Obamacare Contraception Mandate Sent Back to Lower Courts

Monday, May 16, 2016: The United States Supreme Court made a significant decision today, remanding to the lower courts a challenge brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor to the Obama Administration’s attempt to force religiously affiliated institutions – like Ave Maria University – to act contrary to their rights to religious freedom.  The unanimous decision by the Court is an important win for the Little Sisters and the cause of religious freedom.  The ruling should preserve the injunction issued by the federal court in Ave Maria’s case that prevents the federal government from imposing taxes or penalties on the University by its decision to not comply with the HHS contraception and abortifacient mandate.

Ave Maria University has been fighting the federal government on this matter since 2012.  Under the leadership of President Jim Towey, Ave Maria University was among the very first entities to challenge the legality of the contraception mandate.  The Obama administration has repeatedly tried to involve Ave Maria University, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and other men and women of faith in activity that is in direct conflict with the teaching of the Catholic Church.

The University is represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in its case which is on hold in the Eleventh Circuit. Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, made the following statement: “We are very encouraged by the Court’s decision, which is an important win for the Little Sisters. The Court has recognized that the government changed its position.  It is crucial that the Justices unanimously ordered the government not to impose these fines and indicated that the government doesn’t need any notice to figure out what should now be obvious — the Little Sisters respectfully object. There is still work to be done, but today’s decision indicates that we will ultimately prevail in court.”

Am I not here, I, who am your Mother?

Am I not here, I, who am your Mother?


by Sarah Blanchard

Juan Diego was an insignificant member of his community when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him. One day, as the Christian Indian made a path through the rocky terrain on his way to Mass, he noticed a light coming from the top of Tepeyac hill. There, the Virgin Mother appeared to him and called him “Juanito, my son!”

“Why did God look upon him?” Pope St. John Paul II asked in his homily for the canonization of Juan Diego. Why was Juan Diego, a poor Christian Indian, chosen to see and bear the message of Our Lady? Quoting scripture, the Pope continued in his homily: “God chose what is low and despised in the world … so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor 1:28, 29). The proud and the mighty fight for attention on the world stage, but it is the meek and lowly—like Juan Diego—who reflect the greatness of the Lord. God shines unobstructed through the lives of those who are humble.

With this in mind, it isn’t hard to imagine why the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego. Who better than Mary understands how the soul of the humble magnifies the Lord? She too was an insignificant member of her community when God plucked her out of obscurity and made her Mother—first of Jesus Christ, and then, at Calvary, of the whole world. Her motherhood sprung from her humility; with an unadorned Fiat! she accepted her calling to overflow with God’s compassion and love, signatures of maternal care.

These two things—the humble and the maternal—are intimately united in the Virgin of Guadalupe. Understanding from her own experience how God loves “what is low and despised in the world,” the Virgin has a special care for the insignificant and rejected children of society. Juan Diego’s childlike trust in God was met with Mary’s maternal care. She responded to the humble child with her own humble motherhood.

It is with this same childlike confidence that Ave Maria University has placed itself in Our Mother’s care, first in invoking her name as patron at its founding, and then again in publicly consecrating itself to her Immaculate Heart last year. The University has united itself in her care for the “low and despised in the world,” both in its work defending religious liberty, and as it fosters compassionate care for the poor through the Mother Teresa Project.

On December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the University once again embraced the Virgin as Mother with the opening of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Prayer Garden. At the opening ceremony, students processed out from Mass in the Oratory, crossed the canal by way of a newly constructed footbridge, followed a gravel path, and arrived at the base of a 10-foot bronze statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. There, they renewed their consecration to Mary’s Immaculate Heart.

On February 19, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of the Diocese of Venice presided over the official dedication of the prayer garden, offering a blessing of the statue. “Under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” he said, “this image will remind us of the close ties of Mary to Jesus, to her Church, and to Ave Maria.” Jerry and Linda Stafford, who generously donated the statue in memory of their son, Jerry T. Stafford (1966-1982), stood by.

