Office of the President
13 May 2020
Greetings on the blessed memorial of Our Lady of Fatima!
I am pleased to announce that Ave Maria University campus will be open for the Fall, 2020 semester. To date, we have been blessed to have no reported cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on our campus even though over 20% of our students remained on campus through the end of the Spring semester. We were able to accommodate all students who felt safer here than returning home or traveling. We are eager to have you return to our year-round warm sunshine and a campus that is distant from large populations.
We seamlessly made the switch to online courses without missing a single day of instruction.
Sacramentally, after only a six-day hiatus, our community returned to receiving our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. We live-streamed Mass daily out of our St. Sebastian Hall Chapel and distributed communion outside using hand sanitizing stations, social distancing cones, and receiving in the hand, which has made for a successful and safe distribution. I am not aware of any other university able to make these claims!
Weathering the storm is nothing new for Ave Maria University. We follow the Blessed Mother’s example of prevailing in faith through trial and adversity. Recall that just three years ago, during Hurricane Irma, Ave Maria University sheltered in place and returned to classes quicker than anyone else in Florida. These facts should comfort fears. We are certainly not overlooking the threat or health implications derived from this pandemic, but we share in the resolve of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who said, “The only thing we have to fear is letting fear overwhelm our sense of purpose and determination.” The students love Ave Maria University, and it is because of them we are determined to return to a vibrant campus life.
We have learned to turn our setbacks into greater preparation. For example, while we were disappointed in our inability to host summer conferences (FOCUS, Marian Eucharistic, etc.), we plan to use the extra time to ensure a smooth fall transition. This will demand we apply different approaches and precautions when students return.
Here are just a few of the precautions we are taking in preparation for opening the campus this fall:
- To reduce traffic in traditional academic halls, we will multiply the number of class locations
- All classrooms will have hand sanitizers which must be used before entering and upon departure
- We will seek to use technology to facilitate student access to faculty
- We will make use of a larger space such as the ballroom for campus liturgies
- We will expand the number of outdoor liturgies
- Adoration will have safe, limited capacity
- All adjustments will be in coordination with diocesan regulations
- We have purchased a professional electrostatic backpack sprayer to disinfect all surfaces. It has a virus kill time of less than three minutes. Collier county schools systems (48,000 students) just purchased this same unit
- We will continue the process of pressure-washing bathrooms using a disinfectant. We have done this since the outbreak of COVID-19
- We hired a private cleaning company to wipe all door handles nightly
- We will steam-clean and sterilize the dorm hallway carpets, dorm rooms, classrooms, common areas and stairwells
- We have formed a Health Care Advisory Board comprised of medical personnel to advise President Ice on all safety and logistical measures
- We will arrange ongoing COVID-19 testing
- Every student will be provided a return to campus wellness check
- Personalized plans will be developed for students with underlying health conditions
- There will be a dedicated space and protocols for quarantine should the need arise
- We will follow Florida state guidelines regarding the use of masks. If no direction is forthcoming, masks will be optional
Housing and Meals:
- We will continue the protocol of adapting space in the dining hall by separating tables and chairs
- Dining hall staff will continue to serve students
- Fortunately, every dorm room at Ave Maria University has a private shared bathroom negating some of the issues encountered with communal bathrooms
- Student events and activities will abide by physical distancing recommendations meaning smaller groups and/or larger venues.
