Dear Fellow Catholic:

I’m Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., chancellor of Ave Maria University. The reason I’m writing to you is to ask you to help us fulfill our vision of becoming a major Catholic university.

Ave Maria University will be the first new Catholic university established in the United States in nearly 40 years. The story of what has already been accomplished and what is planned for the future would be exciting and encouraging in itself. But I believe that against the background of the present crisis in the Catholic Church, the founding of Ave Maria University will truly be of historic importance in the life of the Church. Let me explain.

The Crisis in the Church

As terrible as recent revelations have been, for the most part they describe only the more sensational consequences of a crisis that is much deeper and more widespread: the rejection of Catholic teaching, especially about sexual morality. These are the "hard sayings" that run counter to the libertinism that has become increasingly dominant in our culture for the last 40 years.

Many Catholic institutions -- from grammar schools (following a secular model of sex education), to universities (where anti-Roman, anti-papal sentiment is common), even to seminaries (where Church teaching has often been undermined rather than defended) -- have ceased to be places where the fullness of Catholic truth is joyfully and vigorously taught, defended, and proclaimed. The present crisis is at its core a crisis of Catholic Truth.

Responses to the Crisis

Many flowers have blossomed in the desert of the last 40 years. Noble efforts have been made to preserve and enrich the long tradition of Catholic education. Home schooling has flourished and already begun to leaven the Church. New, small, lay-run, independent Catholic schools have sprung up across the country. A number of small Catholic colleges have been established. Ave Maria College in Michigan is one of the most recent.

But I believe the response with the most far-reaching potential is now underway: the founding of a new Catholic university dedicated to Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom: Ave Maria University. It is an ambitious undertaking, so ambitious that without the support of committed Catholics across the country, it will not achieve its full potential.

Ave Maria University: The History

In 1998, Thomas Monaghan, the founder and owner of Domino’s Pizza, sold Domino’s and, after providing for his wife and four daughters, placed the proceeds of the sale into the Ave Maria Foundation with the intention of spending the rest of his life and fortune in the service of the Church.

The main focus of Mr. Monaghan’s efforts has been education. The Ave Maria Foundation has funded several elementary schools: Spiritus Sanctus Academies; a new law school which at the end of its second year received provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association and is already in the first tier of U.S law schools: Ave Maria School of Law; and a liberal arts college that is poised to become a major Catholic university: Ave Maria College.

There is already an Ave Maria campus in Nicaragua, and it was there that I heard Mr. Monaghan explain to amazed journalists why he had chosen to spend his fortune on higher education. Mr. Monaghan’s response was disarmingly simple, especially coming from someone who had achieved the pinnacle of worldly success: "The most important thing in life is to get to heaven. I want to get there and bring as many people as I can with me. The best way to help people get to heaven is to give them a Catholic education."

Recently, Mr. Monaghan has been concentrating his attention more and more on one goal: establishing Ave Maria University and, with God’s help, making it the best Catholic university in the world.

Ave Maria University: The Future

I am extremely grateful that Mr. Nick Healy, Jr., President of Ave Maria University, asked my Jesuit superiors if I could help in making the dream of Ave Maria University a reality, and that they granted this request. As Ave Maria University’s first chancellor, I have been involved with the long-range planning of AMU. The vision is an ambitious one. And even though Mr. Monaghan is committing his remaining resources to the task, it will require far more than even Mr. Monaghan is capable of providing . . .

The ultimate goal is to have a Catholic university with 4,000
undergraduate students, 2,000 graduate students -- and a major
intercollegiate sports program of uncompromising integrity!

In an amazing manifestation of Divine Providence a major landowning family donated to Ave Maria University 750 acres of land near Naples, Florida. And we have entered into a partnership with them to build a new town—Ave Maria, Florida!—adjoining the university. At the intersection of the town and university will be the focal point of both: a gloriously beautiful church.


Ave Maria University will have a full range of undergraduate programs, including the sciences, business, nursing, and performing arts -- all with a solid, comprehensive Catholic liberal arts core curriculum. Graduate programs will focus on areas especially appropriate for a Catholic university: theology, philosophy, history, literature, education, communications, law. But graduate programs in science and engineering are being planned as well.

I think you can understand now why I said at the beginning of this letter that I believe this undertaking will be of historic importance in the life of the Church. But it won’t happen without widespread support by Catholics who recognize just how important this initiative is. I’m going to dedicate all my available time and energy to making the dream of Ave Maria University come true. And I’m writing you to ask you to join me.

What Can I Do to Help?

When established universities need to expand or add programs, they call on their alumni. And the more prestigious universities have endowments of billions of dollars. Ave Maria has neither alumni nor endowment.

But there is something Ave Maria University can have right now, until it does have its own alumni: Founders. I’m inviting you to join me in being a Founder of Ave Maria University. My own dream is that there will be thousands of Catholics across the country who will join in this effort by making a sacrificial pledge to help in the founding of Ave Maria University. And that among them there will be some with the means to make even larger gifts for specific needs.

Because I know how many Catholics feel helpless in the face of the present crisis in the Church and are asking themselves, “What can I do”? And because my hope is that many loyal Catholics of modest means will want to be part of a “cloud of witnesses” supporting this historic initiative, I have as chancellor of Ave Maria University proposed that the minimum pledge to become a Founder of Ave Maria University be just $10 per month. This proposal has been accepted by the University.

Of course, I hope that some of you will be able to make a larger pledge. But it is even more important to me that there be as many Founders as possible supporting Ave Maria University by their prayers as well as their gifts.

Founders will receive a quarterly report on the progress of Ave Maria University. (And I can tell you that many exciting things are happening from week to week, so there will be plenty for you to read about).

So please join me in being a Founder of Ave Maria University. To make your donation, simply complete the enclosed Charter Member Reply Form and mail it in the reply envelope provided. Your contributions are tax deductible.

Thank you in advance for your kind consideration and generosity. Please pray for the success of this endeavor and be assured that you and your intentions will be remembered in my Masses and prayers.

Sincerely in Christ,

Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
Ave Maria University

P.S. I hope you agree that one of the most powerful responses we can make to the current crisis in the Church is to educate new generations of faithful Catholic leaders. This essential work is especially dependent upon those who join us as Founders for just $10 per month. Please indicate your support by filling out the application found online. (Put link to Founders Brochure) Thank you for your generous assistance.