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March 21, 2007


Mark P. Shea

Asked by whom?


Not so shocking to those who know Fr. Fessio, from his beginnings with Ignatius Press, he is a Jesuit who likes to get things started, an entrepreneur if I ever met one and Tom Monoghan, another strong entrepreneur who likes to do it on his own and not with a committee.

Both men are strong personalities who were bound not see eye to eye on the "mission" for Ave Maria. I, who have been exposed to both of these men in various Catholic works over the years, am not shocked at all. In fact, I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner!

Fr. J

The folks at Ave Maria have been making some pretty foolish decisions. I believe this is another. I lack confidence in them.

Jeff Miller

The soap opera that is Ave Maria University continues I guess.

On another note Father Fessio was on the Hugh Hewitt show last night being questioned by Hugh on Cardinal Mahony, Sacramentum Caritatis, and other topics. He was a class act in regards to talking about Cardinal Mahony and the latest allegations about the Cardinals statements on a videotape being at odds.

Jeff Culbreath

This article by John Grasmeier may shed some light on the subject:

Liturgical Trainwreck at AMU


No news here. Joseph Fessio has a history and has been asked to vacate other institutions he has worked at. He does not work well with other people, as he is autocratic and unbending. This is just another blot on his resume. Ave Maria is foundering because of his rigid views on how it should be run. With only 100 students the place is doomed and Fessio since was unable to raise the kind of money that would support the luxury of so small a student body its demise is inevitable. Anyone in higer education today could see the handwriting on the wall.

Ferde Rombola

In the beginning my wofe and I sent Ave Maria a couple of checks in the hope it would become what it said it wanted to become. The primary draw for me was Fr. Fessio.

When the controversy rose over the transfer of the law school, we retreated a bit to see how things would shake out. Now we know. It's a shame. Monoghan has sunk a lot of money into this project, but he seems to have a death wish.

Bottom line: if he wants to drive the bus, he can write *all* the checks.


Ave Maria U. is finished. Who would want this job after Fessio's being fired? Sorry, this is what happens when a megalomaniac billionaire decides he wants to refound Catholicism.

Rich Leonardi

The folks at Ave Maria have been making some pretty foolish decisions. I believe this is another. I lack confidence in them.

As a parent of five university-bound students, there's simply no way I'd consider this school an option for the foreseeable future. I can't believe I'm alone in my assessment.


"Asked by whom?"

It was the combined decision of Monaghan and the Board of Directors. The situation is exactly what was stated in the release: Fessio and the administration agreed on the mission of Ave Maria but disagreed on certain policies and procedures. Everyone at Ave Maria has a deep regard and affection for Fessio. There were just too many strong personalities/opinions in one place and the majority ruled.


It appears Jeff was right; Rocco picked up the story again this evening:


Anonymous by Choice

Those of us with pre University kids will be very curious as to where Fr Fessio ends up and very grateful that this event prevented us from sending our kids to Ave Maria University


I have two daughters at Ave, and the students and faculty are in shock today, as are the parents. Three years ago when we sent our oldest there, it was a risky thing, the university having been started only the year before. One big plus for us was that Fr. Fessio was there, whom I knew by reputation to be a holy priest. Despite all the controversy surrounding Tom Monaghan and his recent actions, I had been comforted by Fr. Fessio's leadership there, and also by the fact that my girls were at least receiving an orthodox Catholic education--the faculty is first rate. I want answers, but I doubt I'll get them, so my husband and I will pray about our appropriate response to this new development. The oldest daughter has only year left, she may need to stay there to finish. But the freshman? Guess we'll start reconsidering the other conservative Catholic schools out there. There's no perfect situation in higher education, but lots of places look more stable than Ave right now. My prayers are for Fr. Fessio, and for Ave Maria's future.



Don't forget about us down here in Dallas!

Fr. Philip, OP
University of Dallas


Fr. Philip,
Actually, UD was my younger daughter's first choice, but Ave's scholarship offer bested yours by a bit--covering the entire tuition. We'll be looking again at your school. Money isn't everything.

T. Chan

The University has some fine people especially in Theology.


UD and Christendom--both come highly recommended.

Chris Burgwald

AMU has some *outstanding* theologians... Matthew Levering comes immediately to mind, as does Fr. Matthew Lamb.

God's will be done.


