Tag Archives: ave maria university

Jim Towey, Naples Chapter

Jim Towey is in his fifth year as president of Ave Maria University. Since assuming the position on July 1, 2011, Ave Maria has increased its enrollment and is becoming financially self-sustaining.

Jim Towey

Jim Towey

Under Towey’s leadership, the university has expanded programming, campus spiritual activities, service projects and missionary work. With the authorization of the Missionaries of Charity, the university instituted the Mother Teresa Project, an initiative where students learn about her life and spirituality while engaging in the corporal works of mercy.

Towey was a longtime friend and legal counsel to St. Mother Teresa, and he read the first reading at her canonization Mass on Sept. 4 in Rome. Towey, who also served as director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives from 2002-2006, spoke with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.

How are things going at AMU?

Tom Monaghan built a great foundation. Fortunately, in five years, we’ve grown the enrollment 70%. We’re attracting wonderful young men and women, and the school is flourishing.

We need to get to 1,600 students, and we’re at about 1,100 now. We have rooms in our dorm that need to be filled. But thankfully many generous people have adopted Ave Maria as their second alma mater, and we’re grateful for their generosity.

What is the Mother Teresa Project and how did it develop?

I’ve been legal counsel to Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity since 1985, and they gave us permission to start a project that would teach students about Mother Teresa’s life and spirituality — and invite them to a life of service. We’re so close to the farm worker communities here and to the elderly and nursing homes. We have wonderful opportunities for volunteering. I take 12 students to Calcutta every year. My wife takes students to Haiti to work with Mother Teresa’s nuns. It’s a great experience.

What made Mother Teresa a saint?

She became a saint by her choices that she made consistently throughout her life to love God and to love neighbor. She trusted in the Lord and not her own strength, and she loved “until it hurt,” as she put it.

How did your friendship with Mother Teresa impact you spiritually?

Mother Teresa changed my life. I’m no saint, but I do know what she taught this world: to love God, trust in His mercy and to seek Jesus in our neighbors.


AMU president Jim Towey reads at Mother Teresa’s canonization in St. Peter’s Square

What was it like to read at her canonization Mass?

It was a tremendous privilege to represent Ave Maria University on that day of glory, and to stand there in St. Peter’s Square to look at the Holy Father to my right and hundreds of thousands of people from all countries. It was truly an overwhelming experience that I will never forget.

Will government pressure on Catholic institutions continue?

I’m afraid that these attacks on religious liberty will only increase in the years ahead. Catholic leaders in academia and throughout the country have to fight for what we believe in: our right of conscience. The more government grows, the more government grabs.

We have to be faithfully Catholic. The reason these attacks on religious liberty take place is because secular orthodoxy has become the prevailing belief, and if all we have in response is a cultural Catholicism, there is nothing to defend. Our job is to be, as St. Thomas More said, the king’s good servant, but God’s first.

Advent and real, Godly men

Fr. Robert McTeigue, SJ, writes that the world suffers for lack of Godly men . . .

Fr. Robert McTeigue

Fr. Robert McTeigue

What do you want for Christmas? No doubt you’ve been asked that question many times in recent weeks, and you have surely asked that question of your family and other loved ones.

I want to pose another question: “What do you want for Advent?” To some, that question is scarcely intelligible. Let me ask it this way: “What would you like to receive from the Lord, and what would you like to offer Him?”

To answer those questions, let’s turn to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pastor who heroically resisted the Nazis. “A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes — and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside — is not a bad picture of Advent.”

Waiting for the door of freedom to be opened, waiting to be liberated from our captivity, from our limitations — those are very fine images of Advent. We’re like Lazarus in the tomb, waiting to be called forth. But once the prison door is opened, what shall we do with our undeserved second chance? I want to relate those Bonhoeffer-inspired questions to my earlier query: “What do you want for Advent?” To answer that, I would like to address primarily men.

My brothers, what I want for Advent is to be freed to unite with a strong company of Godly men, men who know that they are called to be husbands, fathers, priests and heroes. I want to walk out of the tomb into the light with other Godly men who are ready and eager to use their God-given manly freedom and strength to stand up for the honor of faith, family and community.