- Student life will take advantage of the beautiful Southwest Florida weather to host more outdoor events
- The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has informed its members it will make a decision about fall competition by July 1, 2020. It is a delicate balancing act but we have no doubt they will do what’s best for all
- As of now, Ave Maria University athletic teams are scheduled to practice their sport, participate in strength and conditioning training in full anticipation of fall competition
- Traffic to our weight room will be monitored and cyclical with disinfectant applied in-between use
- Whenever possible, practices will be moved to one of our outdoor spaces for effective separation
- There will be enhanced security precautions including new building access hours combined with public restrictions
- We will increase patrols to monitor non-university interaction
- We will implement sensible travel restrictions in accord with state policies
Buildings & Spacing:
- We will stagger August move-in and orientation in order to space-out arrivals
- We will have dedicated space and protocols for quarantine should the need arise including, meal, health care and other support services
- Only students, employees and approved guests can have access to the campus and campus facilities
- We will make a renewed effort to update contact information upon check-in to ensure students and parents are easily reachable through multiple mediums (mobile phone, email address, physical address) providing updates in the manner in which you wish to receive them
While it seems a lifetime ago, it’s only been eight weeks since Ave Maria University was forced to switch to online courses. We continue to refine our response to this crisis and will use the above bullet-point format for updates and post them to our web site. As new updates come in, it will appear in red letters within the list above. It will remain in red until a new update supersedes it. All of our updates will be in lock step with diocesan and state authorities.
Each day we walk by faith asking our Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary for guidance. Our students thrive on personal relationships on campus and we want to foster and nurture these life-long relationships. Our campus is most vibrant when we are together as a community of faith. We look forward to seeing all of you in the fall.
Christopher P. Ice
6 May 2020
The following message contains information on how you can receive up to $1,500 through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Simplyfill out the form at the bottom of the letter and submit before May 22. Grants will be distributed by June 30. This message was originally sent on 5/1/20, and again on 5/5/20. If you have already submitted your form, there is no need to submit again. Thank you!
Dear Ave Maria University Parents and Students,
On March 23, in response to the threat of Coronavirus (COVID-19), Ave Maria University moved all classes to online instruction. However, many students chose to stay on campus feeling Ave Maria University offered a safer environment than traveling or returning home, and we continued to offer cafeteria services while implementing social distancing requirements.
As of the writing of this letter, I am still able to report we have had no cases of COVID-19 on campus – thanks be to God! In addition, after only a six-day hiatus, our community returned to receiving our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. It was appropriately the Feast of the Annunciation! Daily Mass is live-streamed out of our St. Sebastian Hall Chapel and communion is then distributed outside using hand sanitizing stations, social distancing cones, and receiving in the hand, as part of making this a successful and safe distribution.
Despite these abundant graces, the University has not escaped the financial impact of this virus.
Like many of you, we continue to manage our expenses and pray for an end to this pandemic. This is why we were thrilled to hear of the passage of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The CARES Act has a specific section called the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.
It provides funds to institutions of higher education while requiring at least 50 percent of those funds be paid directly to students as emergency financial aid to help cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations.
I am proud to share Ave Maria University’s executive team voted unanimously to pass all of these funds through to our students. In addition, we will add the negotiated savings we received from our foodservice vendors to these funds. This enables us to disperse up to $1,500 per student for those students who checked out of the dormitories early and retracted from campus services. Amounts will be prorated based on your check-out date. The first announcement of our intent to move to online courses was shared on March 16, 2020 and it will serve as our baseline.
Thank you for your patience and support during these difficult times. I would ask each of you to please fill out and return the attached form by email to: AMUBursar@avemaria.edu
Or by regular mail to:
Ave Maria University
5050 Ave Maria Blvd
Ave Maria, FL 34142
The form is due May 22, 2020. Grants will be distributed by June 30, 2020.
If you have any questions, please contact the Bursar’s office at 239-280-1673.
Christopher P. Ice
25 April 2020
Dear Soon-to-Be Graduates of Ave Maria University,
I hope this communication finds you well. I cannot thank you enough for your response and feedback about graduation. The survey that so many of you completed indicates a strong preference for an on-campus commencement ceremony during the fall semester. We intend to honor this preference. As a result, our postponed commencement ceremony will take place on December 5, 2020. We will communicate with you about the details of this in the future through your AMU e-mail addresses, so please keep your accounts active.