Sadly, situations like these make me nervous to invest in any up-and-coming Catholic colleges. Some wonderful people are trying to start one in SE Michigan but I'm not willing to donate money when I see what can happen.

I wish all Catholic colleges much success, but I'm afraid that we won't be supporting them financially until (if) we are paying actual tuition.

Blind Squirrel

Tout commence en mystique; tout finit en politique

--Charles Péguy

the Cranky Professor

I guess the board doesn't understand academic years, either - as in 'take no disastrous personnel directions while the students are on campus.'

Desert Chatter

I'm not sure that starting Catholic higher education over again from scratch is really the answer to the obvious problem. The financial demands nowadays are just too great.


If there is any truth to Rocco's assertions that the charismatic-type liturgy crowd is moving out the somewhat traditional liturgy crowd, you can count my five children out of the AMU application process.


"No news here. Joseph Fessio has a history and has been asked to vacate other institutions he has worked at. He does not work well with other people, as he is autocratic and unbending. This is just another blot on his resume. Ave Maria is foundering because of his rigid views on how it should be run."

So is this the standard talking points memo? I can tell you it is not Fr. Fessio who is causing the school to "founder". Tom Monaghan and his thugs have gone through faculty at AMC, AMSoL, and AMU like a person goes through underwear.

Jordan Potter

"He does not work well with other people, as he is autocratic and unbending."

Actually that seems more like a description of Tom Monaghan, not Fr. Fessio.

After Monaghan orchestrated the debacles of Ave Maria College and Ave Maria Law School, I'm really not surprised at this development. As mentioned above, Monaghan has great ideas but seems to have a death wish. I also won't be surprised if AMU founders and dies.

"Joseph Fessio has a history and has been asked to vacate other institutions he has worked at."

Well, we all have a history, but he hasn't been "asked" to vacate other institutions he has worked at. Rather, his Jesuit superiors "ordered" him to vacate an institution that he had founded and reassigned him to cleaning hospital bedpans. That sordid history does not establish that Fr. Fessio does not work well with others. In fact that episode is somewhat analogous to what Monaghan just did to him.


Where does this idea come from that Fr Fessio "has a history" (whatever THAT is supposed to mean?!) and that "he does not work well with other people". If you mean that he didn't work well with the wacko Jesuit dissenters in San Francisco then more power to him. Sounds like someone has a personal problem with Fr Fessio. Count me as one of his great admirers!
And for now, I have scratched Ave Maria off the list of colleges for my teenage daughters. Christendom looks better and better every day. Too bad about Ave Maria, but until the seemingly constant turmoil and controversy is resolved we'll look elsewhere.

Mark Gordon

I've often wondered what, apart from the fact that he writes the checks, qualifies Tom Monaghan to be the chancellor of a university?


"I've often wondered what, apart from the fact that he writes the checks, qualifies Tom Monaghan to be the chancellor of a university?"

Well, he founded AMC, AMU, and AMSoL from the beginning, so he in fact "owns" them all. He can therefore be chancellor, president, dean, and provost, as well as teach every class if he wants to. Good luck. This is the problem. Some very loyal and good Catholics have been suffering his micromanagement for years, hoping he would sooner or later trust them to do what they know how to do.

But your point is well taken. Academic credentials: obviously none. Understanding of academic and intellectual life: apparently none.

thomas tucker

But a "fat wallet"- fat enough to build a university and law school. That's a lot of pizzas!


I don't know a whole lot about Fr. Fessio, but I spent 7 years in Ann Arbor working full-time at the Univ of Michigan while going to school part-time. The general consensus on Monaghan there was not good and it wasn't just his religious views in a highly secular town. His high-handed dictatorial approach was famous or notorious. One of my work supervisors worked for him just as he was starting his pizza business and looking for investors. She wished she had had the money to invest when he was asking for it but admits working for him was no picnic. If Fr. Fessio is just as strong a personality as Monaghan then it's no wonder his head is on the chopping block. I don't have a lot of high hopes for the survival of Ave Maria U. I agree with Mark Gordon that just because TM was an excellent businessman and pizza-maker that does not necessarily qualify him to be chancellor or a university.


I still hope the Ave Maria is succesful, as i think all good catholics should. I believe Monoghan is a good faithful man who only wants to serve the church,but simple logistical and managerial problems are hampering the project. and besides it would be a great shame to see sooooo much money wasted which could have been used in another way to build up the church.