Our nation, our Church, our culture, and our communities suffer from the lack of such Godly men. Why do we lack such men? To answer that question, consider these words from French Cardinal Louis Pie (1815-1880) and his Christmas homily of 1871:

“Is not ours an age of mis-lived lives, of un-manned men? Why? Because Jesus Christ has disappeared. Wherever the people are true Christians, there are men to be found in large numbers, but everywhere and always, if Christianity wilts, the men wilt. Look closely: They are no longer men but shadows of men. Thus what do you hear on all sides today? The world is dwindling away for lack of men; the nations are perishing for scarcity of men, for the rareness of men. I do believe there are no men where there is no character; there is no character where there are no principles, doctrines, stands taken; there are no stands taken, no doctrines, no principles, where there is no religious faith and consequently no religion of society. Do what you will; only from God you will get men.”

We need real, Godly men. What we see around us is a generation of not men but merely “boys who shave” — males who are unwilling to shoulder the cross of being a true man, a man who sacrifices, leads and provides. We suffer from a lack of men willing to take responsibility for the children they beget, for the women who love them, or for the civil liberties they enjoy. They’re not the entire problem, but these Peter Pans who live in their parents’ basements, spending their days smoking dope, watching porn, and demanding a free ride are surely not now ready to be part of the solution.

What is the solution? First, we must turn to the Lord and cry out, we must clamor for our liberation, we must ask for the cells and tombs of our lives to be opened. Second, we must obey the call to emerge from the darkness and live as free men, men made in the image and likeness of God — men redeemed at a terrible cost and consecrated for a greater glory. Finally, all of us — men and women, young and old — must prepare our boys to be Godly men. We can begin to do so by honoring the heroic fathers of our past and present; we can do so by proclaiming Jesus who is true God and true man; we can do so by insisting again and again that God is a great and loving Father.

What should we want for Advent? We should turn to the Lord and ask Him to liberate males and call them to be Godly men who can provide for, protect, and serve all who are entrusted to their care. And when we see the blessings that flow from Godly men who have become true husbands, fathers, priests and heroes, then we can echo the words of the psalmist: “The plan of the Lord stands forever; the design of his heart, through all generations.”

FR. ROBERT MCTEIGUE, SJ, is a professor of Philosophy at Ave Maria University.

Caring for Catholic education in New Orleans

Legatus’ New Orleans chaplain gives his all for children and the Catholic faith . . .

Very Rev. Neal McDermott

Very Rev. Neal McDermott

Very Rev. Neal McDermott, OP
New Orleans Chapter

After retiring last year as executive director of New Orleans’ archdiocesan Department of Christian Formation, Fr. Neal McDermott, 80, humorously referenced his ancestry: “Irishmen cry at the opening of a Kmart, so if I shed a tear it’s because I’m Irish,” he told colleagues at his going-away party. Fifty-two years a priest and in love with his vocation, Fr. McDermott did not truly retire. He now serves as president of Legate Joseph C. Canizaro’s Donum Dei Foundation, which makes grants to support Catholic education.

Tell us about your call to the priesthood.

The call came early. I was taught by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I loved everything to do with the Church, to be around the sisters. I’d come by the school on Saturday to clean boards and sweep. By the time I was 14, I was very sure. I wanted to join a teaching order. One day my dentist handed me a brochure he got in the mail from Dominicans, and the rest is history.

How did you become acquainted with Legatus?

I became spiritual director to Joseph Canizaro, who built the library at Ave Maria University. He was the man whom Tom Monaghan turned to in New Orleans to start a Legatus chapter in 1999. Joe asked me to be one of the chaplains.

“One” of the chaplains?

Yes. We have three: a diocesan priest, a member of the Josephite order, and me. We have a big chapter to serve, nearly 50 member couples. And since we three priests have so many other obligations, we needed more than one chaplain. But we’re all usually present at meetings and we take turns dividing duties.

