Let the Public Debate on Sex and Gender Begin

Two thumbs up for President Trump’s sensible decision to reverse the Obama administration’s unprecedented, unlawful edict on transgender students.

Those decrying this decision as discriminatory and oppressive should actually read the letter the Obama administration issued last May if they want to see what discriminatory and oppressive action looks like!

Institutions like Ave Maria University received this federal directive, with the seals of both the U.S. Department of Justice and Education adorning the masthead, entitled, “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students.”  The communication ominously began that the “guidance” it was providing would be the basis for evaluating whether a university was compliant with their mandated interpretation of Title IX’s provisions dealing with sex discrimination.

The new dogma that demanded adherence? “Gender identity refers to an individual’s internal sense of gender. A person’s gender identity may be different from or the same as the person’s sex assigned at birth.”  It continues, “Harassment that targets a student based on gender identity, transgender status, or gender transition is harassment based on sex, and the Departments enforce Title IX accordingly.”  Here the Obama administration was threatening any institution that adhered to an interpretation of what for millennia has been the standard for distinguishing between males and females, with the withdrawal of student eligibility for Federal grants and loans.  The message was clear:  share our beliefs or we will shut you down.

For residential colleges like ours, “the Departments” had more “guidance” to dictate.  “A school must allow transgender students to access housing consistent with their gender identity and may not require transgender students to stay in single-occupancy accommodations.”

This heavy-handed approach of the Obama administration was well known to faith-based institutions like ours.  We had been bullied by his administration’s pontifications on matters of religious liberty, human sexuality, and institutional autonomy for eight years.  That’s why we were among the first in Federal Court suing over the Obama mandate on contraceptive services, including abortifacient drugs, and our health insurance plan.

In my opinion, the Obama administration, in its zeal to advance the LGBT agenda, went too far with its transgender directives and the accompanying threats of federal retribution for those not sharing their point of view.  President Trump’s common sense decision to end the Obama administration’s undemocratic policy is welcome relief.  The Trump administration rightfully pointed out the confusion and undemocratic nature of their predecessor’s overreach, and came out on the side of state and local control.  Makes perfect sense to me.  Perhaps now there can be a public discussion about how to balance the rights of a tiny fragment of the U.S. population with the rights of the overwhelming majority, particularly when what is encroached upon touches serious issues where the American people are not even close to a consensus.  Unelected Federal bureaucrats should not be deciding such matters.

Faith-based institutions like ours concur with the LGBT community view that sex is assigned at birth.  At issue is the question of how this “assignment” occurs.  The Judeo-Christian tradition believes that the One who assigns has done so from the beginning of the human race.  “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).”  Embracing this sincerely-held religious belief and traditional anthropology does not make one a bigot or proponent of discrimination.  Faith and reason are in harmony on this point.

No one on our campus wants to discriminate against transgender students, and this University would not tolerate it.  Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”  Those words were spoken by Our Lord without qualification.  I am proud of how welcoming the AMU campus environment is.

Let the debate begin in America on sex and gender, and let the voice of the faith-based community be heard like all others.  It will be nice to speak in the public square again and have our voice heard without the threat of Federal retribution hanging over our heads.  Good riddance to the Obama-era letter!

TSC Women’s Basketball Awards Revealed for 2016-17 Season

LAKELAND, Fla. — The 2016-17 women’s basketball postseason conference honors were unveiled tonight at the conference tournament final four banquet. Ave Maria’s Lauren Gillingham and Katie Ringdahl both received postseason recognition.

For a second consecutive season, Ringdahl was the recipient of the Champions of Character award. Already recognized this season as a member of the prestigious Allstate WBCA Good Works Team, Ringdahl ministers to the students at Immokalee High School and is now the YoungLife Team Leader for Immokalee High. Katie also works with the Immokalee High School girls’ basketball team and averages between 12-15 hours a week performing community service through YoungLife and other opportunities.

This year Katie was instrumental in adding YoungLife College to Ave Maria University. She made a presentation to Ave Maria’s administration and the director of mission outreach which resulted in YoungLife being recognized as an official club on campus.

Gillingham received First Team All-Conference recognition for her performance on the court. She led the Lady Gyrenes in scoring (16.2 ppg) and assists (89 total). She also ranked 10th in the NAIA in free throw percentage, converting 85.7 percent of her attempts from the charity stripe. Gillingham also received all-academic team recognition.

How to Land Your Dream Job

What are you good at? “Nothing” is not a valid answer. You were created wonderfully, fearfully, and intentionally. You have something necessary to bring to this world. Personally, I love to communicate. Whether by writing or speaking, this gift has been validated many times by kind both words from other people, and opportunities that have presented themselves. Think about the compliments that you receive. Think about the classes that you’ve excelled in. You have talents for a reason. You are good at things for a reason. Find an outlet that allows you to put your talents to work and use your gifts to their full potential.

