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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Shame of Notre Dame University

By Susan Fox
I am the Catholic mother of a college age son, a brilliant college age son majoring in math at Ave Maria University. He will be a senior next year.

His SAT scores could have gotten him into MIT, Harvard, Cal Tech or Notre Dame University. But he did not apply for any of those schools. And are we ever glad!

I know Catholic home-schooling mothers who sent their sons and daughters to Notre Dame University, saying that they would find a good Catholic mentor, a professor, who could tell their child what professors to trust and which ones to avoid. Therefore, by this means their children would not be wrongly educated on their faith, natural law or basic human rights.

I’m sure that many of these mothers did God’s will in this matter, and many of their children have received excellent educations, and found wonderful Catholic communities within Notre Dame. I’m sure that some of these mothers are the martyrs that we are witnessing on U Tube arrested on Sunday for attempting to pray the Rosary on the Notre Dame campus while the most pro-abortion American president in U.S. history gave the commencement address.

However, now that Notre Dame President John I. Jenkins has chosen to invite this president (Barack Obama) and give him an honorary degree, I think it’s time for Catholics to demand that Fr. Jenkins be fired immediately. And if that doesn’t take place, cease all financial support for the college. And to the Catholic Bishop of South Bend, Indiana, John D'Arcy, please take the name of the Mother of God off that school! (Notre Dame means Our Lady) Thank you, bishop, for skipping the commencement address, but frankly I think more needs to be done.
Why am I so angry? I have been watching the arrests of innocent Catholics who attempted to walk onto a private so-called “Catholic” school saying the Rosary. The worst video was watching the arrest of the 80-year-old priest, Fr. Norman Weslin. He was carrying the cross! Imagine an 80-year-old priest carrying the cross and he didn’t fight the police when they came to get them, but they still tied the poor man up and carried him away! Shame, shame, shame on Notre Dame University.

See the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiz4tfjSuPc

He sang Immaculate Mary while he was being arrested. God bless this holy witness for Jesus Christ.
On Sunday, the people arrested for trying to pray the Rosary on campus include a Who’s Who of pro-life Catholic martyrs, including Dr. Alan Keyes, an honorable pro-life black Catholic who ran against Obama for the Chicago Senate Seat and lost. Dr. Keyes also ran for U.S. president on more than one occasion, and Americans rejected the best option we’ve had for president for some time. So God has given us what we want in Barack Obama. May God help our nation.

This is the video of Dr. Keyes’s trespass warning in which he gives his reasons for wanting to enter campus during the commencement address. He rightly demands that the name Notre Dame (Our Lady) be taken from the university. Look at the face of the guy who is issuing the trespass warning. He looks miserable as he is forced to listen to Dr. Keyes instruct him in the Catholic faith.


Here Dr. Alan Keyes is being arrested:


Among those arrested was also Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe in Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973. She went through a dramatic conversion in 1995, became pro-life and joined the Catholic Church. It goes to show that prayer works as many Catholics prayed for “Jane Roe” and her conversion.

But the video that really irritated me showed that these so-called “protestors” were merely marching peacefully on the sidewalks praying the Rosary, although they did intend to enter the campus. This link will take you to a page on Obama's speech at Notre Dame But you have to look in the article and click on "Watch Police arrest anti-Obama demonstrators."


Please pray for our nation.

Ave Maria University: A hopeful alternative to Notre Dame

 By Susan Fox

Feb. 16, 2006 -- Last year, I attended a healing service at my parish. I was asked to pray for the person sitting next to me.

This happened to be my home-schooled, 17-year-old son,
who had decided to go to college and major in Mathematics. So I said to the Lord, “Please, God, help us find a good Catholic college with a Math degree.”

The next night on the internet I found Ave Maria University of Naples, Florida.

And last weekend, I visited this university at their open house. Today, I am simply marveling that such a wonderful Catholic education is available to our sons and daughters. You probably know the horror stories at other universities. One of my friends overheard a mother bragging that her husband didn’t have to send their daughter any condoms at college because the university issued 50 to each student every semester. This university happened to have an excellent Math program.

But my husband and I took our son, James, out of Catholic school when he was 9 for the very same reasons we don’t want to send him to Condom University. It’s not that we don’t trust him. But we see that James’s emotional and spiritual growth is not finished. He needs a community that will nurture him both as a unique individual and as a Catholic individual.
I think Ave Maria is such a school.

