Read: The Big Interview | Happy Birthday Mr. Monaghan!

The founder of Domino’s Pizza, Tom Monaghan, pictured, turns 87 today, March 25. Happy birthday, Mr. Monaghan! Ad multos annos!

Over many decades, the well-known Catholic businessman has used his time, treasure and talent to support numerous apostolic initiatives within his native Diocese of Lansing and beyond.

Tom’s long life has not been without hardship. Following the death of his father in 1941, family circumstances forced his mother to send four-year-old Tom and his younger brother, Jim, to several foster homes and eventually to St. Joseph Home for Boys in Jackson, where they lived for the next six and a half years.

It was in the fall of 1960 that Jim learned of a pizza shop in Ypsilanti that was for sale. The asking price was $500 down and assuming the debt on the equipment payments. The Monaghan brothers borrowed $900, bought the business, and later renamed it Domino's Pizza. By the time Tom sold the business for a reported $1 billion in 1998, Domino’s had over 6,000 stores worldwide.

Even more significantly, it was while delivering a pizza in 1962 that Tom met his future wife, Margie. The couple was married later that year and went on to have four daughters. Margie Monaghan died on July 3, 2023. Requiescat in pace.

The Diocese of Lansing's Director of Communications, David Kerr, has been talking to Mr. Monaghan about his life, times and Catholic faith. Here is their conversation. Enjoy!

David Kerr: Your birthday falls upon the Feast of the Annunciation. How aware have you been of the significance of this feast day over the years?

Tom Monaghan: I have long been aware that the Annunciation was an important feast day. My parents, however, were disappointed in my delayed arrival because they wanted me to be born on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.

About 25 years ago, I spoke with Dr. Janet Smith, who shares the same birthday, and she noted the significance of March 25 in Catholic tradition, in addition to being the Feast of the Annunciation. Tradition has it that this is the date of the creation of the world, as well as the first Good Friday and, of course, the incarnation of Jesus Christ in the womb of Mary at the moment of the Annunciation. Being pro-life, I recognize that life starts at conception. So, in a very real sense, the Feast of the Annunciation has to be even more important than Christmas.

David Kerr: What does your daily prayer life look like?

Tom Monaghan: I pray whenever I think about it, which is not often enough. I incorporate my prayer into other parts of my life. For example, I pray the rosary while exercising or stretching in the morning. I attend daily Mass, pray at least one rosary per day and try to go to eucharistic adoration for 40 minutes daily, but I do not always make it. For many years I faithfully prayed morning and evening prayer (of the Divine Office), but fell out of the routine during the pandemic. This is something I would like to resume.

When I see someone who is suffering from a physical ailment, I say a prayer for them. I pray for each of my family members individually and all the people who report to me, as well as some others whom I have committed to pray for. I say a Memorare dedicated to everyone who has asked me to pray for them that day. I pray to my guardian angel every day that I do God’s will, per the direction of the late Father John Hardon, S.J. When something good happens, I thank God, and when I find something I have misplaced, I thank St. Anthony. I try my best to integrate prayer into the big and small aspects of daily life. As Archbishop Charles Chaput recommended, I say a prayer every time I wash my hands.

David Kerr: How central are the Holy Mass and the Eucharist?

Tom Monaghan: For me, the Mass is the most important part of my day. Except under dire circumstances, I attend Mass daily. As we say when we pray the Our Father, “give us this day our daily bread.” Nothing is more important than our daily spiritual bread, which of course, is the Eucharist.

David Kerr: What about the other sacraments?

Tom Monaghan: I try to go to confession weekly. At a minimum, I go once a month. I took a pledge to do so in solidarity with the other board members of Legatus and, later, Ave Maria University and Ave Maria School of Law. The Tres Magna Pledge, as we call it, or “Big Three” is a formula for perpetuating a state of sanctifying grace. It includes a commitment to attend daily Mass, pray a daily rosary and go to confession monthly. I often challenge young Catholics to take the pledge but, if they are anything like me when I was young, I tell them they should be going to confession weekly.

David Kerr: Which saints are most dear to you?

Tom Monaghan: I have a group of holy men and women (saints) to whom I pray daily. I call them “Mary and my brace of saints.” They are Mary, St. Joseph, St. Thomas the Apostle, St. Patrick, St. Rita and St. Sharbel Makhlouf, the 19th century “miracle monk of Lebanon.”

Mary, the mother of God, is my spiritual mother. I had a profound experience my first time visiting Medjugorje in former Yugoslavia when the country was still under communist rule, and the apparitions had only recently begun.

St. Joseph is my confirmation saint, though I had no choice in the matter, because the Felician sisters who ran the orphanage had all the boys take the name Joseph. For years, I prayed to St. Joseph daily for my late wife’s conversion.

