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A new captain at the helm

Ave Maria School of Law emerges from turbulent waters

Kevin Cieply

Kevin Cieply

When Kevin Cieply became dean and president of Ave Maria School of Law a little more than a year ago, he knew he was assuming the helm of a ship that had passed through some rough waters.

But today, the retired U.S. Army Colonel and former Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG) Officer is convinced the school has emerged from the turbulence that followed its move from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Naples, FLA. Cieply believes it’s on the way to becoming an influential, significant law school in southwest Florida as well as the nation.

Growing success

Despite a successful start following its founding by Tom Monaghan in 1999, Ave Maria Law lost students and faculty with its 2009 move to Naples, and it slipped to the bottom of state bar exam passage rankings.

As a newcomer to the law school, Cieply said he brings “a fresh look at the school and a look that is not necessarily tethered to that experience.”

Indeed, a string of successes followed the new dean’s arrival in Naples, although he credits many others for their work preceding his appointment.

In October, for example, the school won a favorable federal court ruling in its challenge to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ contraception mandate. Cieply said the case was underway before he arrived and that his predecessor did a great deal of work on it.

“I came in at the end — right before the decision,” he said, adding that the school is now awaiting a ruling in a case involving EWTN. “Whatever is decided in the 11th Circuit in that case will dictate how our case eventually goes.”

Another indication that things are going well for Ave Maria School of Law is its move in February from the bottom to the top (83%) of Florida’s rankings for first-time passage of the state bar exam. Also, in March, the Diocese of Venice officially recognized the school as a Catholic institute of higher learning. Then, in April, Ave Maria Law announced a $1 million gift and purchase of the North Naples campus it had been renting from Ave Maria University.

A member of Legatus’ Naples Chapter, Cieply said these successes represent work by many people. “There’s no way I would say they’re my accomplishment, but the school’s. You just don’t accomplish those things by yourself.”


Undergirding the school’s success is clarity about its mission, Cieply said.

“We know what our purpose is,” he explained. “We aren’t struggling to find our niche or our relevance. We know we’ve got a clearly defined mission, and I see us as the manifestation of Tom Monaghan’s dream to make Catholic education relevant and a change agent for society.”

Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, which promotes and defends faithful Catholic education, said Ave Maria stands apart from other Catholic law schools with its strong emphasis on Catholic identity.

Reilly said he’s been encouraged by Cieply’s confident approach in recruiting students based on that identity. “Even some faithful Catholic institutions tend to downplay their character and he has made it a strong marketing point for the law school.”

Thomas Flickinger, a member of Legatus’ Grand Rapids Chapter, was in the law school’s first graduating class. Flickinger said he thinks the school’s greatest strength is its loyalty to the Church and its ability to train future lawyers to think not only of what can be accomplished legally, but what is ethical and morally permitted.

“Many people today figure ‘if it’s legal, it must be moral,’ but we were also trained to consider the ethics of the situation,” he explained.

Every class he took, Flickinger said, tied into the Catholic faith — whether it was reading encyclicals in property class or studying Thomistic philosopher Germain Grisez in professional liability class.

Besides infusing Church teachings into the curriculum, the school expresses its Catholic identity by opening classes with prayer and providing two Masses a day, a crucifix in every classroom, and a chaplain on campus.

To bolster its Catholic identity, Ave Maria Law has made an effort to recruit students from colleges and universities listed in the Cardinal Newman Society’s Newman Guide, which recommends schools committed to a faithful Catholic education.

Newman Guide schools, Reilly said, not only provide an outstanding liberal arts education that lends itself to a law degree, but have a strong mission fit with Ave Maria.

Last year, he said, with funding from Monaghan, the law school instituted a program offering full scholarships for students graduating from Newman Guide colleges and universities.

Twenty new students are entering the law school this fall on those scholarships. They, along with other students recruited from Newman Guide schools, will boost the Catholic student body, which last year was at 63%.

The school accepts students from all faiths without shying away from the fact that it’s Catholic, Cieply said.