Deacon John Jarvis read from the Gospel of St. Luke the account of the Visitation of Mary, in which Elizabeth cried out: “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” In reflection afterwards, President Towey invited all gathered at the dedication—trustees, members of the President’s council, the University’s Founder, Tom Monaghan, Chairman Michael Timmis, faculty, administration, staff and students—to look to the example of Juan Diego’s humility and ask, with Elizabeth, “Who are we, that the Mother of Our Lord should come to us?” The answer, he said, lies in the mercy of God, which shines brightly in the person of Our Lady. In God’s mercy, she was chosen to be Mother; in her humility, she carries His mercy to the world.

It is appropriate that the University began this Jubilee Year of Mercy by throwing itself on the mercy of God through Mary. With confidence in her maternal love, the community takes shelter beneath her blue mantel, there carrying out its work united to her in compassion for the poor and lowly, the meek and despised. “What unites people at Ave Maria University,” Towey said, “is a desire to be joyful, intentional followers of Jesus, a love of our Church, and a special devotion to la Guadalupana, la Morena, la Virgencita. A real desire to find ourselves through our work beneath her mantel.”

The dedication ceremony closed with a Rosary led by students. AMU junior Victoria Antram said it was a blessing to be a part of the event. “This statue serves as a reminder that Ave Maria lies in the shadow of Mary’s mantel of grace,” she went on.  “I gaze out from my dorm room window every morning, and she reminds me to live out her Fiat to joyfully accept God’s will. I love the statue and all the goodness it foreshadows in this University’s future.”

The garden currently stands across the canal on the westernmost edge of campus, but, as the University expands over time, it will eventually stand at its center. Although not yet the geographic heart, the prayer garden has already become a spiritual one. Students are at the foot of Our Lady morning, noon, and night. The garden gives students something they have been in “desperate need for,” John Gargano, President of the Student Government Association, remarked. “It is a place of prayer, peace, and consolation outside where they can be with Our Lord and his Mother, contemplating life under the watchful eyes of the beautiful 10-foot statue of Our Lady.” He expects the garden to become a place of pilgrimage, one “where miracles and conversions will unfold.” Who knows? Maybe even a few AMU engagements.

“The Our Lady of Guadalupe Prayer Garden belongs at AMU,” Scott King, Director of Mission and Outreach, said. “Here, where the Blessed Mother is woven into everything.” She desired a church to be built on Tepeyac hill, he explained, “in order that she might be present to us.” The message of her miraculous image is that she wants to be with us, and she wants us to know that she is there by our side. The statue of la Guadalupana in AMU’s prayer garden is likewise a daily reminder to the University community of Our Mother’s presence. Her blue mantel is spread wide, ready to cover those who, like Juan Diego, place their trust in her. “I am reassured,” King continued, “in knowing that Our Lady of Guadalupe will be gazing upon the students, faculty and staff of Ave Maria University from Her prayer garden.”

The Virgin of Guadalupe continues to speak to our times. There is a reason John Paul II declared her Patroness of the Americas; her motherhood and her humility continue to be relevant. We must work on practicing the humility of Juan Diego and look to our Mother for care. She will never fail to respond to our childlike trust with her maternal compassion.

“And should we be frightened…or should worldly pusillanimity threaten us,” Pope Francis said in a homily for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, “may She return to speak to our heart and enable us to hear her voice … ‘Why are you afraid? Am I not here, I, who am your Mother?’”

From the Spring 2016 AMU Magazine

The Scalia Symposium: Apr. 18

Our Country’s Good Servant:
A Symposium Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Justice Antonin Scalia

Monday, April 18 @ 7 p.m. 
Reception to follow

Student Union Ballroom – Ave Maria University

– Open to the Public –

Ave Maria University is proud to present “Our Country’s Good Servant: a Symposium Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Justice Antonin Scalia” featuring lectures by esteemed professors Hadley Arkes and Gerard Bradley.

