Theology

Alumni Spotlight:  Fr. Vincent Ferrer Bagan O.P.

The Academics blog recently published a great article interviewing AMU alumni, Fr. Vincent Ferrer Bagan O.P.. Father Vincent came to Ave in 2006 to pursue a degree in pre-Theologate studies as a part of his discernment process after graduating from St. Olaf in Minnesota with a bachelor's degree in Music. He fell in love with Ave and dove into the community, joining the Esto Vir household, singing in the choir, and directing musical studies at Donahue Academy. Father Vincent recently traveled back to Ave for the first time since he graduated in order to participate in the Vocations Festival as a representative for his religious community, the Dominican Friars of the Province of Saint Joseph. To read more about his discernment, reflections on how Ave has changed, and current ministry, click here!

 

Student Spotlight: Pauline Gilmore

Sophomore Theology major, Pauline Gilmore, is an exemplary presence on Ave Maria's campus. As a New York native, Pauline has spent her summers bringing her love for Christ to young adults by attending and working for Camp Veritas as a counselor. This summer, Pauline plans to set off on a missionary journey with Camp Veritas in the UK and is excited for the chance to truly encounter God's children and tell them how loved they are.

What are your plans for this summer?

This summer, I am going to Ireland to be a counselor for Camp Veritas! Before that, however, I will be visiting my family that lives in different parts of the country. Camp Veritas started in NY, and that is where I first encountered Christ and where my faith was awakened. My faith became my own there. Camp Veritas has American counselors come and minister to Irish kids to help deepen their faith in a country that has become distant from Catholicism. It is a regular camp during the day, and then there is mass and adoration at night. After my time in Ireland, I am going to England and I am doing a two week Focus mission trip and working with the Missionaries of Charity in London. The trip will be very evangelization based and allow my fellow missionaries and I to participate in parish ministry as well. During the last part of the mission trip, we are putting on a student leadership conference for British university students, kind of like SEEK, but on a smaller scale. It’s going to be really awesome! When I'm in Ireland visiting my family, I will kind of be a missionary too, because the number of practicing members of the Catholic faith in Ireland are very low. Even just evangelize to my extended family members that would mean so much to me. I want Ireland to find that fire for the faith again. That’s my European adventure plan for this summer! 

If other Ave students wanted to get involved with Camp Veritas, could they?

Yes, absolutely! I would highly recommend it, especially for students that live near New York or Maryland. They could also come to Ireland with me if they wanted! We really need young adults that are on fire for their faith who can be role models for these kids. It changed my life. It's even more fun now being a counselor and being able to foster a relationship with the kids who come to camp. We don’t get paid, but you get free room and board. It’s also only one week, so it’s not a huge time commitment. 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I probably will be back in New York, but I think the answer is just that I will be where God wants me to be. Maybe teaching? I feel called to a life in Christ.

What are you doing to get closer to your goal?

My biggest thing this year is intentionality - with my vocation, especially, in determining where God is calling me to use my talents, and also with my friends in building relationships, particularly through my sisterhood, Ti Voglio Bene. I want to make intentional friendships that help to build a community that is deep and lasting. My goal is to get to know people by truly encountering them. 

What is the best compliment you have ever received?

After mass, a lady said “I can tell you love Jesus by the way you sing”. I loved that because she’s not recognizing me, she’s recognizing Christ in me, which is my goal. It shows I’m doing something right. I think that that should be everyone's goal, you know? Do do whatever it is that you do best for the glory of God.

What frightens you?

That some unforeseen event will come and shatter my whole perfect little life. God could totally throw that at me. Everything is just so good right now that I’m afraid something will happen…like a parent dying, or being diagnosed with an illness. In a way, I suppose that that is a healthy recognition, because I am so aware of how much of a gift that every new day is, but it is also kind of scary.

Where would you like to get lost?

Rome…again. I got lost in Rome the last time I was there because there are just so many beautiful churches! I accidentally stayed too long in one of them and then everyone was gone...oops. I would love to purposefully get lost there, though, because who better to get lost in than Jesus?I was there to visit for a week last Christmas break as an assistant director of an all girls choir from New York. Rome feels like home! It was an amazing gift to be able to visit St. Peter's Basilica so many times and sing for Pope Francis' epiphany mass. St. Peter's is the heart of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church-- so it is exactly where I belong, along with every other person who visits there. 

What is your favorite book and why?