“We pride ourselves on having a special fidelity to the Catholic Church and its teachings as well as the natural law,” he explained.

“We welcome anybody and everybody that will respect our mission.”

Challenges and priorities

In 2014, Ave Maria School of Law was named the best Catholic law school in the U.S. for the devout by National Jurist’s PreLaw Magazine.

To sustain and build on its high bar passage rate, Cieply said the school has hired a director of bar passage and made curriculum changes related to bar exam performance —including the addition of a one-credit course, Legal Case Analysis and Skills Enrichment. The new course, which will be offered for the first time during orientation week this fall, covers critical thinking and reading, how to brief cases, and how to structure answers for law school exams.

Cieply said his greatest challenge at this juncture is to improve the school’s financial position. The purchase of the North Naples campus was a step in that direction — in part because it will provide naming opportunities for buildings, attracting more substantial benefactors.

Among his top priorities is getting Ave Maria Law off a U.S. Department of Education financial watch list, where it has been for the last 11 years. Its presence on the list is unrelated to management of money, he said, but indicates that the school is tuition-dependent and without significant assets, endowments or equity. The school is slowly building a sound financial base, he said, adding he is hopeful that with some additional gifts, it can move off the list.

As Ave Maria approaches its 15th anniversary, Flickinger said he sees the biggest challenge as continuing to build its reputation in the legal community.

“Too many people still don’t know about the school and the many successful attorneys it has trained,” he said. “But the focus cannot simply be on the worldly view of success. The school was inspired by the encyclical Fides et Ratio; both faith and reason must flourish at AMSL for it to be truly successful.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Learn more: avemarialaw.edu

Silver anniversary summit

President George Bush to headline Legatus’ 25th anniversary Summit in February . . .

George W. Bush

The upcoming annual Summit — only four months away — will mark Legatus’ 25th anniversary, and the response to this milestone event has been enthusiastic. Legates have already begun reserving their rooms at the Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort in Naples, Fla. Because a capacity crowd is anticipated, event organizers suggest booking a room as early as possible for the Feb. 2-4 event.

The Summit’s theme, “Living the Fullness of Faith,” takes its inspiration from Christ’s declaration, “Behold I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). The roster of speakers and special guests is accordingly full and faithful, featuring faces new to Legatus as well as seasoned Summit veterans. Confirmed faculty include:

• President George W. Bush, who wowed Legates at the 2010 Summit

• Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura at the Vatican, the main celebrant and homilist for the opening Mass

Cardinal Raymond Burke

• Dr. William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

• Donohue’s fellow New Yorker Fr. George Rutler, Legatus’ former national chaplain and current host of the long-running EWTN program Christ in the City

• Legatus’ current international chaplain Bishop Sam Jacobs of the Houma Thibodaux (La.) diocese, main celebrant of the Friday Mass, which will held at the Oratory in Ave Maria, Fla.

• J. David Karam, president of Wendy’s International, noted philanthropist, chair of the Professional Advisory Council for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and trustee of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption

• Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a convert from Hinduism to Catholicism

Dr. William Donohue

• Republican U.S. Senator from Florida Marco Rubio

Carolyn Woo, newly appointed president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services

As at every past national conference, Legatus’ silver Summit will be graced with priests renowned for their spiritual leadership. In addition to addressing the attendees, they will celebrate daily Mass, hear confessions and offer private spiritual direction.

The 2012 Summit is hosted by the Legatus’ Genesis Chapter, based in Toledo, Ohio. Legatus conference director Laura Sacha says she’s heartened by members’ enthusiastic response to this milestone event, which promises to be one of the biggest ever.

“My hope for this event is my hope for all Legatus summits — namely, to provide an opportunity for members to renew a commitment to the Legatus mission as we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, enjoy the fellowship of faithful Catholic business leaders and hear from dynamic speakers covering a variety of issues.”

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus Magazine’s editorial assistant.

Legates urged to evangelize

Catholic business leaders must know Christ, speakers say at record-breaking Summit . . .

