Faith in Action Blog
In April, this blog reported that Deneys Williamson (’10) had requested prayers for his upcoming ordination to the transitional diaconate. Now, in a new letter to the College, he writes, “Thanks for all your prayers!”
By God’s grace, the Rev. Mr. Williamson’s ordination took place, as planned, on May 1, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, at the Basilica of Saint Apollinaire in Rome. “The ordination went off well, and everyone had a truly lovely day,” writes Rev. Mr. Williamson, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Johannesburg, South Africa, who has studied at Rome’s Sedes Sapientiae seminary since 2011.
The photo below shows the newly ordained deacon with several Thomas Aquinas College alumni who were on hand for the occasion:
Above: Jeff Hanley (’13), a seminarian for the Diocese of Kalamazo, Michigan; Br. Augustine, O.S.B. (Philip Wilmeth ’13), a novice at the Monastero di San Benedetto in Norcia, Italy; Deacon Williamson; Maggie Tuttle (’10), who works as a lead for talent solutions support services at LinkedIn; and Tom Sundaram (’09), who is currently studying in Rome
“After five intense, happy years of seminary,” writes Deneys Williamson (’10), “I will be ordained to the diaconate, in view of the priesthood!” The ordination will take place on May 1, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, at the Basilica of Saint Apollinaire in Rome. A seminarian for the Archdiocese of Johannesburg, South Africa, Mr. Williamson has studied at Rome’s Sedes Sapientiae seminary since 2011.
“I kindly ask that you remember me, especially now, and I assure my prayers for everyone in the greater Thomas Aquinas College family here before the tombs of the Apostles,” he adds. “I remember our alma mater often and very fondly. God bless you all!”
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
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 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
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
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, 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. Christian Felkner, O.S.B. (’01), with his family at his October 26 ordination
As promised, here are some photos from the October 26 ordination of Rev. Christian Felkner, O.S.B. (’01), at Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek Abbey in Hulbert, Oklahoma. The Most Rev. Edward J. Slattery, Bishop of Tulsa, presided, ordaining two College alumni — Fr. Felkner and Rev. Andrew Norton, O.S.B. (’06) — to the priesthood, and a third, Br. Jerome Hudson, O.S.B. (’03), to the transitional diaconate. More photos of the ordinations are available via the Abbey’s website.
With the ordinations of Fathers Felkner and Norton, the College now has 62 priests among its alumni. Eleven alumni are priests or seminarians at Clear Creek, including the Abbey’s subprior, Rev. Mark Bachmann, O.S.B. (’82).
“Please keep us all in your prayers, especially that we be made worthy of this great grace and also that we may always follow God’s will and not our own,” writes Fr. Felkner in a letter to the College. “Be assured of my prayers for you.”
Fr. Felkner, O.S.B. (’01), foreground, with several of his confreres and Bishop Slattery
The photo above shows the Most Rev. Kevin William Vann, Bishop of Orange, at the ordination of Frater Jacob (Joseph Hsieh ’06, left), O.Praem., to the transitional diaconate. The ordination took place on June 21 at the Mission San Juan Capistrano.
Shortly thereafter Frater Jacob, a seminarian with the Norbertine Fathers at St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California, departed for the Eternal City. “I am at the Norbertine Generalte, the place where Norbertines from all over the world stay to study in Rome,” he writes. “I’m here to study theology and music for a year, then I will go back and teach chant at the Abbey.”
Yet that is not Frater Jacob’s biggest news. “My ordination to the priesthood will be, God willing, on June 27, 2015 — less than a year away!” he adds. “Pray for me!”
On August 12 Br. Richard Berquist (’10) entered the novitiate for the Dominican Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. Two weeks later, on the Feast of St. Augustine (August 27), he was vested and received the Dominican habit during compline.
Br. Richard (top row, second from left) with his fellow novices
Br. Richard is now undergoing the first year of Dominican formation at St. Dominic’s Church in San Francisco, where he assists the church’s pastor and fellow alumnus, Rev. Michael Hurley, O.P. (’99). Prior to joining the Dominicans, Br. Richard earned a master’s degree in philosophy at The Catholic University of America. Please pray for him and all his fellow novices as they discern their vocations!
By God’s grace, the College has been blessed with 60 alumni priests to date, and more are still on the way. The latest young graduate to answer God’s call is Justin Lefevre (’00), who this month is entering the Sacred Heart of Jesus Monastery in Portland, Oregon — the first Maronite monastery in the Western United States. He will be a postulant with the Monks of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and he will soon begin preparing for the priesthood. “The College and its intentions will be in the monastery’s prayers continually,” he writes. And may he be in all of our prayers as he continues to discern his vocation.
The video above is of the ordination Mass of the Rev. Mr. Joshua Mayer (’03), whom the Most Rev. James Wall, Bishop of Gallup (N.M.), ordained to the transitional diaconate on May 24. Deacon Mayer is a seminarian at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado, where he studies under the direction of a fellow Thomas Aquinas College alumnus, Rev. Gary Selin (’89), the school’s formation director.
Meanwhile, the College has learned the joyful news that another alumnus will also shortly be entering the transitional diaconate. Frater Jacob (Joseph Hsieh ’06), O.Praem., will be ordained on June 21 at the hands of the Most Rev. Kevin William Vann, Bishop of Orange (Calif.) and the College’s 2013 Convocation Speaker. Frater Jacob recently appeared on this blog when he and several of his Norbertine confreres performed at Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in May.
May God bless both these young men in their new ministries and as they prepare for the priesthood!
Frater Jacob (Joseph Hsieh ’06, left) and Frater Simeon (Charles Goodwin ’10, second from right), joined by 12 of their Norbertine confreres, performed at Los Angeles’s Disney Concert Hall on May 4, where they assisted Grammy Award-winning organist Paul Jacobs in presenting Bach’s Clavier-Übung III.
Fraters Jacob and Simeon are seminarians with the Norbertine Canons in Silverado, Calif., where they sing in the Abbey Choir. Mr. Jacobs, chair of the organ department at the Juilliard School, invited the choir to sing the chorale melodies of the German Missa Brevis at his concert. According to an article on the Norbertines’ website, the organist “was particularly interested that music written originally for religious purposes should be sung by a schola of religious.” Jacobs and the Norbertines performed the two hour-long work from memory, without intermission, drawing “an instant standing ovation from the packed house afterward.”