I used to be a huge Harry Potter fan. I think people at Ave might criticize me for that. Right now, I’m reading A Call to Mercy by Mother Teresa. It goes through each of the works of mercy and it is just really beautiful. I am enjoying it because it is full of these amazing reflections that Mother Teresa wrote.

Do you think your generation has too much self esteem?

No, I think people have too little of it, honestly. There is so much self-centeredness, and that probably leads to low self-esteem. Finding ourselves through gift of self is what we were destined for. Too much of a focus on self has lead to a "religion of self", which I think has been the destruction of our society. When we start to see ourselves as our own god, we forget to look outward. By serving others, we forget about ourselves, and that is what I have always found to be the most fulfilling experience in my own life.

Describe your most rewarding college experience

It has been forming friendships with my sisters in Ti Voglio Bene. One-on-one conversations that I can remember being really fruitful and really good are the most rewarding experiences. Learning how to be really authentic and vulnerable has been wonderful. There are about 30 of us and we pray together, have brunch, and just enjoy each other's company. 

How would you describe yourself?

Outwardly joyful and inwardly pensive. 

Using one word, how would you describe your time at Ave Maria University thus far?

One word to describe my experience at Ave would be BLESSED! I am so confident that Mary brought me here to her university, and that I am right where I am meant to be. I have been able to grow so much as an individual in my identity as a daughter of God. I have been able to identify my passions and focus my studies on them--namely, Theology, but also music and management skills through my classes, extracurriculars, and work that I have had the opportunity to participate in here. Being a student at Ave and a part of this vibrant community has also taught me what it really means to be Catholic, and that not all Catholics look the same! I can be confident that becoming more of who I am is becoming more of who God made me to be. In all things I hope to glorify him--in sharing my gifts and putting them to use for Him!

Any final thoughts?

Praise God for the gift of life!

 

Student Spotlight: Gabriella Forte

Gabriella Forte, a sophomore from Jacksonville, Florida, exemplifies what it means to be a dedicated student. Majoring in Politics and minoring in Theology, she has a lot on her plate, yet carries the load with grace and poise. Gabriella spent last summer as an intern for the U.S. Attorney in Jacksonville, and looks forward to the exciting opportunities that this summer holds. 

How do you usually go about getting a summer job?

All of the jobs that I have had so far have been given to me. Each boss I have had has come to me and asked me if I want the position, which is not normal. This past summer, I was not sure if I wanted to go into law after college, so I figured that an internship would show me whether or not that would be the right path. I was looking for different legal internships but no one wanted me because I was a freshman, undergraduate, undeclared political science major, with no experience at all in the field. I was starting to get really frustrated. I called my sister during the process and I was telling her that I was really struggling to find an internship. She said, “Well, my AP calculus teacher’s husband is a U.S. Attorney, and she mentioned in class that he was hiring interns". She offered to put in a word for me, and he got my number through her. He called the next day at 8pm saying that if he could have my resume and cover letter by that night, he would put in my application. Unfortunately, at that time, I did not have a resume, but I stayed up until 4am writing a resume and cover letter and I submitted it to him and got the job!

What was it like to work for a U.S. Attorney?

Overall, it was incredibly exciting. I got to meet FBI, Homeland Security, and Secret Service agents. I was able to tour government facilities and go through a lot of exciting cases with my supervisor. Some were very gruesome because the man that I did most of my work for worked on child exploitation cases. Going through those cases was very hard and, at first, I did not like them at all. Over time, however, those became my favorite cases because it gave me something to work towards. I was able to see the effects of these peoples horrible acts and help to put them away for it. 

What was the highlight of your experience?

I think the highlight of the internship was my boss’ trial at the end of the internship. The case’s subject was a man that thought he was communicating with a 14 year old girl, who, thankfully, was an undercover officer. I had to transcribe his interview with the police, which was over 100 pages long! That was a lot of fun to do. It was really neat to see my work being projected on the screen during the trial in front of the entire jury. The trial was very difficult because all I had known about the case was preliminary, and at the trial, a lot of nasty details came out that I was not expecting. It really broke my heart and made me realize how much darkness there is in the world. That is definitely one of the scarier things that came out of the internship.

If an Ave student was interested, could they apply for this same internship?

Absolutely! My boss is Catholic, and the joke around the office is that he favors Catholic students, even though the work environment is not at all conducive to the Catholic faith. I know he would be very pleased to have another Ave Maria student!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I really would love to do something with religious liberty, but I’m not exactly sure where God is calling me. I’m still discerning.

What are your plans for this year to get closer to your goal for the future?