If you aren’t certain about where your strengths lie, fear not! Maybe you haven’t had the chance to develop and explore them to their full potential. Online resources such as StrengthsQuest and the Myers-Briggs personality test allow you to identify your strongest attributes and turn them into life-skills. Each person is unique and has a skill set that only they can bring to the world. If you allow yourself to pursue the things that you excel in, not only will you find enjoyment in what you do, but you’ll be able to do it for a lifetime!

Where do you see yourself working?

Before you begin applying for jobs, it is of utmost importance that you evaluate your past work experiences. Were there things that you loved about a certain job? Things you hated about another? What tasks in past work experiences made you happy or proud? What was your biggest accomplishment? These seemingly small details should not be ignored! When you acknowledge what qualities make up your ideal workplace, you are more likely to gravitate toward a job that will suit every facet of your personality and introduce you to an environment where you will thrive!

Once you have determined your strengths, it is so important that you do not limit your career choices based on the path that people with the same degree as you generally take. If you are skilled in the realm of science, for example, you may assume that the only career-path you are suited for is to be a doctor. This could not be further from the truth! As someone who is scientifically skilled, you could be a teacher, a researcher, a lab technician, an astronomer, a member of a drug discovery team, a forensic scientist…the list goes on and on! Keep an open mind until you explore your options and are able to determine for yourself what you like and dislike.

What gives you energy?

What makes you feel the most alive? My roommate is completely changing her major after being in Guatemala for a service trip. She found so much joy working with underprivileged children that she cannot imagine doing anything else for the rest of her life.

Often, the vocation to which we are called is not what is easy. Will there be hard days and hard moments? Always. But you know it is right when not doing it is harder than doing it. A life lived in mediocrity cannot stack up to a life lived excellently. Glorify the Lord by accepting the challenges that He puts in your path so that at the end of your life, you can look back and say, “That wasn’t easy, but it was worth it”. Perseverance brings more peace than giving up.

Trustees pray Rosary for repose of the soul of Michael Novak


Michael Novak, longtime friend and patron of Ave Maria University, passed away on Friday, February 17, 2017.

Students at Ave Maria University affectionately knew him as “Ambassador Novak” or even simply, “The Ambassador.” This title acknowledged his pivotal role as U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations in 1981, and again as U.S. Ambassador to the Experts Meeting on Human Contacts of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1986. But perhaps even more, this title was one of deference, one that signified the special role he played within the Ave Maria University community.

Michael Novak was, to the AMU community, an ambassador of many things. It is most natural to point out first his commitment to the life of the mind and the pursuit of truth. Novak proudly claimed the place as the “first trustee” of the University—the first board member invited by Tom Monaghan to join efforts in founding a university dedicated to Our Lady, specifically in the moment of her fiat. Beginning in 2006, Novak donated to the University’s library what would eventually become thousands of books from his private collection. (Generations of students have marveled at the sheer number of volumes they pull from the shelves that are stamped with “From the library of Michael Novak.”) Ambassador Novak was a promoter and supporter of AMU’s academic and Catholic mission from the beginning, at first from a distance, and then in his final years as a resident of Ave Maria and a member of the faculty.

Novak first visited Ave Maria University for an extended period from January-February 2010, when he taught an accelerated course on Religion and the U.S. Founding (just one among dozens of areas to which his expertise and wisdom extended). Afterwards, he wrote for National Review Online of the experience: “It reminded me that my true vocation, next to writing, is teaching young people.” Already approaching eighty, Ambassador Novak moved to Ave Maria in Fall 2010 to teach a course on his work Belief & Unbelief: A Philosophy of Self-Knowledge. From there, his rededication to teaching young people took off with an energy and enthusiasm incredible to behold.

While never flagging in his vocation as a writer (of the over fifty books Novak wrote and co-wrote on philosophy, theology, and culture, at least five of these were finished while he lived in Ave Maria), Novak began teaching and mentoring the students of Ave Maria University. In multiple places, he referred to his AMU students as the “kids.” His kids. And they, in turn, looked on him with affection, almost as grandchildren sitting at the knees of their wise grandfather, the Ambassador, who had lived a life so full that its vitality continued to spill over even as he entered his final years.

Novak was also an ambassador to the faculty of Ave Maria University. He was so enamored of the quality of their scholarship, their dedication to the truth, and the sacrifices they made for their students, that he independently initiated the Laub-Novak Award for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities, named in honor of his wife, the artist Karen Laub-Novak (1937-2009). “The main idea in my heart,” Novak wrote about the initiative, “was that there are many who make great sacrifices for Ave Maria—students, their parents, the administration and the staff. But since you can’t recognize everyone at once, I decided to attend to the faculty. The faculty at Ave Maria have been extraordinarily high in quality, and they spend so many hours with the students. Their praises need to be sung while they are here, so they see how precious their work is. Recognition is, in a way, the most important thing in a person’s life. If you do great work and make sacrifices, and someone notices, it makes all the difference.”