One of the AMU students told us he had the ability to play the ukulele, and people used to make fun of him for it. But when he came to Ave Maria University, they said, “Ahh, you have a talent.” That summed up the attitude I saw in every adult involved in that school.

The school’s provost, Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J. is a stunning example. The founder of Ignatius Press and a former student of Pope Benedict XVI, with whom he maintains a warm and cordial relationship, Fr. Fessio lives in a little yellow house next to the campus pool and cafeteria, a central meeting place on the temporary campus. And when he turns the light on at his house, all are welcome to knock, although we found it more likely to see him running around campus or sitting in a group with students. The other priests on campus also can be interrupted at any time in order to ask for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The temporary campus is new and small, but beautiful. The permanent campus – to be built in the center of a 10,000-acre housing and commercial development in the midst of a rural preserve -- will be ready in 2007-2008. Masses were said in the multipurpose room, but a gorgeous copper bas-relief of the crucifixion graced the wall behind the altar. And similar works of art, showing Sts. Peter and Paul, were on each side of the altar.

With regard to the liturgy, they cater to every taste, including those of charismatics, but on Sunday we attended the “festive Latin Mass.” Fr. Fessio celebrated the Mass. He explained in the sermon why all of the students at Ave Maria – even the Math majors -- are required to take Latin by reading the opening prayer of the Mass in English, and then giving us a true translation from the Latin.

The banal English of the prayer, easily ignored as irrelevant, suddenly was transformed into something quite lovely. The English translation read, “God Our Father, you have promised to remain forever with those who do what is just and right. Help us to live in your presence.” But by our own power, we don’t do “what is just and right.” And the Latin reflected this. It showed that God’s work is to help us live in holiness so that we can live in His presence. Obviously, to be Catholic in the future means to be able to read our Latin heritage.

Fr. Fessio faced the congregation during the Liturgy of the Word, but he turned his back to the congregation and directed his attention toward the East -- the rising Christ -- during the second half of the Mass. This posture is called Ad Orientum. With this posture, the priest is no longer the center of attention. God is.

Meanwhile, a group of students sitting in the back conducted the music portion of the Mass. They sang Gregorian chant and other Latin and English songs from our Catholic heritage. Everything they performed was reverent and lovely – never boring. The music actually led me to prayer instead of distracting me. Ave Maria is building a strong music curriculum. They hope they are training the future liturgists for all the parishes in the United States. If they are successful, we will see our Holy Mass in English restored to its original loveliness. They require all students to take chorus, even the Math majors. Music is part of being Catholic.

The multipurpose room on Saturday night was transformed into an Irish Festival. A curtain covered the altar, and white cloth was placed over the pictures of Peter and Paul, and the Stations of the Cross. Green shamrock lights were everywhere, and tables were set up like a dinner theatre. The University’s Irish dance club performed. Admissions Director Richard Dittus with his six home-schooled children and wife performed some of the loveliest Irish music I’ve ever heard. Priests and sisters mingled with Ave Maria students, enjoying the festivities, eating cookies and drinking punch. There was no alcohol. All were able to get up later in the evening and learn the Irish dance. It was enormous fun.

Such entertainment was not just for the open house weekend. They recently held an 19th century ball in full costume, and one of the young men told me he had enjoyed learning formal dance! The story is that Fr. Fessio ran into some of the Ave Maria students crammed into a small car on a Saturday night, and he asked them where they were going. They said, “To the movies.” He thought that was a pitiful source of entertainment. Now the university has intramural sports, drama clubs, swing dancing, a barbershop quartet, Frisbee tournaments at midnight and lots of other things for the youth to do. I asked one student if he had EWTN on the dorm television. He said, “I don’t know.” I looked at him, and said, “You don’t watch TV, do you?” No, he didn’t.

A number of young men are discerning a vocation to the priesthood. They live on the second floor of the men’s dorm with a priest in residence. They are given spiritual direction, have their own chapel and say the liturgy in common. If they decide not to become a priest, Fr. Fessio says the formation will make them excellent husbands. We met one of these, a senior at Ave Maria, who told us he had the vocation to be a friar. He said this would be an active vocation with contemplation as its basis. He was looking for a discalced (shoeless) order of Franciscans. I said, “You want to live barefoot? In an active vocation?” And he nodded.

