Ave Maria in Florida: A Planned Town for Catholics in the United States

aI have Maria. If the navigation system knows this place, you’re in luck. The name of one of the most unusual cities in America is often not programmed into the program, after all, it was only founded less than 20 years ago. If you start in Miami it takes 2 hours, the road leads through Florida and into areas that used to feel lonely Florida tiger Cautious. There are only an estimated 130 specimens remaining in the case of this native species of puma. The fact that it can be expected here says a lot about the remoteness of the area.

There is no car on the road to Ave Maria. You can see new single family homes and small villas – some apparently inhabited, some vacant. Only when a large-sized cathedral appears in the distance, one suspects that there may be more than a handful of people living in this settlement.

According to the latest estimates, there are about 10,000 inhabitants. Avi Maria is a vision in the making, the eternal construction site of a Christian town, designed and financed by billionaire pizza tycoon Tom Monaghan. Christian modesty doesn’t seem to be a thing, however, and couldn’t help putting the motto of his “Domino’s” on the sidewalk right in front of the cathedral.

The biblical name of the place is its program: a city for devout Catholics, where no condoms or other contraceptives are sold, and where each couple has a large number of children. At the private Catholic university, there is also a dress code for students: shirts without straps or with spaghetti straps are just as taboo as shorts, and slippers, usually too narrow or too wide, revealing clothing.

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The church dominates the cityscape on Ave Maria

“The church is the dominant building in the city, as it is in many European cities,” explains Forrest Wallace, the parish deacon proudly. “On the left is the campus of Ave Maria University, and on the right is the city center.” And the oval square around the church with shops and apartments is what is called the Annunciation Circle, Annunciation circle.

Deacon Wallace is kind of a fact of this place, it is atypical, he says: not only for the United States, but also for the rest of the world. In addition to his work as a clergyman, he is responsible for press relations at the city university, where he is a lecturer in marketing.

This is how it is at Ave Maria: you not only have a job and a family, but you are also always the founder of a city. Wallace says it was a great opportunity for him to build something completely new. In 2007, he and his wife moved from Cincinnati with their eight children to help build a green Catholic town.

Children are part of the street scene in Ave Maria

Coyle: Getty Images

Chelsea Allen, a mother of nine, is also a passionate Aviary. She moved from Minnesota with her husband and offspring the year the city was founded. “By Way of the Family” is the name of her store, which she opened at the crossing address Verkündigungskreis 5080. In addition to school supplies, it mainly sells religious gifts such as figures of saints such as adorable dolls.

Ave Maria is “a little piece of heaven on earth,” says Chelsea Allen. “I love the weather; I love the neighborhood; I love the schools; I just love everything here.” There are so many children in the city that their nine children can play with them. “And I know that your parents share the same values ​​as us.”

No minorities – but lots of kids

In fact, Ave Maria is a dream come true for many conservative Americans. The majority of the population is Catholic and white, even if people of different faiths such as Protestants, Jews, and Muslims are expressly permitted. This is a tolerant city, said Reverend Robert Tatman: “We built Maria Street true to the American conviction that we don’t discriminate against people,” he said. No matter where someone comes from, everyone is welcome.

However, the cityscape on Ave Maria is dominated by white heterosexual couples, mostly in their mid-40s and fifties. The minorities that the priest would like to welcome here do not seem to feel the need to settle in this major Catholic city. Neither dark-skinned nor homosexual people could be seen during our visit to Ave Maria.

Florida: Prayers with the matching shirt at the private Catholic University of Ave Maria

Praying with the matching shirt at the private Catholic University of Ave Maria

Coyle: Getty Images

However, Ave Maria’s offspring can be seen and heard from afar, much to the delight of Cathy Delaney, who left New York City in 2006 to start a new life here. “If you look around you’ll see kids everywhere,” she says, her eyes shining. Here is a perfect place to raise them. Everyone can find support everywhere. “It’s like a big family.”

She proudly shows a brown chest. Engraved prayer on the front and the image of the Virgin on the lid: a music box. Cathy Delaney opens it and looks like “Ave Maria” – kitsch to some, a nice souvenir from the only souvenir shop in town to others.

The shops have only the necessities

Moving to a new city seemed tempting to her, Delaney explains of her decision on Ave Maria, but the deciding factor was the presence of a college here, Ave Maria Catholic University, which she could send her son to. “I wanted to be by his side, so I looked for a job at Ave Maria.”

Now offering manicures, pedicures, peelings and massages at the Temple of Wellness “Salon d’Maria” – everything that keeps the body in good shape, but can also be understood as a form of pastoral care. “I love helping people feel better,” says Cathy Delaney. “For me, this is an act of love; as a gift from God I share with others.”

Florida, USA: The main center of the city is the Cathedral of Ave Maria

The main center of the city is the Ave Maria Cathedral

Quelle: Photo Alliance / imageBROKER

Your salon joins the shops around the central cathedral. The house of the Lord forms the center of Avi Maria, and anyone can stand there at any time to pray. It saves space for about 1,100 insured at the same time – a 30-meter-high structure made only of glass and steel.

If wood had been used, the high humidity in South Florida would have caused clouds to form inside the building and create its own ecosystem in the church. The church was built within one year, from March 2006 to March 2007. It is hurricane-resistant and said to be able to withstand even the highest category of hurricanes.

All the streets pour into the circle of preaching. In addition to the shops, you will also find the pubs of the city – a Mexican restaurant, grill, bar, Irish restaurant, café, fruit shop and supermarket.

Socialist touch? “Well, we don’t have big department stores here,” Cathy Delaney admits. “We have to get out of town to do the really big shopping.” On Ave Maria there are only the necessities, such as schools, doctors, a few shops and a church. By the way, there is no pizzeria. However, she likes the place here: it is safe, one feels protected, the other is surrounded by like-minded people. Not like there.

Lots of scholarships for local university

Of course, this is not entirely true with like-minded people. At least not every student is here because of religious beliefs. “Ave Maria attracts more people with money and educational opportunities,” says Veronese Leiter, who studies literature here. The university was relatively new a few years ago, so it offered a lot of scholarships to attract students. It was this financial support that made it possible for my family to send me to university in the first place. “Ave Maria University has won nearly a thousand students in just half a decade.

Avi Maria in Florida: University attracts generous funding.  Students shouldn't expect too much when it comes to fashion

The university attracts generous funding. Students shouldn’t expect too much when it comes to fashion

Coyle: Getty Images

It is difficult to say to what extent the lecturers are trying to exert theological influence, Leiter says. “I don’t think the professors place special emphasis on the religious aspects of our reading.” In general, lecturers will try to teach as objectively as possible. Rather, they assert that theology and literature are two different things.

And it feels good here, she says, “but honestly, changing the scenery now and then is a really good thing.” She has to go out at least every two weeks. Then she and her friends drove to Naples, a 40-minute drive away.

And they’re not alone: ​​On weekends, you see surprisingly few students at Ave Maria. In Naples, which has a population of 22,000, there are more than thirty churches. However, it can be assumed that young people from Maria Street do not go there to pray on weekends.

Ave Maria in Florida, USA

Source: world infographic

Tips and information

Heading there: Closest airport: Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, about an hour’s drive from Ave Maria.

Accommodation: There are no hotels or motels for tourists on Ave Maria. However, it is possible to book an apartment or house via Airbnb. The nearest motel is in Immakalee, about ten kilometers away, and the hotels in Naples, 60 kilometers away.

Information desk: City information: avemaria.com. Tourist entry to the United States is currently not possible.

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