St. Thomas the Apostle is my patron saint. I believe our patron saints play a key role in our lives. We should not ignore them. Our parents gave us our names, they gave us our patron saints to intercede for us, and this is a gift. My wife, Margie, passed away on St. Thomas’ feast day on July 3, 2023. I do not think that was by coincidence.

St. Patrick converted many and worked countless miracles throughout Ireland. I am Irish. So, if it were not for him, I might not be Catholic.

St. Rita is the patroness of impossible cases. I became fond of her a number of years ago and read everything I could about her. She worked countless miracles. In 2019, I visited her monastery in Cascia, Italy, on her feast day of May 22 and experienced great consolation.

Finally, I pray to St. Sharbel because he is a model modern-day saint who also worked countless miracles and because of my longstanding affiliation and friendship with Maronite Catholics. We are blessed to have an order of Maronite priests living and serving in Ann Arbor. They say four Masses per day and hear confessions during weekdays at our chapel at Domino’s Farms Office Park. There is also a Maronite priest among the many priests serving at Ave Maria University. There are nine Masses per day in Ave Maria in Florida, each calling upon the intercession of all the saints in heaven.

David Kerr: Who has most inspired or influenced you over the years in terms of your relationship with Christ and his Holy Church?

Tom Monaghan: I have had the privilege of meeting future saints like Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II, but my short list would be as follows:

Sister Berarda, who was a Felician sister who cared for me at St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in Jackson. I was under her supervision in the orphanage, and she was my first and second grade teacher. She laid the foundation for my faith and was a mother-figure for me during those formative years.

Father Passeno was the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Traverse City when I got out of the orphanage. He, too, encouraged me and was an amazing example of someone who lived the Catholic faith.

Monsignor Frank McGrath was my spiritual director and confessor in the 1990s. He was the first pastor of Christ the King parish in Ann Arbor and later served as chaplain of Ave Maria School of Law.

The late Cardinal John O’Connor of New York and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia need no introduction.

And finally, coach Don Shula. Don Shula, the winningest head coach in NFL history, was a daily communicant. It was his example that convinced me to start attending daily Mass. I figured if he had time to go to Mass every day, I probably did too.

With the exception of Sister Berarda, these are all men. My father passed away when I was young, and God has blessed me with a series of father figures in my life. Many of these father figures have been priests, serving as spiritual fathers and coaches, who have mentored me over the years.

David Kerr: What is the one apostolate or initiative you have endowed over the years that gives you the greatest sense of joy or peace?

Tom Monaghan: That is a hard question to answer, as the intention behind all of the initiatives I support is to build up the Kingdom of God.

The purpose of Ave Maria University is to create a beacon for Catholic higher education, to inspire peer schools to become more faithful to the teachings of the Church, specifically consistent with the guidelines of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution regarding Catholic universities.

Next to priests and religious, lawyers are the most influential professions in our society, which is the rationale behind the founding of Ave Maria School of Law. The law school is working tirelessly to produce faithful Catholic lawyers. Also, the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor is a public interest law firm that defends religious freedom and other important cases, which is so important these days.

Legatus brings the most proven lay Catholic leaders together with the purpose of helping them be stronger Catholics. Using their business skills, networks and resources, they are uniquely positioned to help the Church and society. Within the Diocese of Lansing, there are chapters of Legatus in Lansing and Ann Arbor with approximately 100 other chapters across the country.

In 1996 we started Ave Maria Radio, which was the first full-time Catholic radio station in the country at that time. Today, Ave Maria Radio not only has multiple traditional tower stations in Michigan, but also provides Catholic broadcasting for over 300 Catholic stations around the country.

The Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist is the fastest growing religious order in the country. They teach in Catholic schools all over the country, including two Spiritus Sanctus Academies in Ann Arbor and Plymouth.

Over 30 years ago, at the request of Father John Hardon, S.J. and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, I provided the seed money for the new universal Catechism of the Catholic Church. I pray that this has had a profoundly positive impact on Catholic education. I find peace and joy in the truth which authentically Catholic education provides.

There have been a number of other endeavors — and many not as successful as the ones above.

David Kerr: Death comes for us all. How do you prepare yourself for death?

Tom Monaghan: What I was taught by the sisters in the orphanage was that the way to get to heaven is to die in a state of sanctifying grace. I try my best to live in a state of sanctifying grace. God has been very good to me. I have wasted a lot of money and resources throughout my life. Everything I leave behind will be used to benefit the institutions of Ave Maria University and Ave Maria School of Law. Everything I do now in my work is for the Kingdom of God.