RP Burke

1. There's a pile of management theory (that I'd have to go retrieve from my graduate school documents) that predicts precisely what happened here.

2. No surprise to see how the two big flavors of "conservative" Catholics -- traditionalist and evangelical/charismatic -- go together like ketchup on ice cream, or hot fudge on liver.


I love UD, but have to mention first-rate Thomas More College (www.thomasmorecollege.edu), founded in 1978, staffed by superb, dedicated educators. Time Magazine this summer (8/13/06) described Thomas More as "a rigorous Catholic education" and a good choice for students "looking for four years of close-knit community." Great two-week summer program for high-school students and Rome program for college sophomores.

Mark Windsor

Fr. Philip,

The problem with AMU and UD are, to guys like me, the same: Us mere mortals can't afford them.

I'm in the Dallas area. I'd love for my kids to go to UD. I even looked into going there myself for an MA four or five years ago (and would love to have gone there). It's just too blasted expensive.

Joseph Gryniewicz

As a resident of Ann Arbor, I can testify to the quick nature of Tom's projects. He will invest a million dollars here or there, and then simply withdraw support. He hits a road block, he picks up and leaves. Many of my family members have worked for him, and suddenly lost there jobs because his interests changed. I have personally seen him start projects, loose interest, and abandon them all within a few years. I have also witnessed him strong-arming projects that he had previously started with a different end in mind into conforming with his new ends.

The most recent case is, of course, the school of law which personally helped me through many legal difficulties. I got to know many people involved there, and they were fully integrated into the Ann Arbor communities. It will be hard for them to just pick and and abandon the life they have built in Ann Arbor. I don't think all of them will be willing to relocate.

From talking with a student at Ave Maria, I know that the inaugural class is about to graduate. They will be the first to spread the fame of Ave Maria through the workforce. But they have long held the opinion that Ave Maria University is a sinking ship, and there last impressions will not help the cause. What is it about Mr. Monaghan that prevents him from waiting, taking his time, and molding things prudently and patiently? It would be a tragedy to see such a well funded venture into orthodox Catholic education fail, but I very much fear that that is precisely what is going to happen.


Since we're pitching good Catholic college alternatives, let's not forget Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, CA!


A couple of Qs based on Amy's update and RP Burke's #2. I had no idea that charistmatics were "conservative." And Amy's reference to Steubenville--does that mean that Steubenville has "healing masses" too as described in a news article about Fr. Mc posted on Angelqueen?

We have an OMI Shrine near us. I went to some charistmatic things in the 70s--mom dragged some of us w/her. I thought it was very creepy stuff.

RP Burke

Peggy, I put "conservatives" in quotation marks because I knew it was an imprecise definition.

anon this time

I feel particularly bad for the faculty. I interviewed at Ave and was very impressed with the profs I talked to. Smart, accomplished, devout, and dedicated to the institution. The kinds of people you want teaching your kids at a Catholic university.

But...moving to the wilds of SW Fla seemed like way too much of a gamble. It might be a happy hunting ground when looking for donors. For a serious academic, relative to Ann Arbor, Naples = Gobi Desert.

The faculty I met gave up a lot to join AMC/AMU, and if Ave sinks they will suffer. Fr. Fessio is smart and energetic; I'm sure he'll land on his feet. I guess those with fat wallets will move onto the next project.

I usually sign my posts but would rather be anonymous here.

Desert Chatter

"...just because TM was an excellent businessman and pizza-maker that does not necessarily qualify him to be chancellor or a university."

Nor does being a good priest or an excellent theologian.

Brian Mershon

We have visited UD, TAC and Christendom all for our junior daughter.

All appeared to be outstanding and good choices depending upon a student's predispositions.

The campus prayer, devotional, confesssion life at TAC and Christendom were impressive, and all three have relatively easy off-campus access to the Traditional Latin Mass.

I guess we'll see if we can afford any of them.


"Nor does being a good priest or an excellent theologian."

True; no one said it did. But at least Fessio has an earned doctorate, which is generally standard academic makeup for a university president!

Sandra Miesel

I have long thought that Tom Monaghan bears an eerie resemblence to Bill the Millionaire in JF Powers' MORTE D'URBAN. Not a happy thought.

