Bishop celebrates Mass at university

The Ave Maria University 2023-2024 Academic Year opened with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Aug. 21, 2023.

Prior to the opening hymn, students carrying banners, representing different houses (themed resident halls) of the university, came forward, and they were followed by faculty, dressed in their doctoral robes and seated up front while the students sat behind. Concelebrating the Mass with Bishop Dewane were priests who serve the spiritual needs of the students on campus and in Ave Maria Parish.

The Bishop and priests wore red vestments, to mark the celebration of a Mass of the Holy Spirit, whereupon the community gathers to thank God for the gifts of creation and salvation and to seek the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit in the coming year.

Bishop Dewane welcomed new and returning students for the start of a new Academic Year and noted that they have each been provided with a great opportunity to be at Ave Maria University and said he was praying that they find success in their studies. The Bishop encouraged the students to be open to hear the call of the Lord in their lives and to live that answer each day.

The Bishop called upon the Lord to bless the works of the faculty and staff of the university as they are dedicated to the task of building up the students on all levels, but most importantly in their spiritual formation.

Reflecting upon the Gospel reading of the day (Mt 19:16-22), wherein a young man approached Jesus and said “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life,” Bishop Dewane said the lesson taught by Jesus is an important one for all to learn, but perhaps most importantly for the university students to understand.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells the young man to keep the Commandments, but when he says he has done all of that, he questioned again about what he lacks, the young man is prompted to go further and sell what he had and give to the poor and he will have treasure in heaven, “Then come, follow Me.” The young man heard this and went away sad, for he had many possessions.

“The life we all live is often marred by sin, contrary to the way we set out as we are all searching for something,” Bishop Dewane explained. “The lesson we must learn is not to focus our lives on our earthly possessions, but it is to conform to the request of Jesus Christ in our lives. We do this through prayers and intercessions, because we have to ask what the Lord seeks of us.”

As students, they come to Ave Maria University with goals and dreams to enter into a profession or career, but the Bishop remarked how that is secondary to what their commitment to attending a Catholic university is all about.

“Your commitment must be about listening to the Lord and responding,” Bishop Dewane continued. “The Light of Christ must be in your ministry and in your lives. Here at Ave Maria University, you must be willing to be a part of Christian culture. Like Christ, live your life for others. You are the Light; called to evidence those beliefs with a certain moral strength.”

“As we begin this year, let us invoke the Light of the Holy Spirit within our lives. May it guide your relationship with the Lord as you strive to live and become always more the men or women of God we are called to be,” Bishop Dewane concluded.

Following closing prayer, the Bishop presided over a commissioning ceremony for five new doctoral students in theology who received the mandatum. As part of the doctoral program, they will be engaged as instructors and teaching assistants for courses in Catholic theology at the University. As such, they are required to obtain the mandatum from the local Bishop. As part of this, before Bishop Dewane and the entire school community, each made a Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity, vowing to remain faithful to the Teachings of the Church.

After the Mass the Bishop greeted the students who thanked him for his presence and inspiring homily.

Bishop celebrates Baccalaureate Mass for university

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the main celebrant at the Baccalaureate Mass for Ave Maria University on May 5, 2023, in Ave Maria.

A Baccalaureate Mass is a Mass of Thanksgiving for God’s many blessings upon the graduates.

During the Mass, Bishop Dewane encouraged the graduates to use what they have learned, combined with the gifts God has bestowed upon them, to bring the light of Christ and the message of the Good News that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, into the world.

Citing the missionary spirt of the Second Vatican Council and its transformational document Lumen Gentium, the Bishop said each graduate is called to live out that document which calls upon all Catholics to evangelize. They must do this accompanied by Christ, that includes opening up to the Lord in their daily life, their family, their job, in public and in private.

“Your parents sacrificed for you to be here. The faculty has educated and formed you so that as graduates you can realize your potential,” Bishop Dewane continued. “You have been prepared to enter the world. It is my prayer that you will use your influence of faith to make the light of Christ present in whatever position you achieve or vocation you follow as you move forward. That is what being a graduate of a Catholic university is about.”