It was with this sort of attention to the inner life of the individual that Ambassador Novak conducted all of his relationships. He took great pains to ensure that the award ceremonies were special occasions, memorable evenings of praise, entertainment and refreshments. In fact, every gathering in which Ambassador Novak played a part was sure to be filled with good food, good wine, and good music. It was a principle of his that one should make life as beautiful as one is able. He understood that the soul thirsts for beauty.

One AMU alumnus wrote in reflection: “I am especially grateful for the advice he gave me after sending him an email thanking him for the Marcel text he had given me to read. I confessed it was a balm during a world-weary period of life. Michael wrote back, ‘What is crucial is to drink in enough beauty to live another day. One practice is to read a little poetry every day, to have great music surrounding your soul… Beauty, beauty, beauty—the soul needs it like water.’ His reply continues to strike me for its charity, wisdom, and honesty—it came from his experience and he simply wanted to share it with another, an attitude I suspect which may shed light on his seemingly effortless practice of friendship.”

As an ambassador of beauty, Novak organized countless opportunities for the students—and the faculty and staff—to be placed in contact with the beautiful. He was a tireless promoter of his wife’s work, and he loaned many of her paintings and prints to be displayed around Ave Maria University’s campus. Similarly, he donated two portraits, one of himself and one of his wife, completed by world-renown artist Igor Babailov. The portraits now hang in the Ave Maria University Canizaro Library. Novak would organize and fund film screenings, poetry recitations, evenings of music appreciation, concerts, stage readings, and exhibits. He was a passionate fan of AMU’s Shakespeare in Performance program, and he would each year boast at the number of shows he made—often two in a single day. More than one AMU student was helped along the path to becoming an artist by Ambassador Novak’s patronage.

In fact, the number of Ave Maria University students, past and present, who owe Michael Novak a debt of gratitude for recommending them for a job, introducing them to a key professional connection, finding them an opportunity, encouraging them in a moment of uncertainty or pushing them to succeed is, without doubt, in the hundreds. Another AMU alumnus wrote in reflection: “It still baffles me how a man of his caliber and life experience cared so deeply about the lives of the young people he knew.”

And the Ambassador’s concern for guiding students to find their calling in life extended far beyond helping them to professional and personal success. He was quite possibly Ave Maria University’s most zealous matchmaker, desiring in the great generosity of his heart to help others find the love that he had found in his “treasure,” Karen. Dozens of young Ave couples were set on their feet by Novak’s magnanimity. He would host intimate dinners in his home for the young men and women on campus, hoping that some spark might light as a result. Many were invited to the pub to celebrate with him on March 19th, the anniversary of his first blind date with Karen. He gave “fireside chats” at the local coffee shop on his ideas on the different categories of love. He even went so far as to “sponsor” dates, offering to tight-budgeted college men the money needed to take a girl out for dinner, thereby encouraging them and teaching the value of dating in a culture so ignorant of true love.

It is easy to say that, above all, Michael Novak was an ambassador of love, especially of the One who is Love. Throughout his long life, he demanded excellence of himself, and he aimed at perfection. He was not satisfied to retire and enjoy himself in old age; rather, he woke up each morning and pushed himself to write an article, to finish yet another book, to call in for a radio interview or travel for a conference or a lecture. Oftentimes, this striving after perfection came out in harsh criticism or strong judgment. He demanded of others the same standards he set for himself. And yet, his criticism and judgment were always qualified with charity, with the recognition of the limitations of life on earth. One AMU student wrote: “He was a kind and critical but always encouraging mentor.” These things seem contradictory, but in fact they are reconciled in the wisdom of God. In his essay, “The Myth of Romantic Love,” Novak wrote: “Christian love is central, bodily, earthy, fatiguing, difficult to find a time for. It is but one means by which God shines the inner love of his own caritas into the inspirited bodies, and enfleshed spirits, of his people.”

We are but sojourners in this world, making our rough way through to the end of the race. We slip and fall, we break a bone, but we continue aiming for the goal. Along the way, God raises up our humble efforts and transforms them into something far beyond our reckoning. This is what Ambassador Novak lived, and in living taught to everyone who knew him.

When the Ambassador turned 80 in September 2013, Ave Maria University had the privilege of organizing and hosting a conference in honor of his life and achievements. Friends, family and colleagues of Michael Novak flew in from around the country to honor this great man. It was an astonishing moment—a pause to look around and take stock of the monumental achievements of a single individual. He came from humble beginnings—born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a descendent of Slovakian immigrants—and went on to achieve success in a vast array of fields: as an author, theologian, philosopher, poet, diplomat, social commentator, benefactor, friend, son, brother, husband, father, and grandfather.

Although he lived a life so full, it was clear in his final years that Michael Novak longed to be reunited with Karen, communing together in the eternal love of God. Many around him wondered what more God could be asking of him, and why he was kept on earth so long after his wife departed. In spite of the pain of separation, Ambassador Novak imitated Our Lady’s fiat and kept the faith to the very end, continuing to do service to the Creator. In this way, he was and is, in the words of St. Paul, an Ambassador for Christ.

