The New Year is off to a fast start but 2013 will be a tough act to follow!
For the Church, an unprecedented resignation by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the emergence of Pope Francis highlighted the “Year of Faith.” And for Ave Maria University, a number of milestone achievements marked a remarkably successful 2013:
· Another year of record enrollment and a widely-publicized 22% reduction in the University’s tuition and fees “sticker price” for fall 2014
· A refinancing of our debt and liberation from the merciless grip of two banks
· The sale of the Latin America Campus in Nicaragua which had lost over $7 million since its acquisition
· Nine new majors, including nursing, and the arrival of eight new full-time faculty members
· Student life improvements, including the return of inter-visitation in the residence halls and the inauguration of on-campus football games (including the first one: a miraculous, come-from-behind win over Florida Tech in the very last second of the contest)
As our students arrive in a week and we continue the celebration of our 10th anniversary as a university, we are excited about our new Mother Teresa Project. It was officially approved by the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta (Blessed Mother Teresa’s religious order) in 2013 and we were blessed to have Sister Dorothy, the fourth woman to join Mother, at its announcement in October.
Students returning for the spring semester will have the opportunity to become “Mother Teresa Scholars” through participating in a program of formation in Mother Teresa’s spirituality and a goodly number of hours of volunteer service. In 2014 we expect delegations of AMU students to continue to serve our neighboring farmworker community in Immokalee, as well as go on missions to Calcutta, Port au Prince and Mexico City to serve with the MC’s and encounter Jesus in “His distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor” (Mother’s words).
No university in America is more aligned with the teachings of Mother Teresa and John Paul II than Ave Maria, and the Mother Teresa Project Museum that will open next to our Oratory church in February (God and contractors willing!) will draw visitors from all over the world and spread greater devotion to this extraordinary, saintly woman. This project would not be possible were it not for a very generous grant of $2 million to fund its first four years.
2014 will also be the year that our Federal lawsuit against the immoral Obamacare regulation is resolved. Win or lose, Ave Maria University will not comply with a mandate that makes us choose between violating our sincerely held religious beliefs or pay ruinous fines. I’ll post something on that in a later blog as obviously we have much at stake in the U.S. Supreme Court deliberation in their next term.
So as you can see, this new year will be action-packed. I’m off to the Canizaro library and a lecture by Dr. Robert Kennedy of the University of St. Thomas (and an AMU trustee) as the conference examining “The Uniquely Catholic Dimensions of Undergraduate Business Education” concludes. This remarkable three-day symposium was spearheaded by our very own Dr. Gabriel Martinez and has attracted dozens of scholars from the University of Notre Dame, University of Dayton, St. Joseph’s, and other fine Catholic institutions.
Even when our students aren’t here, the research and mighty contributions of our AMU professors marches on! The Lord in His providence timed this conference to allow these professors to escape their miserably grey, frigid campuses in the Northeast and Midwest! It will be 77 degrees today. Just saying.