Bishop Dewane concluded his remarks by telling the new graduates that now that they have received the necessary skills during their time at Ave Maria University, to “go forth as agents of that evangelization; willing to instill that into others during a time when it is ever more necessary. My prayer is that you are blessed to take up the challenge to render the light of Christ wherever you may find yourself.”

Following the Mass, Bishop Dewane greeted the graduates outside of the church and many complimented him on his words and support of the university.

Ave Maria University is celebrating its largest graduating class in its 25-year history, with 297 students receiving their diplomas during Commencement Exercises on May 6.

The commencement speaker was Patrick Lencioni, president of Table Group and bestselling author of 13 books, including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Model UN debuts at Ave Maria University

A Diocesan-wide Model UN Conference was hosted by Ave Maria University on Feb. 11, 2023, in Ave Maria.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass is support of the conference and later observed some of the sessions. During these sessions, the students are placed into committees where, representing a member nation, they discuss, debate and seek to find a resolution to a variety of issues, all of which are currently being discussed at the United Nations in New York.

Present for the conference were students from Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, and Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria. In addition, there were seven Ave Maria University students who acted as committee chairs and six judges from the Naples Council on World Affairs.

The Model UN is an educational simulation where students can learn about diplomacy, international relations and the UN General Assembly and its other multilateral bodies. In Model UN, students step into the shoes of ambassadors from UN member states to debate current issues on the organization’s agenda. While playing their roles as ambassadors, student “delegates” make speeches, prepare draft resolutions, negotiate with allies and adversaries, resolve conflicts, and navigate the Model UN Conference rules of procedure – all in the interest of mobilizing international cooperation to resolve problems that affect countries all over the world.

The program is an extracurricular activity for high school students with conferences at the local, regional and national levels. Diocesan Catholic high school teams often participate and do well in these competitions.

Bishop Dewane was invited to celebrate the Mass and observe the work at Ave Maria University due to his past experience as a member of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. The Bishop served for five years in the early 1990s, during which time he represented the Holy See at several international conferences.

“It was a tremendous experience in my life, a time during which I learned a great deal about the world on any number of issues, and most importantly about myself and how to follow the Lord’s example in all that was done,” Bishop Dewane explained. “This Model UN is a Good experience for you in both character building and faith building, as it makes you more the man or woman of God you are called to be.”

During his time at the UN, the Bishop said he was witness to the formation of International Criminal Court and was involved in a number of debates on the development of the world.

“I sat through some rough times, but you had to tell yourself why you were there, to do the Lord’s work,” Bishop Dewane said. “You had to convert that negotiating into a policy, but you do it with absolute honesty, never forgetting that you are the one who is the messenger of the Lord and living His message for others.”

Tyler Graham of the Donahue Academy helped organize the Ave Maria University event to encourage the framework of a future Catholic Model UN.

“The benefits of Model UN are numerous, as students learn how to debate and understand the nuances of international politics,” Graham said. “They participate in professional dress and the program also serves as an introduction to an adult form of formal conversation. They are ultimately judged on the totality of this effort.”

Graham explained that the Model UN experience is great for the students, but it can put them into a very difficult moral dilemma when issues, such as a life, are debated.

“The idea of this conference was to have the debates focused on issues that reflect Catholic Social Teaching, all of which are being discussed at the UN today,” Graham said. “This enables the members to learn and understand the position of the Church and then stand up for that position in an open debate.”

The Ave Maria University event helped the participants prepare for the next regional conference for high school students set to take place in March at Florida Gulf Coast University in Estero.

News Briefs for the Week of Feb. 10, 2023


After consultation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following appointments:

Father John Nghia Hoang, as Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish, Sarasota, effective Feb. 6, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Administrator of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish, Sarasota.

Father Robert M. Murphy, as Pastor of St. Raphael Parish, Englewood, effective Feb. 6, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Administrator of St. Raphael Parish, Englewood.

Father Paul Nguyen, as Pastor of Church of St. Patrick Parish, Sarasota, effective Feb. 6, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Administrator of Church of St. Patrick Parish, Sarasota.

Father Sebastian Szczawinski, as Pastor of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Lakewood Ranch, effective Feb. 6, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Administrator of Church of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Lakewood Ranch.