Professor Arkes was Amherst College’s Edward Ney Professor of Jurisprudence from 1987 through his retirement in 2015.  Professor Arkes knew Antonin Scalia before he became a judge, and will offer a talk on “Memories of Nino,” sketches of Nino Scalia, personal and jural, including Scalia’s “conflicted” relation with Natural Law.

Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, Gerry Bradley, will offer his assessment of Justice Scalia’s impact along three axes: the conservative legal movement since 1980; the relationship of moral truth to constitutional law; and specifically on the constitutional law of church and state.

The symposium is made possible through the Ave Maria University Henkels Lecture Fund; members of the public are invited to attend.

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Dr. Jerome A. Solinas Lecture: Mar. 21

Dr. Jerome A. Solinas earned his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1985 and works as a Senior Technical Leader of the Trusted Systems Research Group in the National Security Agency, the U.S. government’s premier information assurance research and design center.  Jerry studies cryptographic algorithms and encryption systems in which number theory plays in important role in keeping data secure.  Among other techniques, his area of research includes using hyperelliptic curves as well as large prime numbers (such as the Solinas primes, which are primes of the form p =  where 0 < b < a) for public-key crypto systems.  These systems allow for the safe transmission of private financial information over electronic channels that may otherwise be subject to eavesdropping and intrusion.

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Joseph Augustyn Lecture: Mar. 14

Joseph W. Augustyn is Executive Vice President, Security and Intelligence at Jefferson Waterman International, a premier Washington, D.C. based political and business consulting firm with an exclusively international practice.   Mr. Augustyn has thirty years of high-level experience in homeland security, counterterrorism, and intelligence issues, as well as executive knowledge of the agencies and departments responsible for them.

Mr. Augustyn’s long career with the CIA includes senior positions as Deputy Associate Director of Central Intelligence for Homeland Security, Director of defector resettlement operations, Chief of Staff for the CIA’s Deputy Director of Operations, and the Deputy Division Chief for the CIA’s large East Asia Division. Mr. Augustyn was also chief of station on three separate occasions.

Mr. Augustyn is a frequent national lecturer and guest speaker on homeland security and intelligence topics, and has written articles published by the Christian Science Monitor and the Huffington Post.  The numerous honors and merit awards he has received include the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal and the Intelligence Commendation Medal.  Mr. Augustyn pursued doctoral studies at Indiana University, and holds degrees from the University of Massachusetts and Brown University.

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Dr. Faggen Lecture: Mar. 12

Dr. Faggen will participate in a panel discussing the great twentieth-century Catholic Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980. Dr. Faggen knew Milosz personally and interviewed him on several occasions; this discussion will center on Milosz`s poetry and his letters to the American Catholic mystic and writer Thomas Merton. Dr. Faggen will be joined by Fr. Piotr Paciorek, Dr. Anthony Valle, and Dr. Blanford Parker. Refreshments provided.
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Dr. Faggen Lecture: Mar. 11

 Dr. Faggen will talk about Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo`s Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion, and the subject of a forthcoming biography by Dr. Faggen. This event will be held in interview format, moderated by Dr. Blanford Parker. Refreshments provided
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Cardinal O’Malley of Boston to Speak at 2016 Commencement

AVE MARIA, FL (February 18, 2016) – Ave Maria University President Jim Towey announced today that His Eminence, Seán Cardinal O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., will be the commencement speaker for this year’s exercises in May.

“We are thrilled that Cardinal O’Malley is able to be with us on this special day and I know our graduates will be eager to hear his remarks,” Towey said. “His life experiences, his close friendship with Pope Francis, and his consistent advocacy for the sanctity of life, the dignity of the poor, and the need for joy and mercy in the lives of Christians, make him the ideal speaker in this Jubilee of Mercy the Holy Father has instituted this year.”

