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Ave Maria University Reaches Out to Parish Priests with Unique Program

Father Dennis Cooney, pastor of St. Raphael's Parish in Lehigh Acres, is delighted that two students from his parish will be attending Ave Maria University this fall. He's even more delighted that each of them will receive a minimum of $5,000 in financial aid through a new program started by the university called Priests for Ave Maria.

The PFAM program, as it is known, is part of an effort to involve more priests in the mission of Ave Maria University, and to help recruit students for the university, according to AMU Chancellor Tom Monaghan, who came up with the initial concept.

"I remembered reading that a priest in Texas sent about 30 students to Franciscan University of Steubenville," Mr. Monaghan said in an interview. "So I thought there might be a way to involve priests who like what we're doing."

"They pretty much know the types of students and families who would be a good fit for Ave Maria University."

The PFAM brochure calls the group an "informal organization" whose members introduce Ave Maria University in their area, help recruit students and connect with priests of similar interests. "We're trying to benefit the priest and the student," Mr. Monaghan said.

The university is encouraging anyone to pass a copy of the brochure along to parish priests who might be interested. It can be downloaded here, and a Q&A about the program is here.

There is no charge to join and so far more than 140 priests from all parts of the U.S. and Canada have signed up, said Jessica Copeland, who is coordinating the program at AMU.

If a priest who is a PFAM member writes a letter of recommendation for a student from his parish, that student is guaranteed a minimum of $5,000 in financial aid for the first year if accepted to Ave Maria University.  The award is potentially renewable based on student performance and availability of funds.

"I think it's a wonderful idea," Fr. Cooney said. "The more priests we can get on board supporting Ave Maria the better."

"The teaching mission of priests is connected with the work of universities like Ave Maria," Fr. Cooney said. "I would hope that more and more priests will be more active in their support of Ave Maria University and other schools like Christendom College, Thomas Aquinas College and Franciscan University of Steubenville that are faithful to the church's teaching."

"It's what Pope John Paul II called the ‘new springtime of evangelization,'" he said.

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