Father Michal Szyszka, as Pastor of St. Raphael Parish, Lehigh Acres, effective Feb. 6, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Administrator of St. Raphael Parish, Lehigh Acres.

Father Luis Albarracin, retired as Parochial Vicar of St. Leo the Great, Bonita Springs, effective Jan. 1, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Leo the Great Parish.

Retired Sarasota priest dies

Father R. Patrick Wilson, Society of Catholic Apostolate (Pallottines), who served in the Diocese of Venice for 17 years, passed away Feb. 2, 2023, in Sarasota at the age of 76. Father Wilson was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and graduated from Pittsburg State University in Kansas and upon graduation in 1973 he joined the Brothers of Christian Service. As a religious brother, Father Wilson served adult men with special needs in Ohio. He earned advanced degrees from the University of Cincinnati before he was relocated to Sarasota in 1992. In Sarasota, he served as Director of Religious Education at St. Martha Parish and later sought to join the Pallottine religious order. He was ordained to the priesthood on Nov. 27, 2005, into the Society of the Catholic Apostolate in Rome. From that point, Father Wilson served as a Parochial Vicar until his retirement on July 1, 2022. Father Wilson continued to assist at St. Martha Parish after his retirement. Father Wilson was active in his support of the youth outreach, going to several World Youth Days and National Marches for Life, and was active in prison outreach as well. He loved traveling, tap dancing and musical theater and was a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. A Mass of Christian Burial is 10 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 9, at St. Martha Church, 200 N. Orange St., Sarasota. Please pray for the family of Father Wilson and the repose of his soul.

Seminarian instituted as Lector

William Patrick Long, a Diocese of Venice Seminarian studying at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary, Weston, Massachusetts, was among 11 men who were instituted to the Ministry of Lector on Feb. 1, 2023. Bishop William D. Byrne, Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, presided over the Mass. Those who are in formation to be ordained as Catholic priests must serve in the Ministry of Lector in order to prepare them for their future role as proclaimers of the Word of God through their work in the community and through the celebration of Mass and other Liturgical Rites. The principal duties of the lector at a Sunday Mass are to proclaim the first and/or second readings. In the absence of a deacon, the lector may carry the Gospel Book to the altar in the entrance procession and proclaim the petitions for the Universal Prayer. The lector may also lead the responsorial psalm in the absence of a cantor. Please pray for Seminarian Long as well as for all seminarians as they further prepare to become priests and serve the faithful.

2022 Sarasota Charity Ball

The Catholic Charities Ball “Creating Hope” took place Feb. 4, 2023, at the Ritz Carlton Sarasota. The event benefitted the programs of Catholic Charities in Sarasota and Manatee Counties including the continuing recovery from Hurricane Ian, as well as support for Our Mother’s House, Bethesda House, and the St. Martha Early Learning Center. The Ball Chairperson was Bridget Spiess, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the guest of honor. A success story was shared about a family that overcame many heartbreaks and setbacks only to be aided by the staff and volunteers of Catholic Charities in finding housing that provided a room for each of their children. The elegant evening included a wine pull, silent auction, live auction, and live music. If you would like to support the programs of Catholic Charities, please visit

Annual Mass held for circus and traveling show workers

Each year the circus and travelling show workers of the United States gather for three days to thank God for their continued blessings. This retreat was Feb. 3 to 5, 2023, at St. Martha Parish in downtown Sarasota, which is designated the “National Circus Parish.” The pastoral workers, who ensure that the Sacraments are available and maintained for travelling show people, function under the direction of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Cultural Diversity’s Subcommittee on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers (PCMRT). Bishop Frank J. Dewane is the Episcopal Liaison of the PCMRT. Bishop Dewane celebrated the closing Mass on Feb. 5, and he was assisted by several of the priests who serve the circus and traveling show workers.

Regional Order of Malta retreat held in Naples

Regional members of the Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta took part in a retreat which began with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Feb. 3, 2023, at St. William Parish in Naples. Also known as the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, the Order is a lay religious order of the Roman Catholic Church that seeks to glorify God by promoting the sanctification of each member through witness to the Catholic Faith and service to the sick and the poor. Bishop Dewane lauded the Knights and Dames for their continued charity and service to the Universal Church.