Despite one of the biggest blizzards in recent history blanketing a third of the nation, the 2011 Legatus Summit realized a near-record turnout of over 500 attendees — including some 430 Legates, plus guests, VIPs and staff.

The Feb. 3-5 event, held at the Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort in Naples, Fla., drew a stellar line-up of speakers and provided members with daily Eucharistic adoration, Confession and Mass. Drawing on the Summit’s theme, “Communicating the Word,” speakers urged members to know Christ personally and make Him known.

Jesus is the Word

Fr. John Corapi makes a point at the Legatus Summit on Feb. 4

Fr. John Corapi makes a point at the Legatus Summit on Feb. 4

Speaking directly to the Summit’s theme, renowned preacher Fr. John Corapi told Legates that the Word of God isn’t something, but Somebody.

“In the eternal silence of the Trinity, God spoke only one word, ‘Jesus,’ and He has nothing more to say. The Word of God is Jesus.”

In his four one-hour sessions, Fr. Corapi encouraged attendees to study their faith. “If we’re going to communicate the Word, we need to know the Word,” he said. “And not just know it, but we must be one with the Word.”

The surest way to know the faith, he said, is to study the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “You can’t give what you don’t have. This is all the more important for you ambassadors. You’re leaders, point men. And the bigger the man, the bigger the target, especially when it comes to being stricken with fear and anxiety, two things I’ve heard from many attendees. But remember this: Without God, we are nothing. But when we are united to him, even at our weakest, we are strong.”

Justice Clarence Thomas enjoys a laugh at the Summit on Feb. 4

Justice Clarence Thomas enjoys a laugh at the Summit on Feb. 4

Equally compelling was Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who had attendees alternately laughing aloud and getting misty-eyed. Thomas himself became emotional as he spoke about his maternal grandfather, a Catholic convert who raised him. But Thomas, one of six Catholics on the high court, also addressed fear.

“It’s easy for us to hide our faith today — people not wanting to wish each other a merry Christmas, make the Sign of the Cross at restaurants, guys who will only whisper to their wives, ‘I love you.’ Why should we be so afraid? Why should we hide the things that are — or should be — most meaningful in our lives?”

Justice Thomas signs his book for a Legatus member

Justice Thomas signs his book for a Legatus member

Thomas, who delivered his remarks in an easy, unrehearsed style, spoke of integrity anchored in Christ. “What word would you be communicating to your children by living a life without principle, without faith? What word would I be communicating if, as a judge, I didn’t live up to my own word expressed in that oath I took?”

The Georgia native lingered for more than an hour after his talk, signing books and chatting with members.


Archbishop Jose Gomez preaches the homily at the Summit's opening Mass on Feb. 3

Renewed by the Word

Los Angeles Archbishop José Gómez, who celebrated the Summit’s opening Mass, applauded Legates’ efforts as ambassadors of Christ.

“Legatus represents the spirit of the new evangelization because this new evangelization is founded upon an ideal of holiness which sounds new, but is truly ancient: to faithfully fulfill our daily duties as Christians wherever we find ourselves,” he said in his address to members on the Summit’s second day.

“Saint Paul said, ‘Whatever you do, do for the glory of God.’ In Legatus, you know that we must do this for God, our communities and our country,” he continued. “You are leading efforts for the renewal of the American spirit and character, a renewal of the ideals this nation was founded upon.”

On the divisive issue of illegal immigration, the Mexican-born prelate said he understood the “anger and frustration” among many native-born Americans. However, he said, it’s essential to treat immigrants with Christian charity, papers or not.

Austin Ruse addresses Legates on Feb. 5

Austin Ruse addresses Legates on Feb. 5

Other speakers included the Knights of Columbus’ Supreme Knight Carl Anderson; Austin Ruse, president and founder of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute; Mother Assumpta Long, prioress general and a founding member of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist; and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough, who encouraged a renewed appreciation of Americans who sacrificed to get the country out of similarly dark times.