What impact has Legatus had on the archdiocese?

A number of Legates have committed themselves to Catholic education, like providing needy children with scholarships. We also have a seminary in the process of being renovated, and many Legates generously support that. In fact, we’re planning a special meeting in which we’ll invite some 100 seminarians to have dinner with us to introduce them to Legatus.

How would you like to see the chapter progress?

I’d like to see every member choose one student to sponsor at Ave Maria University. I’d like them to continue in their affirmation of the priesthood and religious life, supporting schools and teachers. And among all the different Catholic charities in New Orleans — like feeding the poor — I think every one of the members has helped in each area. And I’d like to see each of them pick up the concept of ambassador and concretize it in their own way.

How do you approach your role as chaplain?

I’m available for spiritual direction. I also help them in their various charitable activities, doing the footwork in ways like securing grants.

You have a vocation, of course. Any avocations?

I’m a dog lover. I’m in love with animals. I work with some of the women in the chapter in their efforts to save animals, like running a sanctuary for abused pitbulls.

Can you recommend any devotions?

Dominicans are very committed to the rosary. Legates need quiet time for reflection, and Eucharistic adoration is just perfect for that.

Are there any lessons you’ve learned that are apt for business leaders?

Having been an administrator of some 105 schools in the archdiocese, I learned that you need to take the time to meet your people. They need to know they’re loved. People remember that. When you say you’re an ambassador, an ambassador needs a diplomatic touch — and let your faith shine through!


An American inspiration

An exclusive with Legatus founder Thomas S. Monaghan who turns 75 on March 25 . . .

Tom Monaghan has gained worldwide fame for his notable accomplishments.

He built Domino’s Pizza into a global fast food franchise. He owned the Detroit Tigers and won the World Series. He created Legatus and founded Ave Maria University and Ave Maria School of Law. For decades, he was known for his extravagant lifestyle: a collection of cars, planes, houses, boats and Frank Lloyd Wright furniture and artifacts. When Monaghan sold Domino’s to Bain Capital in 1998, he was worth over a billion dollars.

What few people realize is that Monaghan wasn’t always a high roller. Prior to the success of Domino’s, his life was anything but lavish. And these days, due to a spiritual epiphany in 1989, he chooses to live a simple, highly disciplined lifestyle.

Early Years

Thomas Stephen Monaghan was born in 1937 in Ann Arbor, Mich. His father died when he was four. Two years later, his mother placed Tom and his brother Jim in an orphanage because of financial difficulties. The orphanage was run by an order of Polish nuns, the Felician Franciscan Sisters. Monaghan chooses to look at the bright moments of those years rather than dwell on the hardships. One of those bright lights was Sister Berarda, his first and second grade teacher.

With Sr. Berarda, 1983

“She was a young sister, always very encouraging, and I tried hard under her,” he recalls with a smile. “She was a very holy woman.”

He talks about his life at the orphanage with characteristic charity.

“It was a combination of very strict and spiritual,” Monaghan says. “We had lots of prayers, morning and evening. It was like living in a convent. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me because it gave me my faith.”

In high school, Monaghan went on to live with a succession of foster families.

“The families were good to me,” he remembers. “I was a hard worker, and they treated me like I was one of the family. I couldn’t do any sports at school though, because I had to do chores.”

Monaghan lived with an aunt during his senior year in high school, with the understanding that he would move out upon graduation. After high school, he rented himself a room and drove a truck for a living. His idea was to save money for college and study architecture.

“Then one day I decided to join the Army because I had heard that if you joined the Army for three years, they would pay for two years of college,” he explains.

While speaking with a recruiter, who confirmed this information, Monaghan decided to sign up. What the recruiter failed to mention was that he was recruiting for the Marines. Monaghan found himself enrolled in the Corps with no way out. And the Marines did not pay for college.

Yet Monaghan discovered that the Marines would give him exactly the experience he needed.

“It was the best education that I ever got. It stripped me down and built me back up again. I got more abuse and harassment than I could ever have imagined. But it gave me lots of self-confidence,” he says.

