Subscribe via RSS Feed

Ave Maria, Florida

September 26, AD2013 18 Comments

\"Julie

What if you could create the ideal town, based on your Catholic beliefs? What if you could build a town centered upon prayer, open to life, in pursuit of integral truth and centered around family?

Well, apparently someone has beaten you to it. Welcome to Ave Maria, Florida. This small town in Southwest Florida used to be 1,000 acres of tomato plants. Since 2007, this swampland has been transformed into a college town with modern amenities and very distinct religious lifestyle. 76-year-old founder of Domino’s Pizza, Tom Monaghan, sold Domino’s pizza for an estimated $1 billion in 1998. With local developers, he has invested his money in this dream town. Although town and university operate independently, Catholic culture is apparent everywhere, even in Street names such as Assisi, Avila and Cana.

The entire town was built around and revolves around its center: the oratory. Avemariablvd.com quotes Thomas Merton as inspiration for this construction choice:

“Here, everywhere I went, I was forced, by the disposition of everything around me, to be always at least virtually conscious of the Church.  Every street pointed more or less inward to the center of the town, to the Church…” 

It isn’t an empty church, like the looming and beautiful European cathedrals. “On Sundays, some 97 percent of the whole town goes to Mass, and on weekdays about 65 percent of the students,” says Michael Novak in National Review Online. Daily Mass in Ave Maria is said at four times per day during the school year.

The college campus has single-sex dorms and every residence hall has a chapel. \”We make no apologies for seeking to uphold Catholic moral teachings,\” Ave Maria University President Nicholas Healy said. \”We would not approve of or facilitate something that is very common, I\’m told, on college campuses today, hooking up and sleeping around, and … binge drinking.\” Although the lifestyle may be unusual for an American campus, the academics don’t seem to fall short. Michael Waldstein, respected professor and translator of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, comments, “Profoundly fruitful contemplation, characteristic of a genuinely Catholic intellectual life, is taking place [at Ave Maria University] among the theology professors and graduate students. I know of no better program for forming future theologians. I include in this judgment the program of ITI, which I helped to build up…” (source)

In a speech at a Catholic men’s conference, Tom Monaghan said that “pharmacies wouldn\’t be allowed to stock condoms or birth control pills and that cable TV would show no pornography.” Chelsea Allan says in her testimonial, “When I go to the Ave Maria Fitness Center and start the treadmill equipped with a personal television, the station is already set to EWTN.” It is a community filled with life, literally: lots of children and with activities such as “rosary walks” in the evenings.

Want to learn more about Ave Maria, Florida? Monty, Cat of Ave Maria is a children’s book available at the local Ave Maria bookstore. There is also a newspaper, the Ave Herald and many links on avemarialiving.com. I will definitely keep my eye out for more news, controversial or not, about this unique college town.

Filed in: Education, Social • Tags: ,

About the Author:

Julie Machado is a 27-year-old Portuguese-American who grew up in California, but moved to Portugal to study theology. She now lives there, along with the rest of her family and her husband. She teaches English to children and has a special interest in Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. She believes the greatest things in life are small and hidden and that the extraordinary is in the ordinary. She blogs at Marta, Julie e Maria.

If you enjoyed this essay, subscribe below to receive a daily digest of all our essays.

Thank you for supporting us!

  • Pingback: Children don’t Belong in a Cry Room and Neither do You - BigPulpit.com

  • Jfd6400

    Great !! I wish the school was around back in my college days.

  • stark61555

    I have lived here since 1970. Those people are racist and not normal. Most students here go to regular state schools and have great Catholic centers. These ppl are over the top.

    • queenoftheuniverse

      stark 61555 YOU ARE A HATER, WE WOULD ALL APPRECIATE YOU TO STOP POSTING YOUR RACIST HATE RANTS HERE OK
      YOU ARE DISGUSTING AND A HATE MONGER LOSER GO BACK TO YOUR CRACK PIPE !

    • stark61555

      I live in Tampa and used to live down there. Sad part is this: Immokalee poverty still exists. Rich Ave Maria does too. NO one helps Immokalee.

  • stark61555

    There are no more businesses and the place is in the middle of nowhere. The chapel is dark and dreary. Did he forget he was in the Sunshine State? The dio is going to have to take it over one day for their over the top behavior. 5bucks!

  • stark61555

    Think of all the migrants they displaced! Went there in 08 to see it and there was an alleged robbery. The deputy rolled their eyes when they stopped all cars looking for “black people.” That biz is no longer there.

  • stark61555

    Most of the business area is empty. Who would have their business in the middle of NOWHERE? Get real.

  • sparrow

    Pay no attention to stark61555 – Ave Maria is a great place to live. I purchased my home and moved here in 2007 when the town opened. Not only do we have a thriving catholic university (over 1000 students this year), but the community now has over 600 homes and is growing faster than most in south Florida. We have our own Publix and gas station, and there are several other thriving business (clothing store, beauty salon, bookstore, etc.) that have become well established. Our church is beautiful and full of light — and people!

  • jenny

    wow…. that’s wonderful …..God bless you with more students there…..

  • queenoftheuniverse

    Wow this place sounds like heaven!!
    Where do I sign up to get a house there ? who are the real estate companies I wish to check out real estate there . I am very interested in living there!!

  • Grace

    61555 should be 61666. You have been brain washed and incarnated in the culture of jelousy and rationalisation of sloth. Many black people live in a viscious cycle of poverty because instead of trying to break free they listen to people who pretend to empathize with them while promoting policies that keep them dependent and in a minority status. They are few black people at Ave Maria because it is a private school which like all of them is too expensive for poor people. slavery is an unfortunate part of our history but we should not be defined by our past. Shake off adversity and work hard then you can make it to to Ave Maria, Havard, Princeton etc. Instead of cheering Obama for freebies you should look to him for hardwork and beating adersity. How about you put politics aside and take the example of the likes of Condolezza Rice, Ben Carsons and the like. Hating is not going to help saying No to drugs, dropping out of school, crime and self pity and abortion of black babies will. All of America dispalced farmers to build cities, not only Ave Maria.

  • Anon

    Too bad this article doesnt mention the blatant disregard for the faith the school board shows by allowing non-believers and heathens into the school for the sports team. Many people are leaving this school because of its growing lack of cohesive Catholic culture

  • james

    Sounds like a contemporary community of Jehovah witnesses – very insular and
    separated from the rest of the world. I’ll bet the number of sins per capita is off
    the conservative charts too. It does no good to preach to the choir unless the
    choir has plans to leave the safety of their shelter and preach the good news in
    areas they would not rather live.

  • prudenter

    The Question is…Do they Offer the True Mass with a properly ordained Priest?

  • Pingback: Ave Maria, Florida: An Interview : Catholic Stand

  • 1010

    There are many people living here of different faiths and beliefs. Not everyone goes to church daily or weekly or at all. There is no pressure to change your beliefs. It is a wonderful community away from the hustle and bustle of busy Naples. You can enjoy SW Florida with out the traffic and congestion. It is a quiet and peaceful community full of people some working some retired some in between. Enjoying life, enjoying their family and friends. Everything you need and want is in town or within a 25 minute drive. Too much fuss over nothing.

  • stark61555

    The big q is this. It is in the middle of NO WHERE. They do not interact with the mexican migrants in Immokalee down the road. They are poorer than ever. I used to live in LaBelle years ago.