It's tragic that so many good people have suffered and will suffer from Monaghan's whim of iron but I never expected AMU to succeed. Do the math folks! There was never going to be enough money to have a full-service university. (Playing Div I sports yet!)Monaghan's fortune could have helped existing orthodox Catholic schools or perhaps been seed money for a new small liberal arts college but he seems to have wanted more glory than that. A terrible waste all around.


Luke 2:35
Nuestra Señora de Dolores, ruega por nosotros.

Jn 11:35

Mom of 8

Since we are pitching orthodox Catholic colleges. . .don't forget another solid, 130 year-old, up and coming Catholic college: Belmont Abbey College in Charlotte, North Carolina.


Tom Moneyhan did not found Ave Maria School of Law--he funded it. There were four founding faculty, along with Rice, who had the idea of founding this type of law school.


In reply to "anon this time": I'm on the faculty of a big research university and was personally recruited by Fr. Fessio for a job at AMU. Thought about interviewing, but said no in the end, not least because of some serious skepticism about building a Catholic utopia from scratch in the swamps of SW Florida.

Am I ever grateful I stayed away!

St. Thomas More, pray for us.

Aimee Milburn

I trust Fr. Fessio, and trust that God will continue to use him well. He's already done so much good. He went through priestly formation at a time when the Jesuits were falling to pieces - and he didn't go along with them, but stuck with his (very sold) novice director (who was also very persecuted). That takes great strength of will and love for Christ. I'm not worried about him.

As for AMU, well, I don't know the situation, but God is there, too, and time will tell.

mary floeck

I don't know much about any of this, other than I am in favor of good solid Catholic higher education. I don't know either of these gentlemen personally. I hope that things can be changed so that this Catholic University can go on educating our young people to go out into the world as fine solid Catholic professionals. The young students who are now attending there deserve to continue in their studies, and should be encouraged to pray for the success of this school.

It is not pleasant to think of such a grand undertaking as beginning a Catholic University,as a mistake or just another whim of some rich man with an ego. I have witnessed the closure of Catholic schools, and it hurts all of us. I will pray for all involved here, and trust that Our Lord will be well served at this place of Catholic learning. I can't imagine that He would like to see this school close down. We are all human beings, no matter how rich or devout or learned we may be. We make mistakes, but we don't have to throw the baby out with the bath water. Pray for the success of Ave Maria University. And pray for Fr. Fessio and Tom Monaghan.


I have to put in a plug for Benedictine College, in Atchison KS. I visited Ave Maria University and couldn't help but marvel at the material difference between a new University backed by a fabulously wealthy philanthropist, and a 150-year-old college supported by an order that takes a vow of poverty, BUT, leaving the material splendor aside, Benedictine has a lot to offer students looking for a solid Catholic education. We're more like a "normal" college than TAC or Christendom (we have intercollegiate athletics, and a wide range of majors), but we have an outstanding, dynamic faith life on our campus and I believe we offer a great alternative for families looking for a solid Catholic education.

jarin nicole schiavolin

a lot of people commenting do not understand the dynamics of southwest florida or the school. but...they're also not here and i don't know how they could be expected to understand.

first of all, there are not 100 kids on campus, but nearly 500.

second, the vast majority are on scholarship, including the 20 or so grad students.

third, building in "the middle of a swamp" is standard practice in SW Florida. so are these inorganic town constructions. the idea of Ave Maria Town, in my mind, is not so much theological as consumerist. there are developments like AM Town happening all over the region, aimed at specific market segments. this one just happens to be geared at the 50+ crowd of northeastern catholics. furthermore, the town is not the only development slated for the immokalee area. the other "towns" were certainly a result of Ave, but independent ventures nonetheless. there is a slowdown in real estate purchasing in SW Fl, but the popularity of the area is not going to go away. if anything, the growth will just be slower than everyone wants or expected.

after pondering this a while, i finally clued into TM's smart business move here - as soon as town sales get rolling, that's $$$ for the university. and it might just give AMU enough time to get grants and endowments rolling. maybe.

fourth, any liturgical debate down here is not between rad trads and charismatics. fessio is a promoter of the NO in Latin, like others have noted, a "reformer of the reform." i highly, highly, highly doubt that liturgical differences had anything to do with the dismissal. and the naples news story this morning is just a ridiculous grasping for reasons in order to fill out a headline.

fifth, AMU is more than fessio or monaghan. it's the faculty, staff, and students who are committed to liberal arts education in light of the fullness of Catholic faith. i'm saddened to see how fast people are to calumniate the school based on two individuals. the AMU mission is worth fighting for, if anything, because of the many that it has gathered together in its cause. if the catholic community spurns us, it will lose something worthwhile.

it is anything but "a terrible waste."

jarin nicole schiavolin

Also, I don't think it's charitable to pit AMU against TAC or Benedictine or Christendom or Stubenville or JPII Institute or whatever.

