds degrees from Pontifical Gregorian University and Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, both in Rome.

Sometimes, you have to wait on the Lord’s timing.

Bishop Dewane shared hat he did not enter seminary until he was 33 years old. The students, intrigued, wondered what else he did before entering the seminary. Bishop Frank Dewane traveled to Russia, learned the language, and worked for the National Broadcasting Association (NBC) in Moscow. After some time, he traveled to New York City and worked for a subsidiary of PepsiCo. When the time came for him to enter the seminary, he just knew. Bishop Dewane explained that he learned we must “be open to what the Lord is asking us to do, we must turn ourselves over to the Lord. At times in my life, I knew I just had to wait on the Lord.”

Throughout all of Bishop Dewane’s education experience and work experience, his father had repeatedly asked him, “When are you going to get a real job?” When the Bishop finally entered the seminary, his parents were happy and proud.

During his time at seminary, the Bishop explained that there were some seminarians whom everyone knew would most likely become bishops someday. Bishop Dewane told the AMU students: “No one in the seminary ever said to me, ‘You’re going to be a Bishop.’” And yet here he stands today, installed as Bishop of the Diocese of Venice by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, and even serving on several committees at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Go out into the world and be Ave Maria strong, he said, particularly Our Lady strong.

Ave Maria University students crowded together in the Gyrene Cafe to hear from Bishop Dewane on the Monday before Ash Wednesday because they knew how valuable his advice would be. Senior Katie Ligday, student host for the event, asked: “What do you and the Church want from AMU as a young Catholic institution?” In reply, Bishop Dewane said, “Be the yeast in society, make a difference wherever it is you go.” Continuing, he urged: “You’ll all leave this nice place… Be Ave Maria strong, particularly Our Lady strong. At Ave Maria University, you get a unique education, in education but also in faith and morals. Be that yeast, that leaven in the world. Yeast can go bad sometimes. So, be the yeast in a good way. You know what is good, now set out and do it.”

When posed with the question, “How can we live in the world and not be consumed by the world?” the Bishop responded, “It’s not easy. You need a good conscience. You need to make those right choices. You need to be strong enough to tell a person that they aren’t being yeast.” More concretely, he warned about the distraction of technology and encouraged students to develop real connections, real relationships, with others. “Look at people in the eye, not at your device, and understand where their heart is. People are the gift the Lord has given us. Don’t let technology enslave you. Computers, iphones, all of it are great. But, they can be destructive.” Bishop Dewane expanded upon his answer to add that all are called to live holy lives. “That universal call for holiness is out there for you,” he said. “It’s not just for Bishops or nuns, but laity too. Keep in mind the call to holiness. Once we hear the call, it’s our responsibility to respond. That’s important. Find what the call is for you. It’s different for everyone.”

This year, Lent began on February 14th, which was both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. Bishop Dewane suggested that students celebrate Valentine’s Day on the day before, and live out the prayer and fasting of Ash Wednesday as a Valentine’s gift to the Lord. “Lent is no great secret,” he said. The entire season of Lent is a time set aside in a special way as a “gift” for God, to help us prepare our hearts to receive the far greater gift of participation in Christ’s suffering, death and Resurrection.

Bishop Dewane serves as an example of faith and love for the students at Ave Maria University. It was a great privilege for our students to receive advice from him during this formative time in their lives. AMU students ended the evening pondering the Bishop’s advice and inspired to go out in the world and be Ave Maria strong.

Grace Project Event Fosters Discussions on Female Friendship

At a recent Grace Project event,  Resident Director Amanda Morin and McKenzie Ligowski, wife of Resident Director Daniel Ligowski, shared their thoughts on female friendship. “If it wasn’t for the women I was with in nursing school, there’s no way I would have made it!” McKenzie exclaimed. She went on to talk about the temptation to “close off to the world when you fall in love,” but how maintaining your female friendships is important. Women “help you see a reflection of yourself,” she explained. “And they bring out the best in you!” Amanda, in agreement, shared: “The Lord sent me all these amazing girlfriends, and I spent a lot of time in college nourishing those relationships.”

