Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Two old College friends who are now colleagues recently appeared on EWTN’s Life on the Rock (above, 1:25 mark) to promote the cause of Catholic liberal education. Luke Macik (’87) and Mark Langley (’89) are the headmaster and academic dean, respectively, of The Lyceum in Euclid, Ohio. They and all 45 of the Lyceum’s students traveled to Birmingham, Ala., last month to discuss their school and share the music of its Schola Cantorum.

The Lyceum, like Messrs. Langley and Macik’s alma mater, uses a great books curriculum taught primarily by way of the Discussion Method. While in Alabama, the Schola — of which all students and half of the faculty are members — provided the music for one of EWTN’s televised Masses. The Schola additionally produced a recording of the Gloria from Palestrina’s Missa Brevis, which later appeared on this episode of Life on the Rock.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Lyceum has quickly become one of the top Catholic high schools in the nation. The Cardinal Newman Society gave the school a special recognition on its 2012-2013 National Catholic Honor Roll for “Excellence in Catholic Identity.” A quarter of the Lyceum’s graduates are National Merit Scholars, Finalists, and Commended Students, having scored in the top 1 percent to 5 percent on the PSAT, and the school’s average SAT is in the top 14 percent of the nation.


Dr. Joseph Hattrup (third from left) and members of the University of St. Thomas Examining Board. (Photo courtesy of the University of St. Thomas)

When alumnus Joseph Hattrup (’01) joined the Thomas Aquinas College teaching faculty in 2006, he had already completed his doctoral studies (philosophy, University of St. Thomas), but not his dissertation. He therefore spent most of his vacation and free time over the last several years completing this requirement — a challenging task for a full-time college instructor and father of three young girls. His diligence, however, has paid off, and as a result, he has earned the title of doctor.

Last week, Dr. Hattrup traveled to the Center for Thomistic Studies at the University of Thomas in Houston, Tex. There, he successfully defended his dissertation, “Form and Predicability in Aristotle’s Categories and the Middle Books of the Metaphysics.”

“A widely received view about these works is that they contain doctrines of substance that are contradictory in principle and which therefore show significant changes in Aristotle’s thought,” Dr. Hattrup explains. “I argue that these two doctrines of substance, though different, are compatible with each other and not contradictory in principle. I hope the dissertation will help to demonstrate the unity and consistency of Aristotle’s thought and principles, especially as regards logic and metaphysics.”

The dissertation received unanimous approval of the Examining Board, which subjected Dr. Hattrup to two rounds of vigorous questioning. Dr. Edward Macierowski, an external reader on the committee and a professor of philosophy at Benedictine College, remarked: “Hattrup’s dissertation is not only a recognizable masterwork of a young philosopher, and so a convincing sign that he deserves the doctoral degree, but also the dissertation should be revised and submitted as soon as possible to publication at a major academic press.”

Congratulations, Dr. Hattrup!


Frederick DouglassFrederick DouglassA professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05), has written a thoughtful article for The Public Discourse about the present state of the pro-life movement:

In a manner similar to the case of slavery as outlined by Douglass, there are two simple points that, once admitted, join to condemn clearly the practice of abortion: (1) the embryo is a human being from the moment of conception, and (2) all human beings have a natural right to life.…

The problem is that the younger and less developed the embryo is, the less it excites what some have called our “moral sense,” our sympathy with it as another human being like us. And as Hume correctly notes, human beings tend to be moved more by their passions and feelings, including the so-called “moral sense,” than by their intellectual understanding of the world when determining their actions. Even if our reason and common sense tell us clearly — as they undoubtedly do — that the embryo is a human being with the right to life, our moral sense or sympathy lets us off the hook. 

So where does this leave pro-life advocates? How can we bridge the Humean — and human — gap between intellectual understanding and actual practice in our nation? The answer lies in the parallel between the issue of abortion and those of slavery and subsequent civil rights. The pro-life movement needs to model more closely in its organization and practices the antebellum abolition movement and the civil rights movement in order to achieve similar success in ending the evil of abortion.

The entire article, Abortion and Our “Moral Sense,” is available on The Public Discourse website, published by The Witherspoon Intstitute.


Dr. Elizabeth Reyes ('03)Elizabeth Reyes (’03) — that is, Dr. Elizabeth Reyes (’03) has successfully defended her doctoral dissertation, with honors, at the Braniff Graduate School’s Institute of Philosophic Studies at the University of Dallas. After graduating from the College in 2003, she earned a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Dallas, and now, having defended her dissertation, has earned a doctorate as well.

Dr. Reyes joined the College’s faculty in 2011 after completing her doctoral studies, but not her dissertation. Over the last two years she has spent summers and other free moments working on her thesis, “Ishmael’s Cetological Quest: A Progression of Imagination in Melville’s Moby-Dick.”