Because the official date of your degree conferral is May 9, 2020, and because some of you will not be able to return to campus for the commencement in December, we are going to also hold a short online “conferral ceremony” on May 9. This will allow each of you to have the satisfaction of knowing that your degree has been officially awarded, and it will enable you to celebrate the completion of your studies at home with your friends and family.
The Office of the Registrar intends to mail your diplomas to you at your home shortly after the end of the semester. If your current address of record is inaccurate or if you wish to pick up your diploma in person, please notify the registrar at AMURegistrar@avemaria.edu.
The entire University community is so proud of what your class has overcome to get to this point. We miss you and we lament not being able to celebrate with you in person this May, but we couldn’t be more impressed with the amazing character that you have demonstrated during your time at AMU.
Christopher P. Ice
8 April 2020
As of today, there still have been no Coronavirus cases (COVID-19) reported on the Ave Maria University campus – thanks be to God! Although we have transitioned to an online curriculum, a number of students remain on campus making use of the university’s facilities.
Some have chosen to stay because Ave Maria has fewer COVID-19 cases than their home town. Others do not feel comfortable flying at this time, or are unable to do so, based on international travel restrictions. Still others, simply love the Ave Maria University community they have helped create.
While COVID-19 has not made its way onto our campus, its negative economic ripple has already been felt, and will continue to be felt. For example, returning and prospective students may suddenly find themselves in a much more challenging economic environment as they pursue fall enrollment. For families who are NOT in this predicament, I humbly ask you to consider donating to Ave Maria University’s emergency assistance fund for the fall https://donate.avemaria.edu/
This type of gift would be tax-deductible and benefit students who encounter a wide range of personal hardships. I certainly understand the timing of this ask, but if you are able to make such a gift, your generosity would immediately be felt.
All of us at Ave Maria University wish you a blessed Triduum and a Happy Easter. You remain in our prayers. May the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for all of us.
Christopher P. Ice
25 March 2020
Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,
Happy Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord! The day Our Lord was immaculately conceived in the Blessed Mother’s womb.
Today, immediately following Fr. Rick’s 11AM Mass, please join my wife Mary and me as we pray the Marian Consecration prayer to renew the University’s consecration and, to consecrate my presidency to Jesus through his mother, Mary. You can join us via live stream through our facebook page.
As Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, states in his book, 33 Days to Morning Glory, “The act of consecrating oneself (or our University), to Jesus through Mary marks the beginning of a gloriously new day, a new dawn, a brand new morning in one’s spiritual journey. It’s a fresh start, and it changes everything.” St. John Paul II described Marian consecration as the “turning point” in his life. In fact, his papal motto was “Totus Tuus” (“Totally Yours”) which are St. Louis de Montfort’s words for consecration to Jesus through Mary.
As we began this 33-Day Marian Consecration on February 21, I had no idea the challenges that would lie ahead of us. I don’t believe it was fortuitous, I believe is was inspired. The Ave Maria University community prayed this consecration asking for Our Lady’s intercession and protection and the Holy Spirit’s wisdom. I can assure you that these prayers from our faithful community have given us calm in the midst of the storm. Your prayers have helped guide us through the turmoil so far.
Thank you for all of you who joined me each day in praying this Consecration. If you were not able to participate, it is not too late. You can still join us today and pray the consecration prayer with us.
God bless you! Totus Tuus!
23 March 2020
Dear Ave Maria University Community,
Thank you for joining with me in praying the 33-Days to Morning Glory consecration prayers. We had no idea on February 21st when we began this consecration that we would be faced with some of the most challenging decisions in Ave Maria University’s history. This pandemic will be forever etched in our memories, but through our perseverance with this consecration, I believe we will be stronger when the unrest subsides.
I am excited to celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord on March 25th by praying the Morning Glory Consecration Prayer with you. Due to restrictions placed on us due to the COVID-19 virus, we will not hold our planned gathering at sunrise on this day. Immediately after Fr. Rick’s 11:00AM Mass (around 11:30AM), I will join you with a special guest, to pray the final consecration prayer for Ave Maria University and the protection of all that work and study here. This coronavirus may take away our ability to congregate, but it will not take away our ability to pray as a community. This will be an opportunity for us to ask for the Blessed Virgin Mary’s special protection now and in the time to come.