After his initial visit to Ave Maria in 2010, Novak wrote: “I have never lived in a more Catholic culture than Ave Maria’s — well, maybe once before, in St. Pius X Seminary during my college years at Stonehill College. … I must report that I have come to love Ave Maria deeply, and feel a very strong pull to live out my final years in such a place.” In Fall 2016, Michael Novak traveled to Washington D.C. for a visiting professorship at the Catholic University of America. When he fell ill during the Spring 2017 semester there, it was with heavy hearts that members of the Ave Maria community faced the fact that we would never see our beloved Ambassador again. And yet, in this moment of sadness, we recall his example and commit ourselves to keeping the faith, to picking ourselves up whenever we stumble and fall, in the knowledge that Heaven awaits, and there we will commune in the joy, beauty and love of God.

By Sarah Blanchard

Student Spotlight: Ana Franco

As a graduating senior, Ana Franco is very mindful of the clock that is ticking on her undergraduate career. She frequently refers to the “3 months we have left”, but her usage is hopeful, as though she is waiting expectantly for the changes that will occur over that time…and she is preparing for it well. She is a personable, outgoing individual who enjoys speaking with people and makes conversation easily. As she summarizes her goals, it is not hard to believe that this is a young woman will soon leave her mark on the world.  

How did you first come to Ave Maria? 

The first time I visited Ave, it was the day after Spring Formal. At that point in time, I was completely set on going to a state school. My top choice was Northeastern University in Boston. I really, really wanted to go there for Psychology, but God knew what I needed. I can still remember my visit to Northeastern. I went over the summer and I just loved it! However, I did not know what I would be getting myself into. I remember the first time I came to Ave, I left crying! It was not an open house and there were barely any students around. I told my parents, “If you are going to bring me to this school, just read me the Bible, keep me at home, and put me in a long skirt, because that would be the same thing!” I do remember, though, that during that visit, we also came and saw the church and I thought it was so beautiful. I remember sitting in a pew looking up at the cross and saying “You know what God, only you know. If this is the place that you want me to come, bring me back here.” And I visited a second time and I just fell in love with Ave.

And what are you wearing now? 

*laughing* Not a long skirt! Although I have to admit, I actually like them! And I do read the Bible for fun! So a couple of things came true.

What did you do last summer? 

Last Summer, I worked with the USCCB – the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – in their Catholic News Service. They published a lot of different articles and they have a newsletter that they send out. It was really great; I actually stayed within walking distance of where I worked. I only knew about three people that lived in the city, so I was going completely out of my comfort zone when I took that job. I think I took a lot to heart, like where God leads you, you should go. I know that what I learned at USCCB, and the people I came in contact with there, have helped to lead me to know what I want to do next.

What was something about your internship that surprised you? 

I think one of the biggest challenges was that it was very different from what I expected an internship to be – where you walk in and they have a lot of work predetermined for you to do. They definitely had a lot of work for me to do, but they wouldn’t necessarily tell me—I had to go see what there was to do for myself. Sometimes my supervisor would assign me tasks, but not all the time because they are so busy—they don’t always stop their work for you. I think a lot of people don’t realize that going into an internship; they think it revolves around them and what they’re learning. But I think it is what you learn from these people that you’re working with. One thing I would say to whoever goes into get an internship or a job is to really get to know the people you’re working with, because these people have also had their own experiences and can help you. There was this gentleman, his name was Dennis, and we met because he worked at the computer across from me. We became such good friends. He is an older man with white hair and hipster journalism glasses that I would always make fun of (because I wanted a pair myself), but he was someone who gave me really great advice. He is an amazing editor. I only sent him two pieces in the six weeks that I was there, but from what he corrected in those pieces, I learned so much.

Were there any struggles during the internship? 

Being here at Ave, we only learn APA and Chicago Manual Style of writing. The USCCB office used AP style, which is the journalistic style. I had to start writing in a completely new way. The thought of that would really have made me kind of nervous before I took this internship. In order to work through this obstacle, I would stay after hours and read through a pamphlet on AP style, or I would take it home and skim it over.  Learning is something we can’t tire of doing – otherwise we just stay stagnant. My supervisor Julie Asher would leave some nights, and I would still be there reading that pamphlet. At the end of the internship, she gave me feedback, which was a really good meeting to have, and she said to me that one of the things she noticed and appreciated about me was how much work I put into my writing, and how much it showed that I cared. She noticed that I would stay after hours and go beyond what was expected of me.I really pursued the work and realized that if this is something I love, I have to put in as much work as I can!

How did you discover the internship? 

My advisor here, Dr. Hunt, has helped me more than I can say… I remember that before Christmas break of Junior year, she told me to start job-searching, and I decided I would really like to work for a Catholic organization. I put “Catholic news” into Google, and this organization popped up: USCCB Catholic News Service. I saw the name of the person listed, so I called and asked “Do you have internships?” And they said yes!