It completely misses the higher end to which all these univeresities are intended: the revival of Catholic higher education and scholarship. We all benefit from each other. In fact, former TAC and Stubenville students teach and attend grad school here.

Whatever the mixed motives involved in the founding of AMU, which will be present in any human act, its existence is allowing faculty to practice their vocations as scholars. This can't help but contribute to the overall health and progress of theological and Catholic studies in the US.

anon this time


I declined the offer to interview in Naples but talked with people in Ann Arbor. My wife had the exact same reaction as a pal's wife after the pal had talked with Ave folks on the phone: "I'll never see my parents again!" That kind of reaction will stop (and justifiably so!) just about any family conference.

It made me wonder how they would get people with tight family connections up here to go down there. I wondered if Ave officials, or Monaghan, had considered this since it seemed like the serious sort of Catholic they were seeking would likely have that kind of family they didn't want to move far from.

That whole departure from Michigan misadventure really made me wonder which end was up with Ave. I'm glad we stayed put.

I do hope and pray for the growth and well-being of Thomas Aquinas College type ventures. The combination of brilliant, traditional Catholicism and the Great Books must be great.

Sandra's comment on Billy Cosgrove made me laugh. A long retreat in Duesterhaus might do him good.


Seemed inevitable to me. Fessio is a talented man. Monaghan is, too, in his own sphere. Books and Pizza are two of my favorite things. They are not institutions.

Send your kids and your money to Thomas More College in New Hampshire, UD, or if you will, Stuebenville. Taste determinate. Besides, it'll tick off the RadTrad's because they recognize that the 20th century isn't optional.

Nice plug Shiela!

chris K

People don't think charismatics are conservative?? Perhaps this is due more to the publicity out there being focused on non-Catholic types. But who do you think reinvigorated the Church and saved the traditional devotions being tossed out like the proverbial baby? Who have been the main base for the Marian and other grassroots movements? The Church Herself was jumpstarted by the suddenly gifted fearful followers enabled to get out of the bunker mentality and allow the Spirit to being moving.

I doubt if any Catholic community will last long if it is dedicated to only certain parts/gifts that make up the Body. You can't have extremes fighting each other - when there can be a place for both within the history and tradition of the Faith. It was said that both the Latin as well as the charismatic type masses at AMU were equally attended. So, just as the novus mass will exist alongside of the Tridentine within our future Catholic communities, the rigidity has to end or the Spirit won't be invited in either!

It's often been the case in developing successful new enterprises on any big scale that it's better when there is a partnership. Usually it consists of one person being the business talent and the other being the social/idea person. I think Tom M. needs such a help. Anyway, we have an example of two strong personalities not being able to compromise a certain stubborn streak - which can also be a type of pride. Why any institution of learning should balance on the head of one rather well known personality - good or not - is beyond most, esp. since it is noted that there are so many other really talented and good faculty persons there trying to quietly carry on.


I've had the unique experience of being involved with a school started by Fr. Fessio(the excellant but lamentably short-lived Campion College) as well as the education I received at Benedictine in Kansas. I would readily second Mrs. Shankman's plug for Benedicine because as a somewhat larger school it does offer a diverse atmosphere that is still firmly grounded in orthodoxy and the teachings of the magisterium. I do hold the slight fear of catholic colleges, who with completely good intentions, sometimes lose sight of the outside world and either become 'elitist' or driven to distraction by petty infighting. On a final note, Fr.Fessio, while perhaps not the easiest man to get along with, is an outstanding priest and man of god. AMU will suffer from this loss.



Need help finding the "shift" key?

No one is pitting TAC against AMU or Benedictine or anyplace else. But since AMU seems to be having serious problems, and its future seeems to be in serious jeopardy (l'affaire Fessio is only one symptom of many), some people here are trying to offer the names of various Catholic institutions of higher learning for people to choose from. One can't attend all colleges at the same time, after all.