Eucharist Conference held at Ave Maria University

The Aquinas Center and the St. Paul Center hosted “The Holiness of God and the Mystery of the Eucharist” Conference from Feb. 2 to Feb. 4, 2023, at Ave Maria University. Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for the Conference on Feb. 3, in the Ave Maria Parish Church. Bishop Dewane praised the Conference organizers and the attendees for taking time to focus on the Holy Eucharist during the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year revival of devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. As part of the effort, the Diocese of Venice is hosting a Eucharistic Congress on March 25, 2023, in Fort Myers. This daylong event will include nationally renowned speakers, breakouts for men and women, sessions in English and Spanish. There will be a Eucharistic Procession and the day will conclude with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Registration is requested at

Blessing of the throats

On the Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, Feb. 3, 2023, the Blessing the Throats is common. This is done by a Bishop or Priest who holds a pair of crossed candles held by a red ribbon (representing the blood of martyrs), which are placed at the throat and a prayer of healing is recited. Bishop Frank J. Dewane joined other priests in offering this prayer following a Mass at Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria and then later at St. William Parish in Naples. St. Blaise, who was martyred in 316, saved the life of a boy who had a fishbone stuck in his throat by ordering the child to cough it up.

Parish hosts international food festival

To celebrate the varied backgrounds of the faithful at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, the 11th Annual International Festival made a tasty return on Feb. 5, 2023, after a hiatus of several years. Unique cuisine of more than 20 countries was represented. In addition to the food and drink, there was entertainment that included music and dance from a number of countries.

Migrant Care Grants application period open

Grant requests for funding of projects in 2023 are available from the Foundation for the Care of the Migrant Poor and need to be submitted no later than Friday, March 31, 2023. To be considered by the Board of Directors for a Grant, the project must clearly be seen as a service to the migrant poor or new immigrants. Preference will be given to those projects under Catholic auspices. Applications can be submitted by visiting

Vespers led by Bishop at Ave university chapel

Students participating in Mass Jan. 29, 2023 (Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time) at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel on the campus of Ave Maria University were given a special treat with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane.

Bishop Dewane was invited to celebrate the Mass in St. Francis Xavier Hall (a dormitory) by students who are part of a new Blessed Carlos Acutis Robotics Club. From that invitation grew an opportunity for the students to not only have the Bishop present for Mass, but to lead the students in Evening Vespers.

The reading for the Sunday was the Beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew (5:1-12a), and Bishop Dewane stressed the need to dive deeply into what the Lord is telling us, as Children of God.

“We need to hunger a thirst for holiness,” the Bishop said. “It about your relationship with the Lord. How are you doing there? That is what Christ is talking about in the Beatitudes. It wasn’t about success in a job or in the academic world – it was about how was our relationship with our Creator, God. This covers a lot of things. Do we see the presence of God in others? Is there some sin that we repeatedly commit to offend the Lord? We must move out of that – it’s not holiness. There is no room for sin in our relationship with God.”

Bishop Dewane complimented the college students for being present for the Mass and prayed they attend each Sunday and strive to go daily.

“You are working on that relationship with the Lord, but each one of us likely needs to go deeper than showing up at a Liturgy on Sunday. How do you live the rest of the week? How do you carry that Mass with you throughout the day? Think about it in your own lives.”

Following the Mass, many of the students remained for Vespers, or Evening Prayer. Vespers is part of the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office. In the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church fulfills Jesus’ command to “pray always” (Luke 18:1; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Through this prayer, the people of God sanctify the day by continual praise of God and prayers of intercession for the needs of the world.

The Liturgy of the Hours includes several specified times of prayer. The most important times are Morning Prayer (which takes place upon rising) and Evening Prayer (which takes place as dusk begins to fall). Evening Prayer also gives thanks for the day just past and makes an evening sacrifice of praise to God (see Psalm 141:1).

Bishops, priests, Deacons, and many men and women in consecrated life pray the Liturgy of the Hours each day. Often, their work is organized around this prayer, keeping God always at the center of their days.