Christopher P. Ice
18 March 2020
Dear students, faculty & staff,
I just received the attached letter from the Bishop of Venice, FL, Frank Dewane. It is with heartfelt sadness that I have to inform you that all Masses are canceled for our diocese as of Friday, March 20, 2020, through Easter Sunday.
As your President, I want to encourage you to continue to double down on your prayers, fasting, and sacrifices. I know that the Blessed Virgin Mary is watching over this University. I firmly believe that we will endure this trial and you must not lose hope. We are living in extraordinary times and when things that we love are seemingly taken away, we must be steadfast in our faith and trust in the Lord. Our prayers and sacrifices and our yearning for our Eucharistic Lord will be heard into the highest heaven.
Please keep Bishop Dewane, Fr. Rick and all of our beloved priests in your prayers as we gather tomorrow on the Feast of St. Joseph to give God thanks for all the blessings bestowed on us.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us.
Christopher P. Ice
16 March 2020
During this time of trial, suffering and a great fear of the unknown, I recall St. John Paul II in his welcome address as the new pontiff in 1978 where he said, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus himself said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and meek in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:29-30) Numerous times in Jesus’ earthly life, we are quite confident that he turned to his mother, Mary, for comfort and peace. She was there for him even to the point of his death on the cross, at the foot of the cross. We need to learn from Jesus and tum to Mary in time of trial.
Ave Maria University is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. On March 25th, I invite you to join me as we will consecrate the University to Jesus through Mary on the lawn near the Bob Thomas Student Union while watching the sunrise over the Ave Maria church. Mary will protect us from harm and we need to trust in her intercession, just as she consoled Jesus as a mother to her child before and after his public ministry.
I want to strongly encourage all of you to take this time to commit more time in prayer to help us endure this trial. Fr. Rick Martignetti, O.F.M. will do everything in his power to make sure that the sacraments will remain available for all those on campus. We need to take advantage of daily Mass, take advantage of confession, spend time before the Blessed Sacrament and pray the rosary each day. The rosary is one of the greatest weapons in your possession to combat the great evil that is being unleashed on our world. If we go to daily Mass, attend frequent confession, pray the rosary each day, spend time in adoration, fast and offer up our sufferings, we will defeat the Coronavirus.
In February 1986, there was political unrest in the Philippines to the point where hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to pray the rosary and confront the military who had brought in tanks and soldiers with guns to disperse the crowds. As the crowd prayed the rosary, blocking the tanks from advancing, the soldiers were ordered to begin firing their guns into the crowds. All of a sudden, the soldiers were awestruck as a “beautiful woman encased in an immense bright light” appeared before them standing in front of the people between the tanks and soldiers. According to these soldiers, this beautiful woman was dressed in blue with heavenly eyes, appeared in front of them and spoke in a voice audible to everyone, “Dear soldiers stop! Do not proceed. Do not harm my children. I am the queen of this land.” The soldiers immediately dropped their weapons and joined the people in prayer. The soldiers later claimed that the woman was the Blessed Virgin Mary. Disaster was avoided and the Marcos regime was overthrown without a single shot being fired.
We have the same weapons on our campus, the weapons of the sacraments and the sacramentals (i.e. rosaries). I am inviting all of you to join me for a day of fasting and prayer on Wednesday, March 18 to preserve our campus from harm from the Coronavirus.
I would ask that you pray the following prayer each day for the protection of our campus and community from the vicious attacks of this virus.
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, send now your Spirit over the earth and Ave Maria. Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations, that they may be preserved from degeneration, disasters, and war. May the Lady of all Nations, the Blessed Virgin Mary, be our Advocate.” Amen.
God bless each of you! We will endure this battle. You are in my prayers.
Christopher P. Ice