"Also, I don't think it's charitable to pit AMU against TAC or Benedictine or Christendom or Stubenville or JPII Institute or whatever.

It completely misses the higher end to which all these univeresities are intended: the revival of Catholic higher education and scholarship. We all benefit from each other. In fact, former TAC and Stubenville students teach and attend grad school here."

Well, that's all well and good, but people might want to know before hand that they are going to waste four years of their life on a a school that has little chance of being accredited.

If you want to preach charity--spend your efforts preaching to TSM, since he has harmed irreparably the careers of some Catholic intellectuals.


I know this is slightly off topic.

I went to Thomas More College for one year and then finished my education at Franciscan University with a degree in a liberal arts field.

I graduated with honors, but with a degree that in no way helped me in a career field, leaving me with years of student loans and the prospect of working indefinitely at the clerical level for low pay.

I would encourage all the parents commenting on this thread to add a few questions to the 'which college should my child/children attend' debate:

1. What does my child intend to study?
2. What career is this course of study going to lead to?
3. Are there jobs available in this career field?
4. How many years, at the typical starting salary in this career field, will it take my child to pay off the student loans he/she will accumulate? Is this acceptable?
5. How many years will my child have to defer a vocation to marriage/holy orders/religious life in order to meet his/her financial obligations? Is this acceptable?

If someone would have discussed these issues before I went to college, I would have done things a bit differently. I might have done some of the undergrad work at the state school which was offering me a free ride; I might still have studied the liberal arts subject, but as a minor, with a more practical, business-related major; I might even have worked a few years after high school to earn the bulk of the tuition money up front.

But when I tried to discuss these issues within the liberal arts department at the schools I attended, I was told that Catholic higher education was a worthy goal in itself, that mundane questions about 'jobs' had no business being asked during the pursuit of one's education, and that mere economic concerns should never stop someone whose talents were clearly centered in the study of the liberal arts to abandon that course of study in favor of some lower, career-focused area of study like business or journalism.

That's all very well in the ivory tower, but for a typical middle class child like me who was going to graduate in serious need of a good job and good salary, it was madness!

Dan of the Holy Whapping

The issue that I think is really going to set off alarms here is academic freedom. If I were a faculty member or prospective faculty member at Ave, I would be highly concerned about whether this is going to be a respected value at the school, in light of the way it is controlled by its benefactor, and in light of the fact that the highest-ranking trained academic in the administration has just been ousted.

It is important to remember that academic freedom is a fundamental part of any University, and should not just be dimissed as something that "liberals" carp about in order to justify dissident views. It was important in the thirteenth-century University of Paris, where faculty infighitng and disagreement was just as common as it is now, and it is very important now, even and especially in a Catholic university. If a University is perceived as having problems with academic freedom, this is going to cripple its ability to attract and maintain first-rate faculty.

Sue T.

Jarin--I really appreciate your comments.

I feel sorry for AMU/AMC. I hope failure doesn't happen to them due to a self-fulfilling prophecy on the part of Catholics. Fessio resigning hardly means that the school is doomed, but if everyone starts thinking that way, it will only hurt student/faculty recruitment.

Maybe I'm misinterpreting some of the comments, but it seems like people are almost taking glee in putting down Monaghan. The flack he's taking here is a little unfair. Sure, he's an imperfect and flawed individual (as we all are sometimes), but I give him credit for at least attempting to fund catholic projects. He could have used all his fortune for his own pleasure (like Donald Trump), but didn't.

Jordan Potter

"Fessio resigning hardly means that the school is doomed"

If that were the only thing, I'd agree with you, but as Amy observed, this is just the latest and one of the more prominent "bumps" experience by this university still in its infancy.

Boko Fittleworth

Fessio didn't resign; he was fired. By Tom Monaghan.

AMU is a mess. It's all well and good to say "I hope it turns out well" and "Pray for them" and "Nobody's perfect."

But that doesn't mean academics should gamble their careers on taking jobs there or that students should gamble their futures (and thousands of $ in loans) on a school that can't get accredited (after 7+ years of this "higher" education project).

Parents, students, education professionals, potential donors: PLEASE don't gamble with your money and your futures and your families just because some blog commentor mau-mau's us to play nice.