I suddenly remembered the first 12 Franciscan missionaries, who landed at Vera Cruz, Mexico, in 1524 in order to convert the Aztecs to Christianity. They walked barefoot 125 miles from Vera Cruz to Mexico City, as did all their Franciscan successors for the next 250 years -- Fr. Junipero Serra among them. In fact that is how the great saint of California’s evangelization became lame. He received a poisonous bite on his foot on that first journey to Mexico City in 1749. Now in 2006, I was sitting in Florida with a young man who wanted to make the same sacrifice. “What kind of love must have pierced this young heart?” I wondered.

My husband recognized the source. Just before we came to Ave Maria, he had a dream of trees planted near water with roots growing all down their sides. These were naturally very healthy trees. The psalms and the Book of Revelation discuss such trees as an allegory for the soul who puts his roots deep into the Life of God. Nothing can disturb or harm such a tree. The trees my husband saw in his dream actually exist near the hotel we stayed at in North Naples within three miles of the temporary campus. Neither of us had ever seen such trees before, but they must be common in the Everglades – just as Eucharistic Adoration is common at AMU.
On campus, they have formed households -- smaller groups that support one another within the larger dormitory living. Joining is optional. The households’ names read like the Litany of the Saints. I could pray my way through the list. They also have the Knights of Columbus, a Philosophy Club, AMU Chastity Team, Students for Life and an outreach to the poor, and many others. And if they don’t have your favorite Catholic organization, you can start one.

James enjoyed meeting his future Math and Physics teachers. As I look over the faculty listing for Ave Maria, it seems like almost all have PhD’s from excellent universities. Both the Math and Physics teachers probably gave up good positions to come to an unaccredited new school. The Math professor said he took the job because he believed in Catholic education. My son is going to major in Math and minor in Physics, which is the basic preparation for an engineer. The teachers said by having a strong science background in his degree, he will actually have a better preparation for engineering than if he had an engineering degree. Currently, they have degrees in Economics, Politics, Biology, the Classics, History, Literature, Philosophy, Theology, Music and Mathematics. A pre-law program is formed by combining Politics, Economics and History. Pre-med is done similarly, and there is an Economics degree with a Business emphasis. Fr. Fessio said he plans to add the following bachelor’s degrees to the university: Physics and Computer Science.

But what about accreditation? Ave Maria is pre-accredited with the American Academy of Liberal Education with full accreditation expected next year. That means if you are eligible for a federal grant you can receive it now while attending AMU. The regional accreditation is expected by 2010. Last year, all 20 plus grads of the school got the jobs they wanted or got into their preferred graduate school, according to Fr. Fessio, minus one that is still undecided.

One gutsy young woman told us she had just transferred from another Catholic university in the middle of her sophomore year because she didn’t like wondering if her teachers were giving her Catholic truth or their own agenda. She was a pre-Med student. The basic courses required for Medical school are Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Math. All are offered at Ave Maria. But on top of that, this co-ed is getting a beautiful core curriculum with all the basics of our Catholic heritage: Western and American Civilization, philosophy, theology, Fine Arts and Music, natural sciences, mathematics, Sacred Doctrine, Scripture, Literature of Western Civilization and Latin. Ave Maria is unique in that it requires half of their degree credits be in liberal arts.

Asked to describe Ave Maria in just one word, a panel of students came up with this partial list: “truth,” “balanced,” “faith.” Ah, faith. That word resonated with me. It took faith for my family to apply to a university that costs $22,000 a year. Academic scholarships are available based on GPA and SAT scores. It pays to take the SAT more than once. They use your highest score regardless of whether you took it first or last. Last year, they gave out 28 academic scholarships ranging from full to partial tuition out of a Freshman class of 125. But there is no fixed number of academic scholarships. They are based solely on the individual student’s performance.

I myself went to a Catholic university in the 1970s, and I loved the daily availability of the Mass – even if it was celebrated hippie-like with our arms around each other in a circle around the altar while we sang meaningless songs about love. But nothing ever happened on that campus like what I experienced at noon on Sunday Feb. 12 in the noisy student cafeteria at Ave Maria University. A bell rang, and every single person in the room stood, faced the crucifix and with great reverence prayed the Angelus. “And she conceived of the Holy Spirit. . . And the Word was made Flesh. And dwelt among us.” Ave Maria!