This will change lives

“The kerygma properly understood will change lives, and so many Catholics have been ‘sacramentalized’ but not evangelized.  That was my story growing up!” So said Mark Middendorf, President, Ave Maria University after the launch of The Rescue Project on January 11, 2023.

For those unfamiliar with the word, kerygma, it means the proclamation of the gospel… and that is what The Rescue Project is all about. Against the backdrop of a beautifully decorated ballroom and a lovely dinner, over 125 Ave Maria University students and leaders gathered together for an extraordinary evening. The response of the students was so overwhelming that President Middendorf decided they would continue to host in that ballroom throughout the eight-week experience.

President Middendorf commented on how spectacular it was to see the Holy Spirit working as they launched the first night, and especially to see how many different groups of students wanted to be involved.

The evening was inspired by President Middendorf’s leadership, vision and desire to create an opportunity for the Thomas S. Monaghan Founder’s Scholarship Program  (FSP) students to be overwhelmed by the gospel, to surrender their lives to Jesus in faith and to be mobilized for mission, recognizing that college campuses are the ideal place to equip students to be world-changers and to help God get His world back. The launch created quite a buzz as one young woman who hadn’t signed up, but heard about the launch, “snuck in” and wound up at the President’s table, where she was warmly welcomed. 

Fr. John opened the evening with a remote welcome that you can watch here in a video that captured well the spirit of the evening. Heartfelt thanks to Shelby Mayer, Content Marketing Manager for AMU, for her creative work.

How inspiring it is to see young men and women, future leaders in our country,  gathering in small groups, enjoying a wonderful meal together and discussing the big questions of life that are rarely, if ever, discussed, such as – “What are the stories that give meaning, purpose and guide my life?”, “What is my image of God?” and “Where did that image come from?”. 

Julie Musselman, Chief of Staff for AMU, said that when she attended the live recording of The Rescue Project in October, 2021, she knew “that this video series and encounter with small groups would really and truly reach the hearts of many, many souls. Some of those souls already are in our pews, and truly need to hear the gospel message, maybe for the first time. Then there are even more souls outside of our churches who have never even heard the gospel message. The Rescue Project will touch and heal these souls and everyone in between.”

Julie went on to remark that, “At most colleges, students LOSE their faith. But at AMU, many, many students grow in their faith journey and learn to live it for themselves, surrounded by friends on the journey. I believe that The Rescue Project will encourage students who are already faithful and will reach others who grew up in a Catholic family but haven’t yet made it their own.”

Monica Weipert, from the Founder’s Scholars Program noted that, “The response and the feedback of the students was exceptional. While the first episode of The Rescue Project played, the audience was completely captivated. The feedback following the night carried the same momentum. Both students and some FSP  facilitators shared their excitement to delve into the content. They mentioned that the discussion questions especially were well guided and opened opportunities within their groups for openness, vulnerability, and personal connections with each other. Overall, it was wonderful!”

It’s the hope and desire of the leadership at Ave Maria University to see The Rescue Project offered each semester. Julie said, “We’re excited to see student-led small groups forming, with the university supporting the meal, location and structure for the weekly encounter.” 

Julie went on to recommend other Catholic universities and Catholic campus ministries offer The Rescue Project, remarking that, “College age students are searching for truth and meaning. Any college/university that shares The Rescue Project will bless those students that are reached, contributing to building a better culture.”

President Middendorf expressed his hope “that The Rescue Project becomes a recurring part of the spiritual life at Ave Maria University for many years to come.”

We would challenge you to prayerfully consider bringing The Rescue Project to your college campus. Please reach out to us so that we can both pray for and support you in your efforts to bring the life-changing and explosive news of the gospel to young men and women.

Your sister on mission,

Mary Guilfoyle



Please join us every month, beginning February 24 at 3:30 PM ET for the launch of our monthly livestream with me and Fr. John. We’re eager to connect with you!


“I strongly recommend The Rescue Project to other Catholic universities. It can have broad appeal to students across demographics and at various stages in their lives. There is something in it for all of us.”

DR. DANIEL LENDMAN, Assistant professor of Theology, Ave Maria University

“When I went through The Rescue Project, I knew I wanted to serve Christ and His Church more fully than ever before and then share Rescue with anyone and everyone to invite them on the journey. The Rescue Project helps one understand all the sins and hurts of this world and know that we do indeed have a SAVIOR who wants to rescue us, if only we say yes.”

JULIE MUSSELMAN, Chief of Staff, Ave Maria University

I encourage all Catholic universities and colleges to seriously consider bringing The Rescue Project to their campuses. Regardless of where students are in their formation, everyone can benefit from this program; and perhaps they would hear it better from Fr. Riccardo, who is a dynamic and devoted preacher of the Gospel.