F C Bauerschmidt

1. What does my child intend to study?
2. What career is this course of study going to lead to?
3. Are there jobs available in this career field?
4. How many years, at the typical starting salary in this career field, will it take my child to pay off the student loans he/she will accumulate? Is this acceptable?
5. How many years will my child have to defer a vocation to marriage/holy orders/religious life in order to meet his/her financial obligations? Is this acceptable?

I think you are talking more generally about career training than education. I wish we lived in a society in which people coming out of high school for whom these are the relevant questions could get the training they need in order to obtain and hold a job without feeling that they need the credential of a college degree. At the same time, I'd like it if those for whom these are not the most relevant questions could pursue an education that is not overwhelmingly concerned with acquiring technical skills.



I agree with what you wrote above. I got a liberal arts degree in the mid last century and became a now happily retired high school teacher. Just a woman and a good way to go back then. Today I would recommend post high school education leading directly toward making a decent living and, above all, avoiding the peonage of student loans well into almost mid life. And then, once the young man or young woman is economically on his feet, pursue the liberal arts in the leisurely manner intended by their very name through night school, time off, and independent study of various sorts with the added benefit that the liberal arts can hardly be appreciated by late adolescence anyway. The liberal arts were historically the education of the free man, not the wage or salary slave. Today we are all wage or salary slaves and must be educated to do what is conducive to earning a decent living unless we are to become a burden on the charity and hard work of others. Serious pursuit of the liberal arts has time after the bread and butter issues are under control and the liberal arts will be more greatly understood and appreciated. If Plato is good at 21, he is even better at 41 or 51 or 61.



I know what you speak of. Many graduate from these schools hoping to become philosopher-kings, but the sad reality is that the pay isn't so good particularly when you marry right after college and find that you've got other mouths to feed.

I think the education you get at these institutions is first rate and really can be of use in the real world. I just wish these colleges would spend a little more energy pointing students in the right direction in regards to life after graduation. Mobilizing alumni to assist students with job searches and advising them on post graduate life would be helpful. Assisting students to find internships during their summer break would also be a start.

One of the reasons I'm sorry Ave Maria Law School is having troubles is because I think it's a great way apply a Liberal Arts education in the real world. I still think Philosophy is one of the best undergraduate degrees to prepare you for law school. There aren't many teaching positions for PhDs in Philosophy, but there is lots of work for lawyers.


As someone else at AMU, I would like to add to what Jarin said:

1) People have gotten this funny idea that there are only 100 students here. That's more like the matriculating class size, not the student body size. With undergrad and graduate combined, it is currently around 400. The hope for next fall is somewhere around 500-600.

2) Most students are indeed on some scholarship.

3) What Jarin says about building in swamps is well taken. All of southern Florida is a swamp - yet that is hardly stopping massive development down here, or SWW Florida from being one of the fastest growing areas inthe nation. Southern Florida is thus also underserved in terms of Catholic higher education. If there are disadvantages, they mainly factor around the high cost of construction materials and the high cost of living, all driven up by having 8 hurricanes hit Florida in 2004-2005.

No, if there is a risk factor, it's simply intrinsic to the idea of building an entire new university from scratch, and making its endowment contingent on home sales in a volatile real estate market - especially if you have difficulty getting hold of administrators who have the necessary experience to make the project succeed.

4) There *is* a liturgical split of a sort on this campus, even if the terms need better defining. There are certainly a number of outright traditionalists here (who would like but have yet to get a TLM mass on campus), properly understood, but Fessio's milieu is more of a neo-traditionalist bent - they like conservative novus ordo masses, ad orientem, Latinized, reverent, with chant and polyphony, communion kneeling and on the tongue. Most students seem to prefer this, but there is a faction, better represented in the administration (esp. the Healys), which prefers the charismatic style, guitars and healing masses and whathaveyou. Fessio has fought that development tooth and nail, and mainly he's lost. Control of the liturgy on campus was taken away from him over a year ago. But because this battle has been going on for years here now, I really, sincerely doubt that a liturgy brawl was the straw that broke the camel's back and made Tom Monaghan send him packing. At most it was simply one of several background elements.

