Gray’s Ferry was years ahead of its time. Over the past few weeks there has been alot of attention given to Ave Maria, Florida and it’s attempt to integrate a Catholic identity into its new town. Well, Gray’s Ferry has been working on the premise of religious inclusion ever since its development.
Growing up in Gray’s Ferry had just about every denomination of Christians you could imagine. Catholic Churches lived in harmonywith Episcopalian, and Calvinist and Evangelist and just about everyone else. There has always been communal integration of religion and ethnic diversity in Saint Gabriel Parish. Catholics, non-Catholics, Jewish,and Islamic believers find Gray’s Ferry as religious home in this ethnically diverse neighborhood.
We used to call it a parish and a neighborhood. Just about any type of cultural experience could be found when growing up in Gray’s Ferry. I don’t remember any particular animosity against anyone group of individuals either. Religious groups of individuals mutually co-existed in Gray’s Ferry and lived out their lives.
The Ave Maria, Florida project is an attempt at building a community of diversity based upon Catholic moral and social teachings. Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s pizza has been the brainchild of this town, which reflects his Catholic roots and heritage.
Well, I guess Gray’s Ferry was the result of the Catholic community as an American parish in the 19th and 20th century. Nearly all of us lived within walking distance to our Catholic Church, most of us went to Catholic schools, and most of the local residents worked in local factories and jobs. That was our neighborhood.
Ave Maria, Florida is the same type of Catholic neighborhood, except on a more updated and modern scale.
It is really refreshing to see a city’s downtown developed with proximity to a Catholic Church. Gray’s Ferry is a great example of how a neighborhood either thrives or deteriorates according to the success or failure of the local Catholic Parish. When the Catholic Parish is strong, there is a strong community that loves and worships together. That is the goal of Ave Maria, Florida…a community that lives, prays , worships and is educated together in the precepts of Catholic moral and social teaching. Well that really has always been the results of growing up in Gray’s Ferry as well. A lifestyle that is defined by family, faith and local community. Gray’s Ferry exemplifies a neighborhood that has always permitted the freedom of religious expression, the inclusion of racial and ethnic diversity and the social success of its residents regardless of faith or ethnic background.
It is especially significant to note that even after difficult periods of racial and ethnic violence in Gray’s Ferry the goal has always been towards healing and restoration of a harmonious family and faith filled life.
Ave Maria, Florida is a nascent city in developing a neighborhood and religious based lifestyle. Gray’s Ferry has developed this mix of cultural and racial diversity for years and should be applauded for its complex growth.
The American concept of religious freedom of worship is rooted in Gray’s Ferry, so too is the understanding of cultural and social diversity in the neighborhood.
While there have been many successes and failures in cultural assimilation in Gray’s Ferry it should always be applauded for its continued attempts towards diversity and equality.
Hopefully the new city of Ave Maria, will use Gray’s Ferry and it’s neighborhood identity to develop and perfect the concept of Catholic cultural inclusion among its developing group of faithful Catholic residents.

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