The Grace Project brought a cozy evening of tea, biscotti and dialogue between women in the University community on the importance of cultivating strong female friendships

The Grace Project is a series sponsored by Student Life that offers undergraduate women on campus an opportunity to connect with and learn from female mentors in the University community.  While sipping on tea and snacking on biscotti, the students at the latest Grace Project event learned from McKenzie and Amanda about fostering deep female friendships during and after college, balancing relationships and priorities, and entrusting their dreams to the Lord while keeping a practical focus.   

On the topic of balancing female friendships while dating, both McKenzie and Amanda agreed that a romantic relationship should not take away from female friendships. But they also emphasized the importance of being realistic and setting clear boundaries with their friends.  According to McKenzie, “You have to make realistic expectations, and just be honest with them when you’re saying no.” Amanda added that it’s all about intentionality: “If you’re going to call them, do it. If you can’t, just be honest with your reasons.”

Amanda and McKenzie concluded the Grace Project event in answer to a question on being at peace in the present. “ Get to know yourself,” McKenzie urged. “You can’t be present if you don’t even know who you are!” Amanda followed up with  “God is in the present. Remember that. If you’re not there, you’re going to miss out.”

The Grace Project is just one of the over 250 events Student Life sponsors annually, including concerts, feasts, dances, talent shows, sports competitions and more. If you’re interested in learning more about the vibrant student culture at Ave Maria University, visit the website!



AMU Students on Spring Break in Ireland Ride Out Winter Storm, Emma, with Our Study Abroad Ireland Students


A few days ago seven AMU students left our sunny, SW Florida campus to head to Ireland for Spring Break. Little did they know that they would be greeted with a winter storm that would shut down the country and leave them stranded in an airport! Our Study Abroad Ireland campus at the Emmaus Centre came to the rescue and the stranded students were welcomed by our Study Abroad students with shelter and fun!

Read the account below:


We survived Winter Storm Emma! It has been a winter wonderland here at the Emmaus Centre in Ireland this weekend, and the Lord sent us a few surprises.

The storm was perhaps small by US standards, at least as it affected us here in North Dublin- perhaps 6 or 8 inches of snow fell, mostly melting as it came down. Nonetheless, this kind of weather is very unusual for Ireland and sent the country into a dither. Public transit, including taxis, shut down for two days, the airport cancelled all flights and closed entirely, and a “red alert” was declared, requiring people to stay indoors from 4 pm on the afternoon the storm hit until 4pm the next day.

We were very cozy at the Emmaus Centre- we never lost power except for a few hours during the night, while we were sleeping, and the staff here made sure we were well fed. Ms. Julie Cosden, Director of the Centre, actually moved in for the weekend to follow the storm’s progress and make sure everything at the Centre was okay. Especially memorable was our smoked salmon salad buffet during the peak of the storm. Has a cold salad ever tasted so delicious? J

While we weathered the storm in comfort here, being little affected since we have our classroom and professor on-site, we soon learned that some other AMU students were not having such good Irish luck with Emma. The arrival of the storm here in Ireland aligned perfectly with the first weekend of AMU’s typical Spring Break back on campus in Florida. Although this break for us took place a few weeks ago, as we’re on a different academic schedule here at Study Abroad, ten AMU students from our Florida campus had elected to spend their Spring Break week here in Ireland, and they were now markedly delayed by the nasty weather.

Learning that these friends had been delayed for nearly eight hours in the tiny Icelandic airport of Keflavik, and then that they would certainly miss their train to their arranged lodging on Ireland’s West Coast here, the Emmaus Centre staff went above and beyond to give an Irish welcome to these stranded students. Beds to rest and breakfast on the house- rest and nourishment to send them on their way for the next morning’s train- were a welcome relief to the AMU girls who finally arrived to us here at Emmaus at 2 am, after over 24 hours of traveling and delays.

I guess now we’re AVE STRONG in Ireland, too!

THANK YOU to our dear friends and hosts at Emmaus for making us all feel so loved!

AMU Students are welcomed over Spring Break by our Study Abroad students in Ireland

St. Patrick, pray for us!

To learn more about our Study Abroad Ireland program contact