Legendary college football coach Lou Holtz gave a rousing talk that linked faith and virtue, complemented by a good dose of humor.

“Life’s not complicated,” Holtz said repeatedly. “Life can be tough but it’s not complicated, believing as we do in a God whose essence is simplicity itself.”

Legendary football coach Lou Holtz makes a point during his talk on Feb. 5

Legendary football coach Lou Holtz makes a point during his talk on Feb. 5

Holtz, who also spent more than an hour patiently signing books and chatting with Legates, said that he has tried to live by three rules: “Do what’s right, do everything the best you can in the time you have to do it, and always show people you genuinely care.”

Take-home value

The Summit’s atmosphere and attendance mirrored that of last year’s record-setting event in Dana Point, Calif. Members appreciated the liturgies, which drew about 30 chaplains and prelates, including Legatus’ international chaplain Bishop Sam Jacobs; Bishop Roger Gries, OSB, chaplain of Legatus’ Cleveland Chapter; Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Fla.; and Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki, former secretary to Pope John Paul II.

Summit veteran J. Kevin Hand, a member of Legatus’ Hollywood Chapter, has been to 17 annual conferences. “It’s been one of the best for spiritual growth, encouraging us to reach out and spread the Gospel,” he said. “Clarence Thomas set the tone with his openness about living one’s faith wherever one finds oneself in the world. Father Corapi spoke so compellingly about our role in counteracting opposition to God and his Church through proper formation of our faith lives.”

Master of Ceremonies Sherri Van Meter gets into the Super Bowl spirit

Master of Ceremonies Sherri Van Meter gets into the Super Bowl spirit

Shaji Chacko is an executive of an aluminum company in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He joined Legatus last year.

“I feel very blessed to be here,” he said. “Christians should share Jesus Christ with the world. This has been a great time to reflect and learn how to more practically fulfill our mission. If you want to be driven in Catholic leadership, you can’t complain. You’ve got to get involved,” said the native of Kerala, India, whose first Christian community was founded by St. Thomas the Apostle. “Legatus helps me serve this end.”

Keith Armato served as Summit chairman, and his Chicago chapter hosted the event.

“It was a joy to add a Chicago flavor to the Summit,” he said. “All our speakers gave a very different presentation than they would to other groups. Legatus is special and this is evident to our speakers. To a person, the presentations were heartfelt and personal. Thus the speakers were able to connect to our members and share very personal reflections.”

Armato says the chapter tried a few different things at this Summit, which were well received.

Bishop Frank Dewane celebrates Mass for Legates on Feb. 4

Bishop Frank Dewane celebrates Mass for Legates on Feb. 4

“Our objective was not to plan a three-day event but enhance a successful Summit model that will serve us into the future,” he explained. “Our success will only be achieved when we are able to present an event that no Legate can pass up. Legatus is a family and if 10% of a family came to a Christmas or Easter dinner we would know that, although the home was decorated and the food was excellent, there was something important missing. We should only claim that we have achieved a success when 100% of our Legatus family joins us at the Summit.”

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus Magazine’s editorial assistant.


Papal Blessings

Legates attending Mass on the second day of Legatus’ annual Summit received a double blessing during the liturgy with news of a papal blessing for attendees.

Principal celebrant Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Fla., read a letter from Pope Benedict XVI. Signed by the Vatican’s substitute secretary of state, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, the letter imparted the Holy Father’s blessings and encouragement.

“The Holy Father’s blessing and friendship is a gift to Legatus,” acknowledged Legatus’ executive director John Hunt. “Our spiritual filiation with His Holiness is a source of strength and comfort in these challenging times.”

This is the first time that the current pontiff has publicly praised Legatus. Pope John Paul II acknowledged Legatus three times during his weekly general audiences. He also met with members privately on several occasions.

Pope Benedict’s communiqué conveyed his prayers that “the members of this worthy Catholic association will be confirmed in their commitment to bear witness to the faith and to promote the values of God’s Kingdom within the business community.” Invoking upon Legates and their families “the joy and peace that flow from fidelity to Christ and his Church,” he “cordially impart[ed] his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of abundant graces.”

