Popular Podcasting Priest Prompts Graduates to “Go Bushwhacking”

Fr. Mike Schmitz urges Ave Maria University’s 2024 graduates to enter the wilderness

AVE MARIA, Fla., May 4, 2024 - Ave Maria University in Florida featured popular speaker and podcaster Fr. Mike Schmitz at its Commencement Exercises today. In addition to delivering a rousing and hope-filled commencement address to the more than 250 graduates, Fr. Schmitz received an honorary degree, as did the University’s first president, Nicholas Healy. President Mark Middendorf and Founder and Chancellor Thomas S. Monaghan delivered remarks as well.

Reflecting on his experiences in a wilderness survival program after his graduation, Fr. Schmitz described taking a bus to the trailhead and then hiking increasingly more rugged and more narrow trails. He and the other hikers then broke off into smaller teams, left even the faded, rough tracks, and bushwhacked their way through the wilderness to a meeting point.

“This is your bushwhacking moment,” Fr. Schmitz said to the graduates. “You got to this day, and the track runs out. This is the day you enter the wilderness. You might know the name of your vocation, but you don’t know where it will lead you.”

Fr. Schmitz then talked about how young people can question the goodness of God when faced with grief, tragedy, and challenges. “How can God be a good Father if He leaves me in so much pain?”, Fr. Schmitz asked. “God doesn’t rescue us. God wants more for us than we want for ourselves. God wants you to become stronger. Your faith doesn’t grow in a place without opposition.”

Then Fr. Schmitz told the graduates that they are called to be “anti-fragile” and to follow the Lord one step at a time. To be “anti-fragile” is to grow through adversity and opposition (rather than to just experience it), and to become stronger step by step, even when they may want the future planned out before them.

Chancellor Monaghan, during his brief statement said that he had been a billionaire and gave it all away. Someone asked him what that feels like. Smiling on the graduates, he said, “I feel like a trillionaire.”  

Fr. Mike Schmitz serves as the director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and chaplain for the Newman Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He is well known for his popular YouTube videos, released weekly on the Ascension Presents YouTube channel, and he also streams Sunday Mass to a worldwide audience. He hosts two successful podcasts, “The Bible in a Year” and “The Catechism in a Year.”  

Mr. Nicholas Healy has dedicated much of his life in the service of Catholic higher education. In 1999, he assumed the presidency of what was then Ave Maria College. Mr. Healy went on to serve as President and CEO of Ave Maria University until 2011. Healy and his wife Jane have been married for 60 years, and they have four children, thirteen grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.  

For more information about Ave Maria University’s graduation and baccalaureate Mass, please visit avemaria.edu/commencement-2024.

About Ave Maria University

Ave Maria University is a Catholic institution of higher learning located in Ave Maria, Florida. Ave Maria University was established in 2003 as a Catholic university, according to the guidelines of the Code of Canon Law by the Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida. The recognition of Ave Maria University as a Catholic university is granted upon the University’s commitment to continue to be guided by the teachings of the Catholic Church and faithfulness to the apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Ave Maria University is committed to helping its students develop the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life and grow in their appreciation of truth. The goal of AMU is simple: to build the foundation of a truly Catholic university that forms future generations of authentically Catholic men and women faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. For more information about Ave Maria University, please visit www.avemaria.edu.