“At Ave Maria University, they are putting a large sculpture of the Annunciation over the doors of their oratory. We met the artist, Marton Varo, who is working to create it and he gave us a piece of the marble chipped from the sculpture as a remembrance of our visit.” Pilot photo/Courtesy Ave Maria University
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Last Thursday, I was very honored to receive an honorary doctorate from Ave Maria University in Florida.
Ave Maria is a relatively new Catholic university that was founded by Tom Monaghan, a man who had been raised in a Catholic orphanage and became a multi-millionaire as the founder of Domino’s Pizza.
At one point in his life after reading C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” he had a deep conversion and has decided to use all of his wealth on behalf of the Church and society.
I first became aware of his work when he rebuilt the cathedral in Managua, Nicaragua, after the earthquake there in 1972. He also sent his plane to the Virgin Islands with generators when I was trying to open the schools after Hurricane Hugo.
We opened the Catholic schools immediately in tents but I needed generators to be able to flush the toilets. I told the pastors: If we can flush the toilets we can open the schools.
The public schools were closed for about two years, but we opened the Catholic schools immediately. His jet plane brought the generators down and, when he landed, all the people on St. Croix were so excited. The planes said Domino’s Pizza on them and we were living on coconut milk and cold baked beans at the time. They said “The bishop sent out for pizza!”
This was my first visit to the campus there in Florida, near Naples. The president is Dr. Nick Healy, who is the uncle of a Boston priest serving on the faculty of St. John’s, Father Bob Oliver. The university has about 800 students at that campus, another 500 in Nicaragua, plus the law school, which they have moved down to Naples.
We met a number of the students from Boston who are there, and some of the members of the faculty who had gone to Boston College.
I was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters, which they presented to me at the end of the Baccalaureate Mass I celebrated the evening before the commencement.
Ave Maria, like Steubenville, Magdalen College and Thomas More College, are colleges that have come about to give a very serious Catholic formation to their students through their strong Catholic identity.
On Sunday, I was back in Boston to celebrate a Mother’s Day Mass at St. Peter Parish in Dorchester with the Cape Verdean community. I concelebrated with St. Peter’s pastor, Father Jack Ahern.
Afterwards, we visited the parish center. The church was full. They had a wonderful musical program in honor of the mothers.
The Capuchins have had a very longstanding relationship with the Cape Verdean community since the time of Padre Pio and the Hermanas Franciscanas de la Imaculada Concepcion (Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception), an order founded by Padre Pio to work among the Cape Verdeans.
The Mass ended with a crowning with the Holy Ghost crown because the Sundays before Pentecost for the Portuguese-speaking Catholics are the “Domingas.”
At the end of Mass a family is consecrated to the Holy Spirit. They take the Holy Ghost crown to their home for a week, and then the following week another family will have it -- all part of the Novena before Pentecost.
On the way to the Mass, I stopped off at the Mothers Walk for Peace that takes place each year in Dorchester. Many mothers who were in the march also participated in the Mass at St. Peter’s.