After Monaghan finished his service in the Corps, he lost all his savings to a con man. In the midst of this tough moment, Monaghan’s brother Jim, a mailman, suggested one day they buy a bankrupt pizzeria called DomiNick’s.

“My brother didn’t want to do it alone, so I agreed to go in for half,” he says. “The idea was that I’d work and go to college the other half of the time.”

But Monaghan’s brother never did quit his job as a mailman, and Monaghan soon realized that he was stuck with the pizzeria. He bought his brother’s share and threw himself into the business.

“I was strict with my employees about grooming and about being on time — the same way I was with myself,” he says. “In the beginning, I worked long hours — about 100 hours per week. It was a necessity.”

Moment of conversion


In the end, Monaghan never did go to college. There was simply never time.

Domino’s went on to become enormously successful, paving the way for Monaghan to use his passion for architecture to design his dream house in 1989. About one-third of the way into the project, Monaghan began reading C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. He read a chapter on pride one night, and it shook him to the core.

“It made me realize what a bad person I was. Pride is the source of all sin. I did so many things to impress people — cars, yachts, this house. C.S. Lewis was saying that the reason I was working so hard was to have more. More what? More than other people.”

Monaghan decided to stop the project immediately. To this day, the house remains exactly as it was — one-third finished.

“I had never liked to show off. This book made me realize that that’s what I had been doing. From then on, I took a millionaire’s vow of poverty. I gave up the planes, the yachts. I stopped construction of the house. I had enjoyed spending too much. It was a moment of conversion. I’m so ashamed of the way I was.”

Monaghan’s conversion had a profound impact on his future plans. He began to think about giving away all of his money while he was still alive. He made the decision public in 1998 when the Detroit Free Press quoted him as saying, “I want to die broke.”

Monaghan used his characteristic ingenuity in deciding how to make that happen.

“I put a lot of thought into how to use my charity dollars. I came to the conclusion that it was to help people learn the faith. There has been a major collapse of Catholic education at all levels, so I thought I could help grade schools and high schools — and I did do it — but then I realized that the best way would be to build a university. Not too many people were in a position to do this, so I felt that I had an obligation to do it.”

Founded in 2003, Ave Maria University was the first new U.S. Catholic university in 50 years. Today, it has 1,200 students. Monaghan’s vision for Ave Maria’s future is to have 4,000 undergrad and 1,500 graduate students.

“My biggest hope is to provide teachers for Catholic schools — K through graduate school — and vocations. We must teach teachers about the Catholic faith,” he says emphatically.


Monaghan began going to daily Mass in 1983 after hearing that Don Shula, the renowned Miami Dolphins coach, was a daily communicant.

“I figured if he could find the time, then so could I,” Monaghan says.

Part of Monaghan’s daily regimen in the Marines included exercise — a habit he has maintained throughout his life. Every day he exercises 35-40 minutes on the Stairmaster, 20 minutes of upper or lower body weights, and a six-mile walk.

While he exercises, Monaghan recites five mysteries of the rosary — the mystery for the day and then all four mysteries. A cooperator with Opus Dei, he prays the morning and evening Divine Office and does various other spiritual reading.

Monaghan is also a disciplined eater. Though he loves food, he has always been careful to maintain a healthy weight. Considering the thousands of pizzas he has made, this is no small feat.

Gyrene Burger, 2012

Still the food entrepreneur, Monaghan opened a new hamburger delivery restaurant last year in Naples, Fla. He had once delivered burgers years ago through Domino’s because he thought pizza delivery was a fad. Could Monaghan’s Gyrene Burger be the next Domino’s? He doesn’t know, but he’s having fun getting the business off the ground.

On March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, Monaghan will turn 75. Asked about its significance, he shrugs. “It doesn’t mean anything. My wife is planning my birthday party. I always plan hers. My doctor says that I’m going to live to be 100.”

When questioned about his legacy in 100 years, Monaghan responds in his typical humble manner: “Well, I hope that I’m out of Purgatory by then!”

