Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Classmates: Rev. Michael Hurley, O.P. (’99) and Director of Alumni Affairs Mark Kretschmer (’99)
Classmates: Rev. Michael Hurley, O.P. (’99) and Director of Alumni Affairs Mark Kretschmer (’99)

Sixteen years after his graduation, Rev. Michael Hurley, O.P. (’99), returned to Thomas Aquinas Tuesday night to present a vocational talk, “The Life of a Dominican Priest.” Some 20 young men came to the discussion, in which Fr. Michael, the pastor of the 2,500-family St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in San Francisco, described his journey to Thomas Aquinas College, his vocational discernment, and a “typical day” of shepherding souls in a busy urban parish.

Fr. Michael graduated from the College in 1999, and joined the Western Dominican Province shortly thereafter. He then studied at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, earner master’s degree in both philosophy and theology. Since his ordination in 2007 he has served various parishes in the Bay Area before becoming the pastor of St. Dominic’s Church.

Rev. Michael Hurley, O.P. (’99)“What led me to the Dominicans and the Dominican life,” he reflected at Tuesday’s dinnertime discussion, is “very similar to the reason why I came to the College.” When he was a teenager, his parents enrolled him in a fundamentalist Protestant school where his peers challenged his faith, he says, and “I became the Catholic answer guy, but I had no idea how to be the Catholic answer guy.” Seeking a college experience “that would help me think about my faith in a kind of deeper, personal way,” he came to Thomas Aquinas College, he says, drawn by the strong sense of Catholic community and robust sacramental life” — qualities that ultimately drew him to the Order of Preachers, as well.

Over the course of his talk, Fr. Michael took questions and spoke frankly about both the challenges and blessing of his vocation. “Let me give you my schedule from two Saturdays ago,” he said. “I got up, and we celebrated the 8:00 a.m. Mass. Then I had a baptism at 10, followed by a funeral. Then we had a wedding. Then there were confessions before the 5:30 Mass. Then came the vigil Mass, after which I got a phone call, because we are on call for three hospitals in the area. Someone had had a heart attack while swimming in the Bay and was basically on life support” — and so the priest had to rush to the scene to perform an anointing.

“I have to say, at the end of the day, no doubt, I was taking a deep breath,” he recalled. “But I just said, O Lord, what a life — to be able to be rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep.”

As a pastor, he continued, he has the privilege of being an alter Christus in the lives of the faithful. “A lot of these folks I don’t even know personally, but when you’re a priest, when you’re a Dominican, when you wear this habit, people know you in a sense. They have that sense of connection, and you can be personally Christ for them. It’s not like they know who I am; they know who Christ needs to be for them. For me, there is nothing more inspiring, delightful, and wonderful.”

His Holiness Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families Mass in Philadelphia, as photographed by Emily (Barry ’11) Sullivan
His Holiness Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families Mass in Philadelphia, as photographed by Emily (Barry ’11) Sullivan

The College has received reports — and photos — from a number of alumni who were present for parts of His Holiness Pope Francis’s visit to the United States. Among them are Emily (Barry ’11) and Joe Sullivan (’09), who serves on the parish council for the Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Below, the Sullivans are pictured with their two daughters before the World Meeting of Families Mass:

The Sullivan family before the World Meeting of Families Mass
The Sullivan family before the World Meeting of Families Mass

Mrs. Sullivan, who works for Endow, a nonprofit organization that writes study guides for magisterial documents to be used in women’s study groups, participated in a World Meeting of Families panel, “Woman: God’s Gift to the Human Family,” about the feminine genius and St. Edith Stein. A last-minute substitute for another speaker, she “literally had 10 minutes’ notice” that she would be presenting, she reports. “Thank God for four years of learning how to articulate theological ideas well!”