Bishop Dewane said he was impressed by the effort to begin regular Vespers at Ave Maria University, specifically because it was a student-led effort.

Ian Avila, who is a member of the robotics club and helped organize the Mass and Vespers, said it was an honor to have Bishop Dewane support this effort at the University.

“Vespers is something that has grown in interest among students and having the Bishop present really helped everyone focus on this important need to pray always,” Avila said. “The Vespers is the perfect way to do this.”

All are encouraged to pray the Liturgy of the Hours as well, especially Morning and Evening Prayer. Many Parishes schedule communal Morning and Evening Prayer on a regular basis, please check with your local Parish for details on participating. Please visit for additional resources.

Bishop celebrates Mass at university

The Ave Maria University 2022-2023 Academic Year opened with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Aug. 22, 2022.

The Mass included faculty, who processed in before the opening hymn dressed in their doctoral robes and seated up front while the students sat behind. Concelebrating were priests who serve the spiritual needs of the students on campus and in Ave Maria Parish.

Bishop Dewane welcomed new and returning students for the start of a new Academic Year and noted that they have each been provided with a great opportunity to be at Ave Maria University and said he was praying that they find success in their studies. The Bishop encouraged the students to be open to hear the call of the Lord in their lives and to live that answer each day.

The Mass fell on the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Gospel reading was from Luke 1:39-56, relating the time Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth and the response of St. John the Baptist who was in the womb.

Bishop Dewane remarked that the title of Queen for the Blessed Virgin implies a struggle, a challenge and even battle, and how the students must be conscious of that in recognizing Mary and her role in Salvation history. Bishop Dewane noted that when regal titles, such as king and queen, are used in Scripture, there is an implied battle.

“We need to search for announcement of the Angel Gabriel in our own life; those things that come from the Lord and bring about change,” Bishop Dewane said. “It might not be the Angel Gabriel, but it might be as when Jesus is on the shore and calls to the Disciples, ‘Come follow Me!’ (Matt. 19:21) As students at Ave Maria University, I want you to listen closely this year, how many times Christ says ‘Come follow Me!’”

The Bishop said we must all be attentive to our response to the call of the Lord, with the knowledge God has an eye out for those who strive to serve Him and do His will. There are clues along the way, but we will only find them if we are ready to respond and have not only our ears open, but our minds, hearts and souls open to that call of “Come follow Me!”

“Pray to hear that call,” Bishop Dewane continued. “Look to the Lord to find what good He gives you in your life and let that guide you to become a faithful spouse, or perhaps to the priesthood or a religious vocation … all of this will be found as you acquire more knowledge of who Jesus Christ is in your life.”

The Bishop said the students attend Ave Maria University with a quest for truth, justice, integrity and they should not settle for less, but he reminded them that during this search for those things in the world around them, they must also look within themselves.

“It is you who has to project those very things you search for in your life,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is no surprise that God brought you here to have an encounter with the Lord… Accept the guidance of the Lord. Go with Him on the journey and be richer for it along the way… Hear that call of ‘Come follow Me!’ and live a true answer to Christ here at Ave Maria University.”

Following closing prayer, the Bishop presided over a commissioning ceremony for four new theology professors, during which each took a Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity, vowing to remain faithful to the Teachings of the Church before Bishop Dewane and the entire school community.

After the Mass the Bishop greeted the students who thanked him for his presence and inspiring homily.

Youth Conference draws more than 400

Youth from across the Southeastern United States spent July 8 to 10, 2022, listening to dynamic talks, hearing moving music, praying, participating in Eucharistic Adoration, going to Confession, attending daily Mass, and making new friends.

With a theme of “Fearless,” the goal of the 14th annual Ave Maria University Youth Conference was to allow high school-aged youth to come to know God in a more personal way as well as to learn how to touch the lives of others through their own life. Many young men and women from throughout the Diocese of Venice participated in the Conference and they were joined by youth from each part of Florida and beyond.

The youth raved about the weekend, one young man from Naples said “this was so awesome. Jesus was everywhere.”