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

From ‘czar’ to president and CEO

Jim Towey comes to Ave Maria University via the George W. Bush administration . . .

Steeped in the Catholic faith, Ave Maria University’s new president and CEO Jim Towey has a deep and varied background in public service and private education — from state politics (running a 40,000-employee agency in his native Florida) to the national scene (“faith czar” in George W. Bush’s White House) to most recently serving as president of St. Vincent College.

The last post was his first experience as an academic administrator, a four-year-period he recalls as a superb learning experience for someone unused to the slow and collaborative nature of decision-making in academia versus that of politics. The school also benefited from Towey’s leadership, honed in the halls of power but humanized by his association with Blessed Mother Teresa as her attorney and long-time volunteer. Under Towey, St. Vincent witnessed record enrollments, $36 million in new fundraising pledges (compared to $15 million over the four years before his administration) and ground broken on the largest construction project in its nearly 170-year history.

A member of Legatus’ Naples Chapter, Towey took the helm at Ave Maria on March 17. He spoke to Legatus Magazine about his work ethic and the challenges ahead.

Tell us how you came to be appointed Ave Maria’s president and CEO.

Jim Towey is introduced at the new president of AMU in February 2011

I’m still surprised I’m here, actually. My family had just moved to theWashington,D.C.area last July (2010). We bought a house and transplanted our five children — ages 18, 16, 15, 11 and eight — to new schools. And we weren’t thinking I’d be going back into academia in the immediate future. I’d been consulting with the Papal Foundation and Aging with Dignity and was in the process of building a nice consulting business.

So when I was contacted by [AMU and Legatus founder] Tom Monaghan, I told him I wasn’t interested in exploring this opportunity. But his persistence in communicating his vision for AMU — and then having lunch with Michael Timmis, chairman of the board of trustees, and Michael Novak, also a trustee — led me to accept an invitation to speak on campus in January of this year.

I was familiar with AMU, having spoken at its law school back when it was in Michigan, and I’d known Tom since my White House days. But this was my first visit to AMU in Florida. In short, I was deeply moved by what’s going on here and the tremendous potential this school offers. I was impressed by the students, and the faculty here is one of the unpublicized wonders of higher education: professors who graduated from places such as Harvard, Boston College, Notre Dame — PhDs, of course — who came here to teach without having to compromise their identity as Catholics.

Ave Maria University President Jim Towey addresses Legates at the annual pro-life conference in April 2011

How did your wife and family respond to your enthusiasm?

Well, I told my wife that she had to come down here and see it for herself. She came unannounced the next week, and she agreed that this is an authentic work of the Church. It seemed against all odds, but she readily agreed to the move. It all happened very fast after that. On Feb. 8 the board of trustees chose me. On St. Patrick’s Day I was installed. There wasn’t even a search. I’m draped in Tom’s kindness and indebted to his trust.

How did your background prepare you for a college presidency?

My background in law and accounting helps me with the business side of operating a university. And working as director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives convinced me of the privileged role that faith-based organizations play in shaping society.

My work with college students during my time at the White House — visiting campuses across the country and working with White House interns — really aroused in me an interest in working with college-age students. Then there was my work with Mother Teresa, who showed me the intersection between faith and service — and the splendor of truth which she celebrated through her vocation. And she certainly had a devotion to the Blessed Mother, which is why she wore a blue and white sari. It’s nice for me to come to work every day at an institution which seeks to honor her and her Son.

What lessons can you apply to AMU that you learned the first time around as a college president?

I learned a lot about the pace of decision making in academia — a much more collaborative environment than I was accustomed to at the White House or in Florida state government. I also learned that a president has to immerse himself in the lives of the students. And I learned how the hiring and retention of good people in the administration and faculty are essential, not only to academic excellence, but to building an authentic Catholic institution of higher education.

What are your goals at AMU for the next few years?