Rev. Ramon Decaen (’96) waits for the Popemobile to pass by in PhiladelphiaRev. Ramon Decaen (’96) waits for the Popemobile to pass by in PhiladelphiaAmong the other alumni in Philadelphia were Rev. Ramon Decaen (’96), the pastor of the Parish of Cristo Rey and diocesan director of Hispanic Ministry in Lincoln. Fr. Decaen traveled with a group of some 100 fellow Nebraskans to the City of Brotherly Love, where he had the honor of concelebrating at one of the Holy Father’s Masses. … Sr. Teresa Benedicta Block, O.P. (’02), joined by three of her fellow Ann Arbor Dominicans, led a pilgrimage of 12 high school students from San Francisco to the city. … Jacob Mason (’10) a seminarian for the Diocese of Arlington, attended a brief talk from the Holy Father at Charles Borromeo Seminary, where Mr. Mason is a student and Pope Francis stayed during his visit. … Other alumni on hand for the Holy Father’s trip to Philadelphia include Sarah Jimenez (’10), who works in the chancery for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and Becky (Daly) and Greg Pfundstein (both ’05), executive director of the Chiaroscuro Foundation in New York City.

Rev. Isaiah Teichert, O.S.B.Cam., before the canonization Mass for St. Junipero Serra
Rev. Isaiah Teichert, O.S.B.Cam., before the canonization Mass for St. Junipero Serra

Meanwhile, several alumni were able to attend the Holy Father’s canonization Mass for St. Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Rev. Isaiah Teichert, O.S.B.Cam. (’78), pictured above, served as a concelebrant. Among others in attendance were Aaron Dunkel (’06) and four alumni who are graduate students at the Catholic University of America: John Brungardt (’08), Joshua Gonnerman (’09), Emily McBryan (’11), and Kathleen Sullivan (’06),who provided the photo below:

Kathleen Sullivan (’06) at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Kathleen Sullivan (’06) at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Rev. Jonathan Perrotta (’95)Rev. Jonathan Perrotta (’95)Four years after his ordination as a priest in the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, Rev. Jonathan Perrotta (’95) has been named the pastor of not one, but two parishes.

As of July 1, Fr. Perrotta is the pastor of St. Mary Parish in Durand and St. Joseph Parish in Gaines. His new positions come after four years at Holy Family Parish in Grand Blanc, where he began as the parochial vicar before being named the parish’s administrator in 2014.

Fr. Perrotta sees the hand of Providence at work in his being reassigned from a parish named for the Holy Family to churches that fall under the patronage of St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mother. “I have to share with you the blessing I felt when I realized that God is still keeping me under the protection of the Holy Family,” the pastor wrote in a letter to his new parishioners. “This special protection and guidance of the Holy Family started before coming to Holy Family parish, and now, it continues as I will be shepherding us at St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the One Shepherd. God is good.”

An audio archive of Fr. Perrotta’s homilies is available via the St. Mary’s website.

A group of seminarians, including Michael Masteller (’13), middle row-left, with the Most Rev. José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles
A group of seminarians, including Michael Masteller (’13), middle row-left, with the Most Rev. José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles

There are 62 priests among the Thomas Aquinas College alumni, but none yet in the College’s own Archdiocese of Los Angeles. By God’s grace, that will soon change.

On August 8, Michael Masteller (’13) entered the Archdiocese’s St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. “From the seminary, I can still see Topatopa,” he says of the mountain range that rises above the College’s campus. “I love Thomas Aquinas College. I love California. I love the Church. And all these things meet here.”

Michael Masteller (’13) during his teaching days in Kenosha, WisconsinMichael Masteller (’13) during his teaching days in Kenosha, WisconsinIt was during his time at the College that Mr. Masteller first began to discern seriously his vocation. “Obviously the great access we have to the Sacraments, daily Mass, and confession, as well as always having the Chapel available for prayer, was very helpful,” he says. “The biggest thing for me, though, was that in Bl. Serra Hall we had a group of guys who took our studies and growing in faith very seriously. Two guys were doing holy hours every morning at 6 a.m. in the Guadalupe Chapel, and they invited me to join them. At first I thought I was too busy and turned them down, but then I went once, and it was really good. So I started going every day.”