The weekend was not just simply listening to inspirational speakers and musicians who encouraged the young people to become more involved in their faith and to be guided by the Word of Christ; it was an interactive experience meant to awaken the Holy Spirit for the Conference goers.

The Conference was capped with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane at Ave Maria Parish on July 10, directly across from the University.

Bishop Dewane said he prayed the youth took advantage of the Conference and that they “will go forward for the Lord, and the Lord with them.”

Citing the Gospel reading, Luke 10:25-37, the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Bishop said the lesson is for each of us to follow the Lord’s example, showing mercy and compassion.

“We have been made in the image and likeness of God; called to live that ethical moral example of the Good Samaritan, that is given to you, and to me, in our lives,” Bishop Dewane concluded. “It is my prayer that you go forward and live that life, to be the Good Samaritan, in union with Christ.”

Following the Mass, Bishop Dewane took part in a large group picture and other individual and Parish-centered photos, while the youth thanked him for celebrating the Mass and offering his inspiring words. In return, the Bishop again challenged them to live those words each day.

One young lady from Cocoa Beach summed up the weekend this way: “My spirit is filled with Christ’s love. I am now ready to do more, to show my friends and family how much love, joy and comfort the Church provides.”

Featured talks were by Father Rick Martignetti, Father Joseph Lugalambi, Father Rich Pagano and Chris Padget. The event included the talks, Mass, Adoration, praise and worship, fellowship, and opportunities for confession.

Community celebrates the Annunciation of the Lord

The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord is a day we celebrate when the Blessed Virgin Mary said “Yes!” to God.

Celebrated on March 25, 2022, the Solemnity marks the Angel Gabriel’s appearance to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38), and his announcement that the Blessed Virgin has been chosen to be the Mother of Our Lord, and Mary’s willing acceptance of God’s Holy Plan.

To mark this Solemnity, Ave Maria Parish, Ave Maria University, as well as the entire town took part in various activities throughout the day.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane presided at the inauguration of the new Ave Maria University President Mark Middendorf, and was the principal celebrant for a Solemnity Mass.

Other events incorporated into the day included the Prayer of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, an outdoor barbecue dinner, concert and fireworks.

Bishop Dewane said during the Mass that the faithful should learn from the example of Mary and apply Her willingness to be open to the call of the Lord in our own lives; as it is inspiring to know the Blessed Virgin Mary had the courage to say “yes.”

“Take the grace that the Lord gives each of us, and live it and go forward,” the Bishop continued. “We learn the important lesson that ‘nothing will be impossible for God.’ Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her’ (Luke 1:37-38). Without God, we cannot fulfill His Mission. Our Lady understood that, so must each one of us. We have to radically change our inner selves and have that same strength to do the will of the Lord.”

President inauguration

As part of the inauguration of Middendorf as the fourth President of Ave Maria University, Bishop Dewane presided over the Oath of Fidelity and Profession of Faith.

Following the Oath of Fidelity and Profession of Faith, an Investiture Ceremony took place wherein Middendorf was bestowed with the Seal of the Office of the President of Ave Maria University by Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick Rainey. Prior to this, Father David Vidal, Pastor of Ave Maria Parish, and others representing the students, faculty, alumni and Board of Trustees, spoke highly of the appointment of Middendorf as the new President of the University.

A native of Chicago, Illinois, Middendorf was educated at Northern Illinois University and DePaul University and had a successful corporate marketing and management career before discerning a special call to the New Evangelization. Middendorf founded a lay apostolate, Lighthouse Catholic Media (LCM), then the largest producer of Catholic audio talks in the world, reaching millions. Upon its merger with the Augustine Institute in 2015, Middendorf became the Institute’s Executive Vice President for Mission Expansion, and led the launch of platform. Middendorf also serves on the boards of 5 Stones, Ignatius Press, and the Marian Missionaries of Divine Mercy, and has been a long-standing member of Legatus.

Middendorf and his wife, Christine, are the parents of four children, one already a graduate of Ave Maria University and another currently enrolled.

When asked what his first priority would be as University President, Middendorf stated that he will be inviting all staff, students, and friends of Ave Maria to join him in entrusting themselves and the University to the care of our Immaculate Mother. He then added, “The University belongs to her. It has her name on it. As President, I see this as foundational.”