I do second what has been said about TAC, Christendom, Benedictine (often unfairly overlooked but worth a look), and Steubenville, by the way, all excellent and orthodox Catholic schools in different ways. To some extent we *are* in competition with them for students and donations, and yet because each school has a somewhat different mission or flavor, we're not, and I like to think the country is big enough for all of us, and the need is certainly urgent enough. Parents thinking about whether to send their children here vs. elsewhere...have to decide for themselves, hopefully with sufficient information. And I can certainly see how some might be perplexed or disturbed by the news of Fr. Fessio's departure. He was the face of this institution in many ways, and lended it a cachet that will be difficult to replace. And the manner of his departure will raise eyebrows as well - no question about it. There are certainly a lot of unhappy students on campus right now.

I came here because I believed in the mission, and I still do. And I hope it still succeeds in spite of what happened yesterday - the need is simply too urgent. The theology faculty is especially outstanding (someone rightly mentioned Drs. Lamb and Levering, and you could add Steve Long and Gregory Vall and Michael Dauphinais to that list) and I might say the same about some of the other departments as well. There are a great many devout, outstanding people involved with this project, and for their sakes alone we should all hope for that. And for the future good it might yet do.

Yet so much of this has become about Tom Monaghan, for better or worse. He writes the checks and he has some right to say how they are spent - and some gratitude for making any of this possible. At the same time, he has had a steep learning curve about just how different higher education is from other kinds of businesses, and personality traits that are not as advantageous in this sphere as in his former ones.

Well: I figure if the Holy Spirit wants this place to succeed it will no matter how we weak mortals screw it up.

As for Fr. Fessio, I still have no idea why he was sacked. But I hope and pray and expect he will end up landing on his feet. As most know, he has a few other irons in the fire right now.

chris K

I'm wondering if the whole concept of college degrees/higher education shouldn't be revamped. High school graduates are entering the next level these days with enough college credits to have completed a lot of what we covered in the first two years of college decades ago. Whenever we had older, working part time students in our classes we actually learned more about maturity, appreciation and dedication to the subject than from the general population of those there for the campus "experience" and we've seen where that has led in the larger traditionally Catholic colleges and universities!

Soooo, separate secular tech/science/teacher/business work/study program schools accompanied by more smaller separate Catholic theology/philosophy education/liberal arts concentration schools could serve all purposes and not place such financial burdens on some imagined Catholic huge campuses that may or may not be successful in all of the envisioned areas, and could pinpoint Catholic financiers' contributions to where they are most needed within local communities. Financially, the monies could go a lot further and serve many more.

As far as evangelization goes ... and that covers the education of many, many more than those with or without higher degrees ... I can't count the number of struggling Catholic media programming that daily have to beg for funds to just cover another day of outreach. Wouldn't it be great for those with deep pockets to hold up these many radio programs, even anonymously (where the right hand doesn't know what the other is doing). Through these many local radio programs so many other Catholic community needs and offerings are advertised. Why should the large $$ enterprises be so elitist? Once the graduates are hopefully formed by Catholic basics the need is then much greater for local Catholic community support for them when they begin to fight the good fight within their chosen careers in this culture of death. The formation isn't the testing ground. We know that for sure these days.


"I feel sorry for AMU/AMC. I hope failure doesn't happen to them due to a self-fulfilling prophecy on the part of Catholics. Fessio resigning hardly means that the school is doomed, but if everyone starts thinking that way, it will only hurt student/faculty recruitment."

Really. Isn't that nice. What about union busting? Defrauding the Department of Education? Voting out an entire board of distinguished Catholics (including prominent judges) just to exact revenge on someone who disagreed with moving a law school to Florida.

C'mon people. Think--just because someone is orthodox does not mean they should be trusted. Don't send your children to this place--unless you want them throw away four years of their life.

Sr Lorraine

I had an uneasy feeling about AMU from the beginning because it seemed so artificial--to attempt to build an entire university and town from scratch. In nature, things start out small and grow organically from within to their proper size. To start out as an adult doesn't work in nature, and from the way things are going, it doesn't work in other areas either.


The latest word from AMU is that Fr. Fessio and the administration have come to an agreement and that he will remain at AMU in a new capacity. Deo gratias!

Joseph R. Wilson

Take a deep breath everybody. Let's be charitable. Fr. Fessio may stay in a different capacity. They will get through this and be stronger. Remember the disarray in the very earliest moments of our Church. I will be praying for reconciliation and increased wisdom for all concerned.

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