Cardinal O’Malley is in his 13th year as Bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston, and 46th as an ordained priest. He was elevated to the rank of Cardinal-Priest in 2006 and is a key advisor to Pope Francis, serving as a member of the group of eight Cardinals assisting the Holy Father on reforming the Church’s governance and central administration. His Eminence holds both Master’s and Doctoral degrees from The Catholic University of America, and was a professor there for four years. He currently is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of his alma mater. He also is no stranger to Florida, having served as Bishop of the Diocese of Palm Beach prior to his appointment in Boston.

Ave Maria University will hold its 13th commencement exercises on May 7, 2016 in the Tom Golisano Field House. A record 211 undergraduate students are expected to receive diplomas, as well as 10 Master’s and 2 Ph.D. candidates. Recent commencement speakers at Ave Maria University include former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Governor Rick Scott, Librarian of Congress James Billington, and Dr. Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute.

Ave Maria University is a Catholic, liberal arts institution of higher learning dedicated to the formation of joyful, intentional followers of Jesus Christ through Word and Sacrament, scholarship and service, inspired by Saint John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and devoted to Mary, the Mother of God.

Press release

Richard Sternberg Lecture: Feb. 18

Dr. Richard Sternberg, Research Scientist at the Biologic Institute, will host a lecture on Thursday, February 18 at 5 pm in the Demetree Auditorium in the Henkels Academic Building. Dr. Sternberg’s lecture, titled “What is a gene? Not a particle but a process” is open to the public.

Richard Sternberg is an evolutionary biologist with interests in the relation between genes and morphological homologies, and the nature of genomic “information.” He holds two Ph.D.’s: one in Biology (Molecular Evolution) from Florida International University and another in Systems Science (Theoretical Biology) from Binghamton University. Dr. Sternberg is presently a research scientist at the Biologic Institute, supported by a research fellowship from the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute. He is also a Research Collaborator at the National Museum of Natural History.

AMU Welcomes New Head Football Coach

February 5, 2016 – Ave Maria, FL – Ave Maria University is pleased to announce the hiring of Joe Patterson as the next Head Football coach for the Gyrenes. Coach Patterson is entering his 20th season as a football coach. Patterson is concluding his 12-year tenure as head football coach at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C. During that time, his teams made the playoffs 10 times. The Cadets recorded several wins against nationally ranked opponents, including a 35-2 win against the IMG Academy in 2014.

“Joe is a great addition,” said Kimberly King, Director of Athletics, “He is a proven leader and brings with him both a passion for football and excitement for advancing the Catholic Mission of the University. He is the perfect fit for what we are trying to do here.”

Coach Patterson has a reputation for developing great talent. During his time as the varsity head coach, 79 of his players went on to play Division I-A or I-AA football. He also coached eight All-Americans, including five Under Armour All-Americans.

Patterson’s academic track record also stands out as his football program posted a 3.00 GPA or higher in nine out of the 12 seasons. Coach Patterson, who graduated Summa Cum Laude from Villanova University, taught in the Honors Program at St. John’s.

Patterson and his wife, Jana, are the parents of six children: Anne, Tommy, Patrick, Edward, Bernadette, and Maximilian.

Coach Patterson is replacing Marty Quinn, who resigned for personal reasons after four seasons at AMU, three as Head Coach.

The Athletic Department at Ave Maria has grown from sponsoring six varsity level sports in 2008-09, to boasting 16 varsity-level programs for the 2015-16 season, with over 400 student athletes. The Athletic Department staff has grown to include six administrative and athletic support positions, 13 head coaches, and 17 assistant coaches. The athletics program had a budget this year of $1.8 million.

Ave Maria University is a Catholic, liberal arts institution of higher learning devoted to Mary the Mother of God, inspired by St. John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and dedicated to the formation of joyful, intentional followers of Jesus Christ through Word and Sacrament, scholarship and service.

Press Release