Bishop celebrates Mass at university

The Ave Maria University 2021-2022 Academic Year opened with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Aug. 23, 2021.

The Mass included faculty, who processed in before the opening hymn dressed in their doctoral robes and seated up front while the students sat behind. Concelebrating were a number of priests who serve the spiritual needs of the students on campus.

Bishop Dewane welcomed new and returning students for the start of new Academic Year and noted that they have each been provided with a great opportunity to be at Ave Maria University and said he was praying that they find success in their studies. The Bishop encouraged them to take advantage of their time at the school to grow closer to the Lord and reminded them that they can do this by having a strong underlying presence of Christ is all that they do in their life.

“Jesus is not an optional course at Ave Maria University,” the Bishop said. “Find time for Christ in your daily life. If you allow yourself the opportunity to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, let the Real Presence permeate you and truly become a part of who you are. This is not just an abstract thought. It is what makes us unique as Catholics and differentiates us from our Protestant brothers and sisters. The Real Presence of Christ must be your focus. Make Christ the source of what allows you more the man or woman of God you are called to be.”

It is through the Lord that each of the students will become more than they thought possible in life, Bishop Dewane continued. “Know Christ is not bound by the limitations we have. Let this be for you a time of growth as Christ accompanies you on your journey.”

Following closing prayer, the Bishop presided over a commissioning ceremony for three new theology professors, during which each took a Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity, vowing to remain faithful to the Teachings of the Church before Bishop Dewane and the entire school community.

After the Mass the Bishop greeted the students who thanked him for his presence and inspiring homily.

FOCUS missionaries commissioned by Bishop

More than 500 FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionaries and staff were commissioned to serve the Church during the coming year during a ceremony presided over by Bishop Frank J. Dewane

The commissioning was part of the annual FOCUS New Staff Training which took place at Ave Maria University. Bishop Dewane celebrated Mass for the group on June 10, 2021.

The Gospel reading for the Mass was from the conversion of the Apostle Matthew, which Bishop Dewane said was apt as it is the moment when Jesus summons Matthew and says, rise up and “Follow me!”

“Matthew becomes a new man by rising in response to the Lord,” the Bishop continued. “I pray each one of you has taken the opportunity in deciding to be a missionary by rising up to the expectation God has for you. You have to go out and decide the type of missionary you are going to be and then live that response by going forward as a new creation in the Body of Christ.”

Father John Lager, OFM Cap. and FOCUS National Chaplain, said the missionaries are being sent to preach the Gospel and make disciples for Jesus Christ accompanied by the prayers of the faithful.

As part of the commissioning, Father Lager first called each missionary to stand by naming the Dioceses in which they will serve. Next, Father read out the colleges and universities to which the missionaries are assigned.

“All missionaries and staff will accept the official teachings of the Holy Father on matters of faith and morals and the Pope’s authority as the head of the Catholic Church. As a positive expression of Catholic character, a public Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity is part of our service.”

Following the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity by the missionaries, Bishop Dewane gave the group a final blessing noting how the Lord sent His Apostles to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples. FOCUS is now sending forth new messengers of salvation and peace, marked with the sign of the cross.

Following the commissioning, Bishop Dewane blessed special crosses which were given to each FOCUS member identifying them as a missionary.

Father Lager concluded by noting that the missionaries are now in the hands of the Lord and urged them to “be zealous, be bold, be Jesus to others.”

Bishop Dewane concluded the Mass by thanking the missionaries for their “generous yes. You are a beautiful sight. You are in my prayers as you go forward remembering to continue to hear that voice of Christ in your life.”

FOCUS is a Catholic apostolate whose mission is to share the hope and joy of the Gospel. FOCUS missionaries encounter people in friendship, inviting them into a personal relationship with Christ and accompanying them as they pursue lives of virtue and excellence. Through Bible studies, outreach events, mission trips and discipleship, missionaries inspire and build up others in the faith, sending them out to live out lifelong Catholic mission wherever they are. Each year some 800 FOCUS missionaries serve on more than 150 campuses across the U.S. and Europe, as well as seven parishes for good measure.