Right now, I am applying for two internships - one with with the US Commission on International Religious Freedom in DC, and one with the Family Research Council, also in DC. I applied for a couple of study programs as well. I submitted an application for Alliance Defending Freedom Arete Academy, and by tomorrow I will have submitted an application for the Hudson Institute. All of them would be amazing opportunities so I will be happy no matter what happens, but I am really hoping to get into the Arete Academy because it integrates politics and the Christian faith.

What is the highest honor/ award that you have ever received? 

My high school was named “Bishop Schneider” after a bishop we had two bishops ago. He founded three schools in my area and started two summer camps for individuals with mental and physical disabilities. In addition to that, he volunteers on death row all the time and comes to the high schools in the area regularly for sporting events and to say mass. He has so much humility, peace, and joy and just exudes the love of Christ. There is an award given to a senior each year that, in essence, says, “You represent the qualities that Bishop Schneider exhibits”. I received that award when I graduated and it was very humbling. I definitely don’t think that I deserved it. He’s such an amazing man!

Do you have a favorite space in your home?

My favorite spaces are the kitchen and my bedroom. I love to cook. My sisters and I will go to Publix at one in the afternoon and not be finished cooking until my parents come home at 7pm. When we are home together, that is what we love to do…just be in the kitchen and cook homemade meals and desserts. Also, my bedroom at home is my favorite place to be if I get stressed out. Last year, Father Dunn told me about perpetual eucharistic adoration on the computer. I pull that up on my tablet and set it up so when I walk into my room it is like a mini adoration chapel. 

What has been your happiest moment?

Two summers ago, my family and I took a vacation to South Carolina and stayed in the mountains. We had never done anything like that before. We went white water rafting and zip-lining. My family usually likes to plan everything out to the smallest detail, but this vacation was not planned out, so it was just spontaneous fun the whole time! There was a lake that the cabin we were staying at was on, so we did some activities on the water, which was amazing. We also found out that there were waterfalls nearby, and being from Florida that was so exciting and so bizarre. Being outside together, laughing, and tripping over sticks was such a joy. 

Why did you choose Ave Maria University?

I wanted to come to Ave because I was going to study theology. I started looking for Catholic universities in the state of Florida, so Ave Maria stood out immediately and I fell in love with it. I wanted to make a prudent decision though, so I put Ave aside and looked at other places like CUA, Franciscan, Villanova, and Belmont Abbey. When it came down to the end of senior year, I decided that maybe I wanted to study politics instead. CUA had a great politics program, and it was right in the heart of American politics, but it had two barriers. First, the distance from home, and second, the cost. However, they had a Presidential Scholarship, which I met all of the qualifications for except for the ACT; I had a 29 and I needed a 30. I took the ACT again, and super-scored, it was a 30. Unfortunately, CUA doesn’t superstore the ACT, so I didn’t make the cut. About an hour later, Mary Reed, from Ave, called me and said, “We just got your new ACT score and it bumps you up into the next scholarship bracket!”. I was looking for a clear sign, and there it was.

Student Spotlight: Ana Franco

As a graduating senior, Ana Franco is very mindful of the clock that is ticking on her undergraduate career. She frequently refers to the “3 months we have left", but her usage is hopeful, as though she is waiting expectantly for the changes that will occur over that time...and she is preparing for it well. She is a personable, outgoing individual who enjoys speaking with people and makes conversation easily. As she summarizes her goals, it is not hard to believe that this is a young woman will soon leave her mark on the world.  

How did you first come to Ave Maria? 

The first time I visited Ave, it was the day after Spring Formal. At that point in time, I was completely set on going to a state school. My top choice was Northeastern University in Boston. I really, really wanted to go there for Psychology, but God knew what I needed. I can still remember my visit to Northeastern. I went over the summer and I just loved it! However, I did not know what I would be getting myself into. I remember the first time I came to Ave, I left crying! It was not an open house and there were barely any students around. I told my parents, “If you are going to bring me to this school, just read me the Bible, keep me at home, and put me in a long skirt, because that would be the same thing!” I do remember, though, that during that visit, we also came and saw the church and I thought it was so beautiful. I remember sitting in a pew looking up at the cross and saying “You know what God, only you know. If this is the place that you want me to come, bring me back here.” And I visited a second time and I just fell in love with Ave. 

And what are you wearing now? 

*laughing* Not a long skirt! Although I have to admit, I actually like them! And I do read the Bible for fun! So a couple of things came true.  

What did you do last summer? 

