Following a whirlwind of activity in southern Florida, Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J. seems to have resettled at Ave Maria University. According to several sources, the popular Jesuit priest will not return to his duties as Provost of the fledgling university, but will become a “designated theologian in residence.”
In a short statement released late Thursday the University announced that, “As a sign of our esteem for his great gifts and abilities, we have asked Father Fessio and he has agreed to continue a relationship with us.”
According to the Naples News, Fessio and Ave Maria have agreed that he will maintain a room on campus, assume some teaching responsibilities, and will make further plans for student study abroad program.
“I’m back and I’m glad,” Fessio said on Thursday afternoon.
The priest told the Naples News that as Ave Maria leadership, “began to focus more on what’s going to be best for the students and the university as a whole,” they decided that he should stay on-board in some capacity.
Fessio said that Ave Maria University founder Tom Monaghan and President Nick Healy, who announced yesterday that he was fired for, “irreconcilable differences over administrative policies and practices,” realized that such differences did not mean he should be completely removed from responsibilities with the school. “If we disagreed on the administration process, then send me from administration,” the priest said, adding that he will not now be involved in “major policy decisions.”
Ave Maria has been adamant in stressing that they have no ideological differences with Fessio, who is known for his strong defense of and faithfulness to the Church’s theological and moral teachings. “We expressed yesterday that the separation of Father Fessio from the University’s administration had nothing to do with our shared commitment to our mission,” the press release added.
With the reappointment Fr. Fessio, who is also the founder of Ignatius Press and publisher of the Catholic World Report, expressed his continued support of the school. “This is an extraordinary undertaking of the university for the students,” Fessio told Florida’s The News-Press. “I was removed yesterday, but had so much admiration and respect for the role I played here. We call Catholic priests father for a reason. It really is a family.”
“I think it would have been better to have foreseen a little more clearly. It wouldn’t have been so much turmoil. But all’s well that ends well,” he said.