This daily prayer routine would soon bear good fruit. “That holy hour made me feel God’s love for me and gave me incredible peace. When you feel the love of God in a profound way, it flows out into your friendships with other people and the work that you do. Everything in your life becomes better,” he says. “That experience of being closer to God, of committing to Him, it changed my life. It made me a better person.”

Upon graduating, Mr. Masteller spent two years teaching at a Catholic high school in Wisconsin, during which time he decided to pursue a diocesan vocation. “I was working with these great kids who had lots of potential, but who never really had strong leaders in the Faith,” he recalls. “That experience of really teaching my students, growing with them, walking with them — seeing so many souls at a normal parish who need good guidance — that steered me away from a more contemplative religious community and toward diocesan work. I want to be on the front lines and help the lost sheep come back into the fold.”

He considered entering the seminary for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, but Providence ultimately led him back to Southern California instead. “There were a lot of good priests out there, and I met with Milwaukee’s vocations director,” Mr. Masteller says. “But when he handed me the application to their seminary, I just knew it wasn’t where I was supposed to be. With a little more prayer, I knew I wanted to come back and minister to the ‘home parish,’ where I grew up and spent most of my life. I want to give the rest of my life to God in the service of this archdiocese.”

Another influence in his return to Los Angeles was the work of his bishop, the Most Rev. José H. Gomez. “A few years ago a friend gave me a copy of the Archbishop’s book Men of Great Heart,” he recalls. “Then Fr. Buckley randomly walked up to me and gave me the same book. ‘OK,’ I thought, ‘people want me to become a priest.’ I put it in on the shelf and never really read it. But later, when I was in Wisconsin, I began to read it, and it gave me courage by showing me the example of other brave men and women who have gone before me and given their lives to Christ. That really helped me to finish my discernment and to enter the seminary. It also gave me a lot of confidence in our bishop, to see how he is both deeply intellectual and passionate about the Faith.”

By virtue of his studies at the College, Mr. Masteller has been exempted from first-year pre-theology classes and now enters the seminary as a second-year student. God willing, his ordination as the first alumnus priest in the archdiocese is just six years away.

Rev. Jacob (Joseph ’06) Hsieh with his parents and the Most Rev. Kevin William Vann, Bishop of Orange
Rev. Jacob (Joseph ’06) Hsieh, O.Praem., with his parents and the Most Rev. Kevin William Vann, Bishop of Orange

On Saturday, June 27, the Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Rev. Jacob (Joseph ’06) Hsieh, O.Praem., received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, becoming the Colleges’ 62nd alumnus priest. Fr. Jacob’s ordination came at the hands of the Most Rev. Kevin William Vann, Bishop of Orange and the College’s 2013 Convocation Speaker. It took place at the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, where many alumni and friends of the College were on hand to witness the occasion.

Two days later, Fr. Jacob offered his Mass of Thanksgiving on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. He now takes up his first assignment, teaching Gregorian chant to the novices in his community, the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. An accomplished musician, he has performed at Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and, this past Easter, he chanted the Exsultet at the papal Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. For the past year leading up to his ordination, he studied theology and chant at the Norbertine Generalte in Rome.

“One of my teachers at high school was a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College. He made me love the pursuit of truth and showed me how rich the Catholic faith is. This influenced me to go to Thomas Aquinas College,” Fr. Jacob reflects in the Norbertines’ electronic newsletter. “There, I met Fr. Michael Perea, a confrere at St. Michael’s who was one of the chaplains that year and who suggested I come to visit the abbey. I fell in love with the common life that was thriving there: the pursuit of holiness and truth in fraternal charity. I decided to join the abbey after my senior year.”