Do you think that it is a good strategy for people to employ in their own job or internship search? 

Yes, I think you need to be really proactive in finding jobs and internships because a lot of people who have succeeded in life have been successful because they go looking for opportunities to be successful. If you find something that you want and desire, why not go for it? Get out of your comfort zone and try to discover what you are supposed to do. You can’t just sit around waiting for things to happen.

What do you want to do when you graduate? 

I would love to go into Marketing, Public Relations, or Event Coordinating. After working for USCCB this summer, I also realized that we all have talents that God gives us, and I really want to put them to good use. I say that without trying to sound pompous or something. It is just so important that whatever job we go into, we use all that we have been given.

My talents lie not only in my writing, but also in the way that I love people. When I am in a group and have to say a “fun fact” about myself, I always say that I’m a people person. I could just sit and talk with someone for hours about their life and I would be the happiest ever! A way to use both gifts for me would be in Public Relations and Marketing, because I love being with other people and also communicating through written word. I have really loved learning about marketing by interning here at Ave – shout-out to Ave Marketing!

What do you plan to do this year in order to get you closer to your goal? 

I have already started applying for jobs for next year, and while I do that, I am interning here in Marketing. Doing that has really helped me towards my goal by allowing me to discover my vocation. Over these next three months, I am going to try to really process what I have learned here and how I can apply all of it when I go out into the world. I love our Ave bubble, but I think that one of the things that Tom Monaghan and President Towey want for us is to take what we have learned here, and go out into the world to share it!

Similarly, where do you see yourself in five years?  


Are you going to be in Boston pursuing your long-lost dream? 

Haha, teaching at Northeastern? That would be hilarious. I’m not sure, I really want to be working somewhere that I feel I am being true to myself and what I have learned. Maybe I will have a family too. I know that is more personal, but it is the truth. What is so great about Ave is that it really tries to make you think about your discernment while you are growing, and I am so grateful for that. Hopefully I end up working for a company that I love, and have a big family. I would love waking up and being a mother but I would also love to go to work everyday. Even though there will be hard days and some “not-so-great” days, ultimately I will be doing what I love.

Do you have any hobbies or interests that you pursue in your spare time? 

I was actually a ballet dancer for 16 years. I was in Art’s Ballet Theatre of Florida, which is a ballet company that I joined when I was 14. I stopped dancing when I came to Ave, so I try to dance when I can! I actually have taught Pilates classes for a year at the Karate School in town, and I really enjoy doing that in my spare time. I also love to run or to have tea with people and talk about life! I am thinking about working to get my Pilates and Barre certifications so that I could do classes for high school and college girls, and be able to give back in that way.

Who are three people in history that you admire, and why? 

Can they be a saint? I would say Pier Giorgio Frassatti. I think his story is amazing. He wrote about how his parents did not know that he wanted to be Catholic, because I don’t think his family was. He would have someone at 4:30 AM tug on a rope that was attached to his leg, and they would pull it to wake him up so that he would go climb on a mountain and get back in time for 7:30 AM mass. Did you know that? It is amazing. Being a young person myself, and wanting to understand what I am supposed to do, he’s someone I really admire. Also Saint Josemaria is one of my favorites! He really has a beautiful perspective on sanctifying your daily work. Sonia Sotomayor is also someone that I look up to. She was the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. I cannot even imagine coming from her background and ending up as one of the first Supreme Court Justices in the United States.

What gives you the most joy? 

I was actually just talking with someone about this yesterday. Contrary to my parents, I really love being in nature. I love being at the foot of a mountain and looking up. I love sunsets and sunrises. I love running here in the fields behind Ave and just looking out over the plains and saying “wow”.

I also really love teaching people. Teaching is beautiful because you are able to see where they started, and celebrate with them when they have learned. Being with people also brings me joy. I am an introvert-extrovert; sometimes I need my space, but having good conversation where people can truly be themselves brings me so much joy.

What brought you joy when you were a child? Do any of the things you just mentioned differ from when you were a child? 

I think being with family. Also, one thing that brings me so much joy is serving others. My sophomore year I told myself that even if none of my friends were going, I would go and do something as a service project. Service makes you feel so whole. It is so easy to get caught up in yourself and what you want—especially in college—that you forget about others. That is something that we should focus on all of our lives. When I was little, my mom would always go and serve. I think that is another reason it gives me joy. Even though I did not go with her all the time, just seeing that she was going to do that gave me a lot of peace.

My birthday also brings me joy. My dad always bakes me a cake, called the “Better Almost Impossible” cake, because there is nothing better than that cake. My dad works very hard, but he is always take off time to make me feel special. That is what it reminds me of. The cake is this three-layer chocolate cake with dulce de leche inside, vanilla cream on top, and sprinkles.

What do your parents do? 

My mom is back in school. She did interior design for a while, then became a stay-at-home mom. My dad he says that he is an entrepreneur… at least that’s what he likes to be called.

How have your dreams and goals changed through your life? 