Last Summer, I worked with the USCCB – the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – in their Catholic News Service. They published a lot of different articles and they have a newsletter that they send out. It was really great; I actually stayed within walking distance of where I worked. I only knew about three people that lived in the city, so I was going completely out of my comfort zone when I took that job. I think I took a lot to heart, like where God leads you, you should go. I know that what I learned at USCCB, and the people I came in contact with there, have helped to lead me to know what I want to do next.  

What was something about your internship that surprised you? 

I think one of the biggest challenges was that it was very different from what I expected an internship to be - where you walk in and they have a lot of work predetermined for you to do. They definitely had a lot of work for me to do, but they wouldn’t necessarily tell me—I had to go see what there was to do for myself. Sometimes my supervisor would assign me tasks, but not all the time because they are so busy—they don’t always stop their work for you. I think a lot of people don’t realize that going into an internship; they think it revolves around them and what they’re learning. But I think it is what you learn from these people that you’re working with. One thing I would say to whoever goes into get an internship or a job is to really get to know the people you’re working with, because these people have also had their own experiences and can help you. There was this gentleman, his name was Dennis, and we met because he worked at the computer across from me. We became such good friends. He is an older man with white hair and hipster journalism glasses that I would always make fun of (because I wanted a pair myself), but he was someone who gave me really great advice. He is an amazing editor. I only sent him two pieces in the six weeks that I was there, but from what he corrected in those pieces, I learned so much. 

Were there any struggles during the internship? 

Being here at Ave, we only learn APA and Chicago Manual Style of writing. The USCCB office used AP style, which is the journalistic style. I had to start writing in a completely new way. The thought of that would really have made me kind of nervous before I took this internship. In order to work through this obstacle, I would stay after hours and read through a pamphlet on AP style, or I would take it home and skim it over.  Learning is something we can’t tire of doing - otherwise we just stay stagnant. My supervisor, Julie Asher, would leave some nights, and I would still be there reading that pamphlet. At the end of the internship, she gave me feedback, which was a really good meeting to have, and she said to me that one of the things she noticed and appreciated about me was how much work I put into my writing, and how much it showed that I cared. She noticed that I would stay after hours and go beyond what was expected of me.I really pursued the work and realized that if this is something I love, I have to put in as much work as I can!  

How did you discover the internship? 

My advisor here, Dr. Hunt, has helped me more than I can say… I remember that before Christmas break of Junior year, she told me to start job-searching, and I decided I would really like to work for a Catholic organization. I put “Catholic news” into Google, and this organization popped up: USCCB Catholic News Service. I saw the name of the person listed, so I called and asked “Do you have internships?” And they said yes!  

Do you think that it is a good strategy for people to employ in their own job or internship search? 

Yes, I think you need to be really proactive in finding jobs and internships because a lot of people who have succeeded in life have been successful because they go looking for opportunities to be successful. If you find something that you want and desire, why not go for it? Get out of your comfort zone and try to discover what you are supposed to do. You can’t just sit around waiting for things to happen. 

What do you want to do when you graduate? 

I would love to go into Marketing, Public Relations, or Event Coordinating. After working for USCCB this summer, I also realized that we all have talents that God gives us, and I really want to put them to good use. I say that without trying to sound pompous or something. It is just so important that whatever job we go into, we use all that we have been given.  

My talents lie not only in my writing, but also in the way that I love people. When I am in a group and have to say a "fun fact" about myself, I always say that I’m a people person. I could just sit and talk with someone for hours about their life and I would be the happiest ever! A way to use both gifts for me would be in Public Relations and Marketing, because I love being with other people and also communicating through written word. I have really loved learning about marketing by interning here at Ave – shout-out to Ave Marketing! 

What do you plan to do this year in order to get you closer to your goal? 

I have already started applying for jobs for next year, and while I do that, I am interning here in Marketing. Doing that has really helped me towards my goal by allowing me to discover my vocation. Over these next three months, I am going to try to really process what I have learned here and how I can apply all of it when I go out into the world. I love our Ave bubble, but I think that one of the things that Tom Monaghan and President Towey want for us is to take what we have learned here, and go out into the world to share it!  

Similarly, where do you see yourself in five years?  

Wow… 

Are you going to be in Boston pursuing your long-lost dream? 

