"[I] was taught that pride is the greatest of all sins, it's the source of all other sins… and when I read that I said, 'My gosh, that's the greatest of all sins and I'm the greatest sinner in the world."
Almost immediately, Monaghan sold his planes and his cars and created a foundation, donating millions of dollars to Catholic causes. He decided to focus on education, believing that most Catholic schools had also wandered from the faith.
In 1998, Monaghan sold Domino's Pizza for an estimated $1 billion. Two years later he opened the Ave Maria College near Ann Arbor, Mich. The school quickly grew, but local government would not allow any further expansion. So he began scouting for other locations. After looking at various potential sites, he settled on a former swampland in Florida, entering into a deal with a local developer.
Not everyone is delighted at the prospect of a town so avowedly Catholic, especially those concerned with civil liberties.
Monaghan, who believes that abortion should be outlawed and that contraception should not be available, is often criticized for his fundamental Christian beliefs.
"What makes me so unique?" he asked.
Critics call Monaghan's views into question because few people have the resources and ability to build a university that influences the social situation in a specific direction.
"That's where the rub is. I'm dangerous," said Monaghan.
Whether the town represents a single religious denomination or not, there was no shortage of interest at a recent "open day." And Monaghan seems genuinely at peace with himself, attending Mass every day, preparing to live in the community of his dreams.
"I think I'm very happy," he said. "And when the media gets on me I just say Hail Mary for whoever wrote the article and it goes away just like that."