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

Cara Buskmiller (’11)“Consecrated virginity is lived in the world, which fits my desire to serve and to heal in corporal works of mercy,” says Cara Buskmiller (’11).

On June 20 Miss Buskmiller embraced that vocation by making perpetual vows as a diocesan consecrated virgin before the Most Rev. Doug Deshotel, Auxiliary Bishop of Dallas, at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Shortly thereafter, she began her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the St. Louis University School of Medicine.

“The residents together cover all the women’s services in the hospital, from cancer surgery to labor and delivery,” she writes. “Right now, I’m working nights, which means I’m on call every night for patients staying in the hospital, and covering our six-bed women’s ER.”

In a recent interview with, Miss Buskmiller explains that her calling to consecrated virginity was in keeping with her desire “to live radically, completely at the disposal of others, especially my family and patients.” Hers is “a bridal vocation, which fits my desire to be in love, to belong to Someone, and to be deeply known. At the same time, it is a quiet vocation: I will wear no habit except a ring. It is a maternal vocation, which fits my desire to carry souls, in imitation of Mary.”

As an aspiring obstetrician and gynecologist, Miss Buskmiller plans to serve the needs of women and children in accordance with Church teaching and in recognition of the innate dignity of all in her care. “Practically speaking, living faithfully as an OB/GYN means that I do not prescribe contraceptives, provide primary sterilization, or participate in abortions,” Miss Buskmiller says. “It further means that I get to offer women fertility awareness and natural family planning, which get more exciting with every paper that comes out about their good effects.”

Yet she is not concerned about the potential difficulties of maintaining a faithfully Catholic practice in a society that is often hostile to the culture of life. “Even in a largely pro-choice culture, integrating faith in my career is not the hardest struggle I have,” she notes. “That distinction goes to integrating faith with myself. … I want to be full of faith, hope, and courage to live as if God existed, as if sin was worse than death, and as if I was destined to be a great saint with an unrepeatable mission. If I can do that, integrating my faith and my career is no problem: I just drive to work.”


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.”

Sr. Maria Battista of the Lamb of God (Maria Forshaw ’07) Sr. Maria Battista of the Lamb of God (Maria Forshaw ’07)On June 12, some three years after entering the Carmel of St. Joseph in St. Louis, Missouri, Sr. Maria Battista of the Lamb of God (Maria Forshaw ’07) made her first vows as a Discalced Carmelite nun. “She remains as active in the musical life of the monastery as at the College,” writes her mother, Liza Forshaw. “At the Latin Mass celebrating her profession, she conducted her fellow sisters in Gregorian chant, and she plays the organ every day.” As a member of the this cloistered, contemplative community, Sr. Maria Battista is dedicated to a life of prayer in service of the Church.

Thanks be to God! Please keep Sister in your prayers as she continues to discern her vocation.

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.

Sr. Mary Catherine Blanding, IHM (’76)

The photo above comes from one of the College’s earliest graduates, Sr. Mary Catherine Blanding, IHM (’76). A nun with the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Wichita, Kansas, Sr. Mary Catherine is shown here teaching a group of novices “the perennial wisdom of St. Thomas,” she writes.

In addition to working with her community’s newest members, Sr. Mary Catherine instructs religious-education teachers at the Diocese of Wichita’s Regan Catechetical Institute, assists parishes with their religious-education programs, and offers spiritual formation for college students at the diocesan parish that serves Wichita State University.

In this Year of Consecrated Life, please pray for Sister, her catechetical endeavors, and all of the College’s religious alumnae!

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!

The Catholic News Agency reports that the chart-topping Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, are releasing a new album in time for the paschal season, Easter at Ephesus. For three years in a row, the community, which is based in Gower, Missouri, has been the best-selling artist on Billboard’s “Classical Traditional” list. Two of the nuns, Sr. Mary Josefa of the Eucharist, OSB (Kathleen Holcomb ’07), and Sr. Sophia Eid, OSB (’08), are alumnae of the College.

Following the success of past albums Lent at Ephesus, Angels and Saints at Ephesus, and Advent at Ephesus, Easter at Ephesus features 27 tracks, in both English and Latin, including traditional hymns, original compositions, and chants. The compilation, the order’s mother superior tells the Catholic News Agency, is “a snapshot of the music our community sings already throughout the season in our little chapel.”

The album is available via iTunes, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the community’s website.



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.