—Matthew Rarey


2010 Award Winners

Ambassador of the Year: Dr. Richard Toussaint

Officers of the Year: Rusty & Cookie Reed

Courage in the Marketplace: Sean Flanagan

Sr. Rosalind Moss & Tom Monaghan

Sr. Rosalind Moss & Tom Monaghan

Cardinal O’Connor Pro-Life Award: Alveda King, Sam & Gloria Lee, Monsignor Philip Reilly

Bowie Kuhn Special Award for Evangelization: Sr. Rosalind Moss

Defender of the Faith Award: Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Campbell Award: Lincoln, Genesis, Orlando, Philadelphia, Orange Coast

Angott Award: Baton Rouge, San Juan Capistrano

Communicating the World

Justice Clarence Thomas, Fr. John Corapi are a few of the faculty at our annual Summit . . .

Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas

If the early Christians kept their faith private, the Church would have remained a mustard seed in Israel. But because they were zealous to share it, the faith fast started growing into the mighty tree whose branches have been sheltering souls around the world for the past 20 centuries.

The early Christians’ work is not done, however. For the tree to grow and flourish, each generation of Christians is obligated to perform a duty so obvious that it’s often neglected: communicate the faith. Christians must not keep their faith in the cellar, but as Christ commanded, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:16).

Stellar speakers

Inspired by the Lord’s command, “Communicating the Word” is the theme of the upcoming Annual Legatus Summit, Feb. 3-5 in Naples, Fla.

Lou Holtz

Lou Holtz

How can Legates better communicate the Word in their professional and personal lives? The Summit will offer helpful ways of doing so in a setting of spiritual refreshment, fellowship, good cheer and the occasional golf swing at the elegant Ritz-Carlton Resort.

A stellar lineup of speakers will give powerful testimonies about spreading the faith in everyday life. Presenters include Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, legendary Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus.

Legates will also hear from Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) president Austin Ruse, and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough.

Spiritual leadership

In addition to these lay leaders, the Summit will be graced with priests remarkable for their spiritual leadership. In addition to addressing the attendees, they will celebrate daily Mass, hear confessions and offer private spiritual direction.

Archbishop Jose Gomez

Archbishop Jose Gomez

The roster of reverends will include opening Mass celebrant Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles, Bishop Frank Dewane of the Venice, Fla., diocese, Bishop Sam Jacobs of the Houma-Thibodaux, La., diocese, and Fr. John Corapi SOLT, a man whose preaching has made him a living legend.

Indeed, Fr. Corapi’s journey to the priesthood is itself legendary. After becoming a millionaire businessman who lost everything to cocaine addiction, he had a road-to-Damascus experience that launched a vocation that has transformed countless lives. Besides speaking on the Summit’s second day, Fr. Corapi will conduct a two-hour retreat on day three.

Summit chair Keith Armato eagerly anticipates next February.

“The presentations, discussions and support derived from a local chapter are fuel allowing Legates to fulfill our mission to study, live and spread the faith,” said Armato, a member of the Chicago Chapter and member of Legatus’ board of governors. “But sometimes familiarity with a group can lead to a reduction in the efficacy of that fuel. A national Legatus Summit can often be the cure.”

Carl Anderson

Carl Anderson

Armato wants Legates from across the country “to experience a program carefully designed to bring us to a new level of understanding of how we can impact others in ‘Communicating the Word.’”

Last year’s Summit saw a record-setting 450 Legates congregate in California. According to Legatus conference director Laura Sacha, that number is on its way to being matched in California’s sunny Eastern counterpart — and possibly exceeded.

“In 2010 we saw new energy flow through the Summit, and we’re hopeful that ‘they will come’ in 2011,” she says. “A summit is so many things — spiritual, first and foremost, educational and fun. Your Legatus experience simply isn’t complete until you’ve attended a summit.”

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus Magazine’s editorial assistant.