1) Orange blossoms in April. The scent fills Ave Town with a heavenly perfume that makes me want to go outside and just breathe.
2) When I tell people my address on Annunciation Circle in Ave Maria they ask me how I managed to get such a Catholic address. I tell them it’s no coincidence.
3) Daily Mass in Ave Maria is said at four times per day during the school year (daily for the K-12 students and 3 times for the college students and residents) and as the college students make their way across campus to daily Mass I’m often asked by tourists if the students are required to attend daily Mass since so many of them are seen headed that way at Mass time, and of course the answer is, “No. They go because they want to.”
4) Teenagers with babies. OK not like in the big city where I’m from. What I mean is the typical Ave family doesn’t have 2.2 children and a dog. There are a lot of big families and it’s not uncommon to see teenagers lovingly carting around their younger siblings while hanging out with other teenagers doing the same. Where else in the country does childbearing span two or more decades? And about those Ave Maria teenagers, I’m proud to know so many of them. They are the future Church and if it takes a village, Ave Maria is my pick.
5) Twice at night, my children, neighbors and I have seen the space shuttles launch from my front yard, looking to the Northeast. It begins as a a fiery red/orange burst of light and tapers off into a white light until fading in the night sky. With the space shuttle program gone there is still plenty to enjoy from my balcony. The simple night sky is clear every night with twinkling stars as vivid as a planetarium projection.
6) Summer. The town center with the beautiful oratory and fountains at dusk is so quiet and peaceful you could hear a pin drop anywhere on the circle.
7) I don’t need to go on vacation to get a tan. This is SW FL and I feel like I’ve been on vacation since I got here.
8) Neither the three foot statue of Blessed Mother in front of my house nor the Ave Maria sign posted at the entrance of town stop the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses from ringing my door bell every six months or so attempting to proselytize. At least one thing here is the same back home.
9) When I go to the Ave Maria Fitness Center and start the treadmill equipped with a personal television, the station is already set to EWTN.
10) Flip flops or sandals every day all year. Downside–must keep toenails nicely polished, upside–get to wear flip flops or sandals every day all year.
11) When tourists ask me if you have to be Catholic to live in Ave Maria, instead of telling them if at least one member of their family is then they can probably live here, otherwise, they can petition the design board for an exception, I tell them Ave Maria is open to every religion, every lifestyle and every dream.
12) In Ave Maria, It’s politically correct to say, “Merry Christmas!” to my customers or anyone I meet on the street and they always say, “Merry Christmas!” back.
Contributed by Chelsea Allan, one of the first home owners in Ave Maria and owner of By Way of the family (www.bywayofthefamily.com), a religious gift shop opened in Ave Maria in 2008. She is mother of ten children, the oldest of whom graduated from Ave Maria University, the first class since the university’s inception at their new Ave Maria campus. Her eight younger children attend schools in Ave Maria and her baby goes with her to work at her religious store each day where she is oohed and awed over by the many tourists who come to visit from all over the world.