First, to maintain the proud Catholic identity of the institution while transitioning it from a start-up to a stand-on-its-own university. Tom founded this university and has funded it with hundreds of millions of his own dollars. Well, Tom said he wanted to die a poor man, and this university is busy helping him to do it. The reality, however, is that we won’t be taken seriously in academia if we’re perceived as dependent on Tom’s wallet.

So my goal is to have a balanced budget before the board of trustees for the 2014-15 academic year, and to do that we’ll need to double our enrollment to about 1,200 undergrads. We’re in an enviable position to do so. The student housing is ready and waiting, we have state-of-the-art facilities that require little maintenance, a majestic oratory and all the land you could want to construct more facilities.

It won’t be a hard sell. I think people are very interested in forming young men and women in the truth and will invest in institutions that provide not only academic excellence, but a moral climate on campus and a proud faith life.

Ave Maria University embraces Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the Church’s constitution on Catholic higher education, but many colleges and universities calling themselves Catholic do not. How do you see the future of Catholic higher education in this country?

To me, the future of Catholic higher education will be found in places like AMU where a relationship with the Church and the local bishop isn’t perceived as a burden, but counted as a blessing. And I think, as Jesus said in John, Chapter 15, that if you cut yourself off from the vine, you won’t bear any fruit. Our vine is the Magisterium and the Catholic intellectual tradition, and we exist because of those fonts of grace, wisdom and truth.

What motivates and influences you vocationally?

My most important vocation is that of a married man with five kids. This is at the heart of my life. Then there’s Mother Teresa. I was given the signal grace of friendship with Mother Teresa for 12 years, so I’ll always be trying to pay back some of that debt. The Lord has blessed me with many great relationships that have influenced my life — with Sen. Mark Hatfield [R-Ore.] and Lawton Chiles when he was Florida governor, and of course George W. Bush — but also spiritual mentors such as Jean Vanier, Henri Nouwen and so many devout priests and religious. And most of all, I had the extraordinary experience of meeting Jesus in His disguise of the poor.

I believe the Lord led my wife Mary and me to these sacred grounds that used to be tomato fields. I remember Mother Teresa telling me to pray that I don’t spoil God’s work in my life. I find myself praying that a lot these days.

Why should business leaders, many of whom do not have a liberal arts background, want to support a Catholic liberal arts education steeped in the classics?

Schools are failing young people if they prepare them for a trade but don’t teach them how to think and write, let alone develop a moral and ethical orientation toward the good. If we don’t invest in young men and women, grounding them in a classical liberal arts education that gives them a broad and wholesome perspective on the big questions of life, we’ll have continued problems issuing from the abandonment of ethics and moral relativism that’s destroying our country.

Maybe even 30 years ago, AMU wouldn’t attract the interest it now attracts. But the culture wars, Wall Street corruption and the 2008 market collapse are compelling arguments that we need to go back to the basics: thinking, writing and embracing the transcendent morality rooted in faith traditions. These serve to educate people to think, create, ponder and produce — qualities respected by successful CEOs, who themselves are entrepreneurs and creators.

So what if undergraduates will have to get another degree later — one that’s strictly professional? The BA isn’t the end of the road. However, a liberal arts education, expressed in the context of a Catholic intellectual tradition that is faithful to the Magisterium, will give them something worth a couple extra years in school: a powerful foundation for successful lives, personal as well as professional.

Your unofficial title in the White House was “faith czar.” What do you see as the immediate prospects for religious freedom in America, particularly as they pertain to the current administration?

Very powerful forces are at work in our country seeking to promote intolerance of religion — especially in public life. So we have to be aware of the environment we live in. From that awareness, we have the responsibility not to flee a fallen culture, but to seek to uplift it through active engagement. For example, I’m one of the few college presidents who signed the “Manhattan Declaration: A Call to Christian Conscience.” It’s a simple declaration that promoting the sanctity of life, the institution of marriage and religious liberty are fundamental things worth fighting for. You’d think that agreeing with this proposition wouldn’t be controversial. But nowadays, sadly, it is.

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus Magazine’s editorial assistant. An abridged version of this article appeared in the September issue of Legatus Magazine.