I think that once you grow up, you realize that some things are not very easy to achieve. When I was little, I wanted to be a doctor. I even got a First Aid kit for Christmas one year because I wanted to be a doctor so badly! As I started taking classes though, I realized that as much as I loved the idea of being a doctor, it wasn’t something that I would be good at. That was kind of disappointing. After that, I realized that you have to ask yourself “What are the goals I can achieve doing something else? What can I keep striving for”? There are lots of people who have dreams, but they become goals when you realize that you can achieve them.

What advice have you received that has had an impact on your life 

Do you know Fr. Dunn? He was my spiritual director last year and is just an amazing person. One thing he said to me was, “Ana, do not settle. Do what makes you happy.” And I think that, subconsciously, I’ve tried to follow that in my life.

If you won $1 million tomorrow, what would you do with the money? 

I think that I would donate some of it to Ave…

Great! How much of it? 

Well let’s see, not half of it… Like three quarters of it!

Oh, wow you’re so generous! 

I think I would donate to some kind of religious order, like the Missionaries of Charity. I worked with them this summer so they are really dear to me. Also, I would probably donate to orphanages in the United States. I would want to give a lot of it away.

And some for me obviously, but I would still want to work. I would not want to sit around all day, that’s so boring! I probably would travel as well. Europe is my favorite part of the world, so I would probably travel there.

Rome to Adoption: Rolling Out the Year for Mother

Six months ago, Ave Maria University decided to dedicate this entire academic year to her patron- now a canonized saint- Mother Teresa. We had a great start and we are looking forward to a beautiful end. A group of 31 of us took a life-changing pilgrimage to Rome for Mother’s canonization, during the “Year for Mercy”.

Friend and legal counsel to Mother and AMU’s President, Jim Towey, had the honor of reading for the historic Canonization Mass ceremony. Back on campus, a week of festivities were organized, from a pro-life “Color Run” to a huge Inspiration Day Celebration, in which the Missionaries of Charity from Miami, and the homeless men they serve, participated.

Now, we are seeing the seeds of these graces begin to blossom into fruits in the life of our students, and culture of our campus. More students than ever are giving of themselves in loving service to those in need. Last semester, we reached a record of over 5700 service hours in only 13 weeks of service. Over 64% of the student body are involved in service, and 33% of those students are involved in a regular basis, serving those in need from once a month to three times a week!

MTP has also expanded service opportunities to assist developmentally disabled adults with LARC and participate in the Meals for Hope Backpack Program each month, to name a few.

In additional to our signature mission trips including NYCHaitiMexico City, and Calcutta, we went to Washington DC and Guatemala City for the first time this Christmas season. Both trips are beautiful and will most definitely be repeated in years to come. May will be the first time that MTP sends a group of students to Kampala, Uganda on mission. And if all goes well, a select group of pre-med students will embark on a medical mission trip this summer.

The Theology Department of Ave Maria University is hosting a weekend conference February 10-11th to honor legacy of Mother’s life and writings in the context of the great mystics of the Catholic tradition as well as of spiritual theology, also known as ascetical and mystical theology. With a stellar line-up of qualified speakers from AMU and beyond, it is an excellent opportunity to get to know our dear saint’s contribution to the Church’s mysticism and theology as a whole.

To honor Mother’s legacy and spread it beyond our university, The Mother Teresa Project is hosting it’s first annual conference on February 25th. Titled “Welcoming the Child: Mother Teresa’s Care for the Most Vulnerable“, the focus is on adoption and foster care. Open to all with an interest, the conference is meant to connect ours students and families with leading scholars and professionals in the field from around the nation.

It is our pro-life response to the needs of real people- real children, real families- in our hurting society today. The topics of adoption and foster care hit home to many of our Ave families. Here are just a few of the beautiful stories out there. If you, or friends you may know, are interested in coming to the conference, check out the website for more information and how to register. It’s a one-day event you won’t regret.

Student Spotlight: Kara Logan, 1st Year PhD Student, Returns to Her Alma Mater to Present at a Symposium

First year PhD student, Kara Logan, is scheduled to present at the upcoming Symposium on Advancing the New Evangelization at her alma mater Benedictine College. Her paper, “Let my son go that he may serve me” (Exodus 4:23): Restoring the Lord’s Day as a Means for the New Evangelization” will draw on the Book of Exodus and the theme of “The Lord’s Day” as it is presented there, and argues that the New Evangelization can be advanced through the retrieval of an authentic understanding and culture of “The Lord’s Day.”

Below is a brief interview with Ms. Logan about her presentation and what it is like to be headed back to her alma mater.

First of all, can you say a bit about your educational background?

I studied theology and classical languages at Benedictine College and graduated with my BA in 2015. I then went to the Augustine Institute in Denver, where I received my MA in Theology. And I am now at Ave Maria University for a PhD where my major focus is Scripture with a minor focus in systematics.

What brought you to the AMU Graduate Theology Program?

