In a homily on May 11, 1991 Pope John Paul II prophesied, “A new missionary age will arise, a new springtime for the Church.” While the “endless summer days” of Florida do not always provide for the full experience of nature’s springtime, over 400 young people and 125 staff and faculty of Ave Maria University are living the new springtime of the Church.
The signs of “newness” and the blossoming of spring are everywhere evident at Ave Maria’s campus in Naples. Anyone who has watched the trees bud or the flowers bloom knows that spring brings new life that appears to come from nowhere. In much the same way, Ave Maria may appear to be a University that began from scratch. The truth is, the life that is blossoming now came from a seed that was planted in the heart of the Church, when Vatican II called for greater lay witness in contemporary society. This call has become the heart of the University’s mission and the fruit of the mission can be seen in the various new beginnings manifesting themselves on the campus in Naples, Florida.
One sign of the new springtime in the Church is the enthusiasm that so many young people have about embarking on a two year track of studying the liberal arts “core curriculum.” The entire curriculum at Ave Maria which includes ten majors and several pre-professional programs is built upon the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Students and faculty members strive to live the ideals laid out in this document and to study in atmosphere where faith seeks understanding. The University is training future doctors, lawyers, teachers, priests, and parents.
New life is also daily sprouting in all the activities in which student participate. Richard Dittus, the Director of Admissions, candidly marveled that being around the students is much like being around a family. “It is not that I look at these students as people I work with, but these are the people that I love to see at Mass or to spend time with around campus.” Who would not love to be a part of this family where there is a general excitement and freshness in the air? In the course of two years the student population has quadrupled. Each new student has brought their own unique gift of self to the University. Some of the activities on campus include a very active Students for Life Group, an Immokalee Outreach Club, Habitat for Humanity volunteers, the Chastity Team, a new Drama Department, two University choirs, and an Irish Step Dancing Club. The intramurals program has seen a wide expansion, which promises to one day grow into a well developed athletics program. It is not uncommon for new students to start new clubs and activities upon their arrival on campus.
All the new activity on campus is, without doubt, the fruit of prayerful lives. There are many opportunities on campus for spiritual growth. Mass is offered twice daily, confessions are available every day, the Divine Office is prayed in the morning, evening, and night, students lead a nightly rosary walk around campus, and 12 hour adoration is a new commitment students have made in the hope of one day establishing perpetual adoration. The University also offers a Pre-Theologate program for men discerning the priesthood and a Women’s Discernment program to prayerfully consider the religious life.
The growth that daily occurs on the current campus is expected to continue when we move to our new campus about 25 miles east of our current location. The first phase is scheduled to be finished in the Fall of 2007. As students look with hope to the future, they continue to give generously to what they consider their family at Ave Maria Univeristy. We invite you to learn more about our life and learning at Ave Maria by visiting avemaria.edu or contacting us at 877-AVE-UNIV to schedule a visit. You can also look into our future campus and the town of Ave Maria at avemaria.com.
May Jesus Christ be praised. Ave Maria!
(Kristen Harr is a student at Ave Maria University and an intern in the Admissions office.)