Fr. Jacob offers a blessing to Director of Gift Planning Tom Susanka Fr. Jacob offers a blessing to Director of Gift Planning Tom SusankaAmong those who witnessed Fr. Jacob’s ordination were two members of the College’s faculty, Director of Development Robert Bagdazian and Director of Gift Planning Tom Susanka. On behalf of the College, they presented its newest alumnus priest with two gifts that, God willing, provide him with spiritual strength: Bl. John Henry Newman’s Parochial and Plain Sermons and one of the knotted Rosaries that a friend of Founding President Ronald P. McArthur has given the College’s graduates in each of the last two years.

“It was wonderful to get to see Fr. Jacob humbly and reverently answer God’s call to the holy priesthood,” says Mr. Bagdazian. “We pray for him in his new ministry, and we thank God for continuing to use the College to bless the world with more good and holy priests.”

The ordination of Rev. Joshua Mayer ('03)

The photo above comes from this Saturday’s ordination of Rev. Joshua Mayer (’03) at the hands of the Most Rev. James S. Wall, Bishop of Gallup. Numerous Thomas Aquinas College alumni and their families traveled to New Mexico for the occasion, marking the ordination of the College’s 61st alumnus priest. Deo gratias!

Below, Fr. Mayer offers a priestly blessing to the family Theresa (Smith) and John Minkel (both ’03):

Fr. Mayer blesses the Minkel family

The video above promotes the release of a new musical album, Benedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia, which features the voices of three alumni monks: Rev. Thomas Bolin, O.S.B. (’96), Br. Mary Evagrius Hayden, O.S.B. (’08), and Br. Philp Wilmeth (’13).

The three graduates are members of an 18-member Benedictine community at Monastero San Benedetto, a 1,000-year-old monastery in Norcia, Italy, birthplace of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica. Fr. Thomas serves as the community’s subprior; Br. Evagrius is currently pursuing graduate studies at the International Theological Institute in Trumau, Austria; and Br. Philip is set to make his simple vows on September 8, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The album, drawn from the monks’ daily life of prayer, features 33 tracks of Gregorian chant, including traditional Marian antiphons such as “Regina Caeli” and “Ave Regina Caelorum,” as well as previously unrecorded chant versions of responsories and an original composition, “Nos Qui Christi Iugum.” Benedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia is available for sale via, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and directly from the Monks of Norcia website.

The video above comes from this year’s Easter Vigil Mass, offered by His Holiness Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica. Chanting the Exsultet is a graduate of the College, Frater Jacob, O.Praem. (Joseph Hsieh ’06).

A Norbertine canon and a transitional deacon, Frater Jacob is currently studying theology and music at the Norbertine Generalte in Rome. He is due to return stateside in time for his ordination to the priesthood on June 27. 


Exsúltet iam angélica turba cælórum:
exsúltent divína mystéria:
et pro tanti Regis victória tuba ínsonet salutáris

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King's triumph!

Alleluia, alleluia, He is risen!

Rev. Gerard George Steckler, S.J.In 2008 Dean Brian T. Kelly (’88) introduced Rev. Gerard George Steckler, S.J., at an Alumni Association dinner held in the former chaplain’s honor. In light of Fr. Steckler’s death last week, the College has published the text of Dr. Kelly’s remarks — a beautiful recollection of a good and holy priest.

Please continue to pray for Fr. Steckler and the repose of his soul.

Rev. Thomas A. McGovern, S.J.

It is fitting that during this, the Church’s Year of Consecrated Life, Thomas Aquinas College marks the 30th anniversary of one of its most beloved priests, Rev. Thomas A. McGovern, S.J., who died on February 19, 1985.

A graduate of the Université Laval in Quebec, Fr. McGovern previously taught at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., before coming to Thomas Aquinas College in early 1972. He served as a member of the faculty and, later, the Board of Governors until his death in 1985. The following year he posthumously received the College’s highest honor, the Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion.

Eleven alumni of the College have share some of their memories of the late tutor and Jesuit, which you can read here.