Haha, teaching at Northeastern? That would be hilarious. I’m not sure, I really want to be working somewhere that I feel I am being true to myself and what I have learned. Maybe I will have a family too. I know that is more personal, but it is the truth. What is so great about Ave is that it really tries to make you think about your discernment while you are growing, and I am so grateful for that. Hopefully I end up working for a company that I love, and have a big family. I would love waking up and being a mother but I would also love to go to work everyday. Even though there will be hard days and some “not-so-great” days, ultimately I will be doing what I love. 

Do you have any hobbies or interests that you pursue in your spare time? 

I was actually a ballet dancer for 16 years. I was in Art's Ballet Theatre of Florida, which is a ballet company that I joined when I was 14. I stopped dancing when I came to Ave, so I try to dance when I can! I actually have taught Pilates classes for a year at the Karate School in town, and I really enjoy doing that in my spare time. I also love to run or to have tea with people and talk about life! I am thinking about working to get my Pilates and Barre certifications so that I could do classes for high school and college girls, and be able to give back in that way.  

Who are three people in history that you admire, and why? 

Can they be a saint? I would say Pier Giorgio Frassatti. I think his story is amazing. He wrote about how his parents did not know that he wanted to be Catholic, because I don’t think his family was. He would have someone at 4:30 AM tug on a rope that was attached to his leg, and they would pull it to wake him up so that he would go climb on a mountain and get back in time for 7:30 AM mass. Did you know that? It is amazing. Being a young person myself, and wanting to understand what I am supposed to do, he’s someone I really admire. Also Saint Josemaria is one of my favorites! He really has a beautiful perspective on sanctifying your daily work. Sonia Sotomayor is also someone that I look up to. She was the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. I cannot even imagine coming from her background and ending up as one of the first Supreme Court Justices in the United States. 

What gives you the most joy? 

I was actually just talking with someone about this yesterday. Contrary to my parents, I really love being in nature. I love being at the foot of a mountain and looking up. I love sunsets and sunrises. I love running here in the fields behind Ave and just looking out over the plains and saying "wow". 

I also really love teaching people. Teaching is beautiful because you are able to see where they started, and celebrate with them when they have learned. Being with people also brings me joy. I am an introvert-extrovert; sometimes I need my space, but having good conversation where people can truly be themselves brings me so much joy. 

What brought you joy when you were a child? Do any of the things you just mentioned differ from when you were a child? 

I think being with family. Also, one thing that brings me so much joy is serving others. My sophomore year I told myself that even if none of my friends were going, I would go and do something as a service project. Service makes you feel so whole. It is so easy to get caught up in yourself and what you want—especially in college—that you forget about others. That is something that we should focus on all of our lives. When I was little, my mom would always go and serve. I think that is another reason it gives me joy. Even though I did not go with her all the time, just seeing that she was going to do that gave me a lot of peace.  

My birthday also brings me joy. My dad always bakes me a cake, called the “Better Almost Impossible” cake, because there is nothing better than that cake. My dad works very hard, but he is always take off time to make me feel special. That is what it reminds me of. The cake is this three-layer chocolate cake with dulce de leche inside, vanilla cream on top, and sprinkles. 

What do your parents do? 

My mom is back in school. She did interior design for a while, then became a stay-at-home mom. My dad he says that he is an entrepreneur... at least that’s what he likes to be called. 

How have your dreams and goals changed through your life? 

I think that once you grow up, you realize that some things are not very easy to achieve. When I was little, I wanted to be a doctor. I even got a First Aid kit for Christmas one year because I wanted to be a doctor so badly! As I started taking classes though, I realized that as much as I loved the idea of being a doctor, it wasn’t something that I would be good at. That was kind of disappointing. After that, I realized that you have to ask yourself “What are the goals I can achieve doing something else? What can I keep striving for"? There are lots of people who have dreams, but they become goals when you realize that you can achieve them. 

What advice have you received that has had an impact on your life

Do you know Fr. Dunn? He was my spiritual director last year and is just an amazing person. One thing he said to me was, “Ana, do not settle. Do what makes you happy.” And I think that, subconsciously, I’ve tried to follow that in my life. 

If you won $1 million tomorrow, what would you do with the money? 

I think that I would donate some of it to Ave...  

Great! How much of it? 

Well let’s see, not half of it… Like three quarters of it! 

Oh, wow you’re so generous! 

I think I would donate to some kind of religious order, like the Missionaries of Charity. I worked with them this summer so they are really dear to me. Also, I would probably donate to orphanages in the United States. I would want to give a lot of it away. 

And some for me obviously, but I would still want to work. I would not want to sit around all day, that’s so boring! I probably would travel as well. Europe is my favorite part of the world, so I would probably travel there.