I applied to the PhD program at Ave Maria because I wanted to study at a school where I could be taught theology in a way that is faithful to Catholic orthodoxy, yet is still a rigorous program of study that would prepare me to be a professor. I have not been disappointed!

What is the paper you are delivering for the conference at your alma mater, Benedictine College?

My paper is “Let my son go that he may serve me” (Exodus 4:23): Restoring the Lord’s Day as a Means for the New Evangelization.” In this paper, principally using Exodus, I argue that in order to evangelize our society today, we must restore what it means to truly live the Lord’s Day. If we remember and live the Lord’s Day, we can create a culture where modern man can enter into the rest and the joy of the Lord.

What does Scripture teach us about the centrality of the Lord’s Day for God’s People? 

In Exodus we learn that the Lord’s Day has the effect of sanctifying time and space, and therefore also the people who participate in this day. The Lord’s people are released from their burdens in order to do the work of the Lord. Through the Sabbath the Lord formed the people to be his own and this shows their ordination to God, and was the organizing principle of their entire way of life.

How would living the Lord’s Day look for us today? 

In general terms, I will argue that we must emphasize the community dimension of the Lord’s Day. By inviting people into our homes and into our community through the celebration and the “festivity” of the Lord’s Day, we can show them the joy that can be found in Catholicism and in following Jesus Christ. Further, the Lord’s Day should not be seen as just taking a break from “work” but doing the work of the Lord: worship, caring for one’s neighbor, and exercising true leisure.

What is it like to be going back to your alma mater to deliver a paper at a conference as a PhD student? 

I am excited to see my former professors and engage with them in a more collegial and more profound theological way. The Symposium began my freshman year at Benedictine, and I attended it every year and even delivered a paper my senior year. It was a great experience, and I look forward to delivering a paper once again.

The Mother Teresa and the Mystics Conference: A Time for Spiritual Growth

There are many academic conferences that one might attend throughout the course of an academic career. These may often be interesting, and important and weighty matters can be discussed and considered. Few conferences, however, are like that had over the course of this past weekend at Ave Maria University. The Aquinas Center’s conference Mother Teresa and the Mystics: Toward a Renewal of Spiritual Theology, lived up to its title and seemingly began the renewal right away in the very attendees at the conference. If one had been fortunate enough to hear all of the plenary speakers, a wonderful kind of whole was revealed that both instructed and inspired.

Dr. Ralph Martin began the conference with a stirring reflection on the depth of the Spiritual Darkness of Mother Teresa. However, this account was couched in terms where we were not simply left in awe of the great suffering and holiness of the little saint from Albania, but we were encouraged to carry on in our own respective spiritual lives, and trust ourselves to God’s providential and loving guidance.

The theme of providential ordering was taken up by Fr. Matthew Lamb on the following day, where he showed how St. Teresa’s dedication to the poor in all circumstances gave witness to the natural law’s testimony of the inherent dignity of all men. This was followed by an illuminating lecture from Dr. Michael Waldstein, commending the place of St. Teresa and Pope St. John Paul II as the spiritual mother and father of Ave Maria University. These talks helped those listening to reflect both on the very concrete example that Mother Teresa provided, and also how her life still is touching ours.

Then her motherhood was taken up again, and this time in relation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mother Teresa’s continual devotion to the Blessed Virgin was so much a part of her, that one can almost lose sight of it. Dr. Mark Miravalle highlighted this connection and showed how Mother Teresa participated in the mystical motherhood of Mary in her incessant love all of those whom she encountered, especially the poor.

Finally, Fr. Meconi seemingly brought all of these elements together, emphasizing how Mother Teresa taught us about how we are able to contact Christ in His “distressing disguise,” as Mother Teresa was wont to call it, in the poor. Mother Teresa’s witness of service and love emphasized not only the dignity of the poor, but also the sanctity that is to be had through suffering. By tending to the poor, Mother saw herself tending to Christ himself. The Body of Christ, that potentially contains all mankind, was always present to her in her administrations to the poor. As Christ says to the righteous, “you did it for me.”

Augmented by a strong cohort of other speakers heard during the concurrent sessions, the lesson of the conference, just as in Mother Teresa’s own life, was clear: that the work of God in us is to bring us closer to Himself as well as all those we encounter.

Latest Library Exhibit Features Work of Local Florida Artists

The newest display at the Ave Maria University Canizaro Exhibit Gallery features a selection of pieces—both painting and sculpture—by members of the Florida Artists Group (FLAG). The exhibit opened on January 19th with a reception, including public remarks offered by some of the featured artists present, and it will close after an artist gallery talk on March 16th.

