“Finally, after 20 years, I got everything worked out,” Monaghan told Flynn. “I started in 1960. This was 1980 and we took off like a rocket. We were the fastest-growing restaurant chain in the history of the world. In 1985 we opened 954 stores. More than anybody ever did in one year.”
“In 1980 we had about 300 stores, in about 1986 or 1987 we had about 5,000,” Monaghan added.
As the business grew exponentially, Monaghan shared that he began to lose sight of what was truly important and was distracted by material possessions.
“I wasn’t as ready for it as I thought I was,” he admitted. “I was going to Mass every day, practicing my faith, reading a lot of spiritual books, and I thought ‘I can handle it, I can handle it,’ but I got into the toys; I justified the yachts, the airplanes.”
Monaghan was once quoted saying: “My life had become a high-speed train going down the tracks, but was about to become a train wreck.”
It wasn’t until he read a book from C.S. Lewis that Monaghan realized he was only chasing material goods in order to prove to others that he was successful in life.
“C.S. Lewis said that the reason that you aim so high and want so much, it’s not what you want, it’s what you want is more than other people, sell more pieces than anybody else, have more money than anyone, and I thought, ‘that’s not what I want to be,’” he shared.
In 1988, Monaghan sold Domino’s Pizza for a reported $1 billion. With that money, he went on to build a church and Ave Maria University. In addition to the church and university, he built an entire town called Ave Maria, Florida, where young Catholics could study, live their faith with their families, and grow in community.
“I want to be a beacon for Catholic higher education. Show that orthodoxy sells,” he said.
Today, there are about 33,000 people living in the town of Ave Maria. The area has its own neighborhoods, restaurants, bars, parks, and church, which is at the center of the town. The university has over 1,200 students who study a range of subjects from economics and business to biochemistry and physics.
Monaghan hopes that every student comes out “being a well-formed Catholic” and wants “to teach courses that the Church needs the most.”
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
“When I get to the pearly gates — God’s been very good to me — I want to be able to say, ‘I used what you gave me well,’” he said.
Since the filming of the interview, Monaghan’s wife of more than 60 years, Marjorie Monaghan, died. She passed away at home surrounded by loved ones on July 3. The couple has four daughters, 10 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
The entire “EWTN News In-Depth” interview can be viewed below.