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Every week or so will ask a question or two of Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., founder of Ignatius Press and Chancellor of Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida since 2002. If you have a question about the Catholic Church, Ignatius Press, or current events you would like to ask Fr. Fessio, please send it to editor Carl Olson and he will consider asking Fr. Fessio to respond to it.

The first question in The Father Fessio Files: What have you been doing the last couple of years?

Fr. Fessio: In early spring of 2002 I was assigned by my superiors to become assistant chaplain (to the notorious Fr. C.M. Buckley, S.J.!) at Santa Teresita Hospital in Duarte, CA.

Although I believe we could have put up with each other for more than two months, I was at the end of that period reassigned to be chancellor of a then not yet existent institution now called Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida.

The task was to work with the senior administration of Ave Maria College of Ypsilanti, Michigan to transfer that mission and operation to Florida over a period of a few years. At the same time I was asked to continue in my role as editor of Ignatius Press. And a good thing, too, for reasons I will mention momentarily.

The work at Ave Maria has been daunting, challenging, exciting, and encouraging. What had begun in Michigan and had grown into an excellent Catholic liberal arts college with a dedicated faculty and very eager students would now be expanded to become the first new Catholic university in more than a generation. It would be located in a place which to me as a Californian seems to be the extreme end of the continent, if not the planet, but in fact is quite near the geographical center of North, Central and South America. Clearly a location which is strategically positioned for the demographic future of this country.

Much as I love the mission and think the decision to move to Florida was an inspired one, it is, after all, Florida. The highest point in Collier County where we are is thirty-seven feet. And the waves on the Gulf of Mexico are measured in millimeters if they are measured at all.

So, once a month I dutifully fly back to San Francisco to spend some time at Ignatius Press. I can also see the breakers from my office window and we normally spend part of the weekend up at our retreat house in northern California where we can hike in redwood and fir forests and breath cool dry air.

One particularly encouraging note. The most important task I’ve had in this past year has been interviewing candidates for faculty positions. We’re growing rapidly. We’re going from 100 to 300 students this year and our faculty is increasing from nine to thirty-five.

Many fine scholars and teachers want to join us. We want people who are competent, on fire with love for the Church, and willing to take part in a pioneering effort. What’s particularly encouraging is that almost every faculty member we have interviewed has been an avid reader of Ignatius Press books.

I believe that one of the reasons why we have a chance for Ave Maria to be successful as a great Catholic institution is the formation that Ignatius Press books have helped to provide in such a period of desolation, intellectual, moral, and liturgical, for the Church.

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