The twenty works now on display span the gamut between realism and abstraction, organic and synthetic, the natural and the fanciful. The media used include watercolor, acrylic, alabaster, marble, canvas, silk, wood, oil and dye. The subject matter ranges from snapshots of daily life (Sonnenberg’s “Please Don’t Eat the Shoes” or Costa’s “Three Men in a Boat”), to images of the aquatic (Blanchard’s “Koi Pond,” Gill’s “Baby Bowl,” or Spry’s “Alone”), to thoughtful compositions that beg the viewer to think more deeply on what they see (take, for instance, Cullen’s “Guarding the Dream,” or Fausel’s “Reflections of Zurich,” or Shapses’ “Ethereality”). Then, of course, there are Pat Zalisko’s two wall canvases that seethe with color, shape and dynamic lines.

“I’m an action artist,” Zalisko explained at the exhibit’s opening reception. She works quickly, with high quality paints, inspired by graffiti, and often in response to music or text. Zalisko is Chair of Region VII Chapter of FLAG, which spans Henry, Lee, Collier, Charlotte and Glades Counties (AMU is located within Collier County). Florida Artists Group, Inc. (FLAG) was founded in 1949 as an organization of professional artists. The organization holds an annual symposium and regional exhibits through the year. Zalisko remarked with gratitude that it is a “God-send” when curators such as Jennifer Nodes, Director of Library Services and Curator at AMU, offer the group an opportunity to share their art. Works by nine of Area VII’s fifteen listed artists are currently on display at the Canizaro Library exhibit.

Besides the chance to view the work of local artists, members of the AMU community may find something more to pique their interest in the latest library exhibit. One artist in particular is no stranger to AMU—her big and bold canvases were stretched across the library halls for two months last spring in the exhibit “Boundless” (March 11-May 9, 2016). “I really enjoy working large because I’m short,” Joan Brechin Sonnenberg shared with those gathered for the opening reception. “I feel more comfortable on a large scale.” Sonnenberg’s primary interest as an artist is the relationship between realism and abstraction—how they interact and overlap. In her last exhibit at AMU, most of the works on display were abstract pieces; for the library’s current exhibit, Sonnenberg decided to display two of her more realistic works.

Another artist’s work is of particular interest to the AMU community. Sculptor Joel Shapses, at the exhibit’s opening reception, shared how one of his featured pieces, “Ode to Russ,” is carved from a piece of Carrara marble leftover from the Annunciation Sculpture on Ave Maria Church. The sculpture is imbued with a strong vitality, which is not surprising given its history. Shapses carved the marble in honor of his colleague, Russ Rubin, who had originally procured the piece of scrap marble from the Annunciation sculptor, Marton Varo. The chunk was large, so Shapses agreed to buy half of it if Rubin would split it. That afternoon, Rubin suffered a heart attack and subsequently died. Shapses picked up the piece of marble at a later date. “As I…started working,” he recalls, “I felt the spirit of Russ in the stone [and] I let [it] flow into the work.”

There are many more pieces of art that capture and inspire the imagination now on display in the Canizaro Library exhibit. Don’t miss this opportunity to view them!

2017 Commencement Speaker

AVE MARIA, Fla. (February 14, 2017) — Ave Maria University announced today that Mr. Daniel A. D’Aniello, co-founder and Chairman of The Carlyle Group, will be its commencement speaker at this year’s graduation exercises.  The University also announced that it will confer an honorary degree on D’Aniello in recognition of his exemplary life as an entrepreneur, corporate executive, philanthropist, and Catholic layman.

Dan D’Aniello was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, raised by a single mother, and started working at the age of nine as a stock boy at his uncle’s produce market.  He subsequently worked his way through college at Syracuse University where he graduated at the top of the Business School.  He enlisted in the U.S. Navy during the time of the Vietnam War, served on the U.S.S. Wasp, and had four major deployments during his time of service.  Last year, D’Aniello received the Lone Sailor Award from the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation.

D’Aniello placed his MBA from Harvard Business School in the service of successful stints at TWA, Pepsico, and Marriott International before co-founding The Carlyle Group, a global alternative asset management firm, in 1987.  Carlyle currently has offices in 20 countries spanning six continents and manages $169 billion of assets across its portfolio of funds.

D’Aniello also serves as Chairman of the Board of the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts Foundation in Vienna, Virginia, and is Co-Chairman of the Board of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC.   He and his wife Gayle have been married for  40 years and have two adult children.

“We are thrilled to have a role model like Dan D’Aniello as our commencement speaker,” said Jim Towey, president of Ave Maria University.  “He has succeeded at the highest levels without compromising his Catholic faith.  The Board of Trustees is delighted to confer the University’s highest honorary recognition on him,” he added.  “Our students will benefit greatly from his words of wisdom.”

Ave Maria University’s commencement takes place on May 6, 2017 at 10 a.m. in the Tom Golisano Field House.  Over 200 men and women are expected to receive degrees at this year’s ceremony.   This will be the institution’s 13th graduation exercises and the 10th on its permanent campus.  Recent commencement speakers have included former Florida Governor Jeb Bush; Florida Governor Rick Scott; Librarian of Congress Dr. James Billington; President of the American Enterprise Institute, Dr. Arthur Brooks; and His Eminence Sean Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and AMU trustee.