Dr. Reyes’ thesis brings together two of her passions: wildlife and literature. A lifelong lover of animals, when she was a student at the College, she was fascinated to explore this interest across the breadth of the College’s curriculum — studying Creation not only through the natural sciences, but also in literature, philosophy, and theology. Her senior thesis examined how animals can help lead man to God, a theme that has endured throughout her academic career, including her doctoral dissertation about Ishmael’s epic journey in pursuit of the great whale.

The College extends Dr. Reyes a hearty congratulations!


An instructor of theology at Wyoming Catholic College, Kyle Washut (’07) recently presented a Lenten lecture titled, “The Importance and Significance of the ‘Great Fast’ for the Eastern Rite, and on Its Relevance to Roman Catholics.” In the talk, Mr. Washut, a Ukrainian Catholic, describes fasting as a preparation for encountering the Risen Lord at Easter. The video above gives a quick preview of the lecture, audio of which is available on the WCC website.


Kathleen Sullivan ('06)A doctoral student at the Catholic University of America, Kathleen Sullivan (’06) has served as a prefect at the Thomas Aquinas College Great Books High School Summer Program for each of the past eight years. She has recently written a reflection about her experience in the program:

… [I]t took me a couple more classes before I gathered my courage to enter into my class conversation. Once I did, it was the light turning on again. This was how school should be! To be responsible for my learning, to develop my critical thinking skills, to learn how to effectively communicate, to read and discuss these texts without the filter of an editor was all in my grasp. I wanted to skip the rest of high school and enter Thomas Aquinas College right away. Yet I returned to high school with a new perspective on education, and found myself more frequently raising my hand to ask questions or propose comments. An education is not passive; it is active, alive, and all within reach at colleges such at Thomas Aquinas where to be liberally educated is to be truly free.

Be sure to read the whole essay, and please share it with any high school juniors who may be interested in attending the 2013 program!


Matthew Kuemmerlein (’07)When he graduated from Thomas Aquinas College, Matthew Kuemmerlein (’07) never anticipated that he would soon spend two years in the jungles of the Far East. Eastern Europe seemed more likely. He had studied in Prague for a year before coming to the College, and for one year after his graduation he taught English there. Upon returning home, he applied to several graduate programs in Eastern European studies.

Around that time, however, another idea captured his imagination — the Peace Corps. A tour of duty, he thought, would broaden his experiences, allow him to learn another foreign language, and satisfy his residual wanderlust. “It seemed like a program where I could use my skills as a teacher in a foreign country, while giving me latitude to work on a variety of other projects as well,” he says. So he deferred entry to graduate school and undertook the Corps’ lengthy application process. One year later, he received his admittance, as well as the assignment that would shift not just the geography, but the very nature, of his long-term plans....

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Dr. Ralph McInernyTwo alumni of the College — Dr. Thomas Cavanaugh (’85), chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of San Francisco, and Dr. Brian Kelly (’88), dean of Thomas Aquinas College — make an appearance in a lovely story about Dr. Ralph McInerny that appears today in Crisis magazine. The article, by Dr. Christopher Kaczor of Loyola Marymount University, is timed for the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, and fittingly so, given Dr. McInerny’s devotion to the Universal Doctor.

In addition to being a renowned Thomistic philosopher, a bestselling novelist, and a beloved father of seven, Dr. McInerny was the mentor and teacher to scores of accomplished young scholars. Among them were Drs. Cavanaugh, Kelly, and Kaczor, as well as numerous alumni and tutors of the College.

The piece, Remembering Ralph McInerny, is a delightful read, especially on this Feast.


Dr. Sean Kelsey (’92) recently presented a response to a paper by Scottish philosopher Dr. Alasdair MacIntyre titled, “Catholic Instead of What?” Both presentations took place at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics & Culture’s 13th Annual Fall Conference, from which video is available below:

An associate professor in the University of Notre Dame’s philosophy department, Dr. Kelsey also serves as its director of graduate studies.


Michael Van Hecke ('86)Campus Notes, the blog of the Cardinal Newman Society, features an amusing and inspiring profile of Michael Van Hecke (’86). The title of the post: He Fell Off the Surfboard and Into Catholicism.

As the headmaster of Saint Augustine Academy in Ventura, Calif., and president of the Catholic Schools Textbook Project, Mr. Van Hecke has made Catholic education his life’s work. But it was not always so. When he entered Thomas Aquinas College as a freshman, he admits, he had littler interest in studying. “I came out here to learn how to surf and then I planned to transfer out,” he says.

Yet his time on campus was transformative. “I found myself in a truly Christian society, concerned about higher things, and concerned about people and imbued with holy charity,” he says. “People were good. They cared about you.”

That experience prompted in him a yearning to share the fruits of his education with others. “I found happiness,” says Mr. Van Hecke. “And I wanted to bring that to people, too. I want to give that joy to kids.” After graduation, he became a teacher, and not long thereafter, a headmaster.

Earlier this year, the Cardinal Newman Society named Saint Augustine Academy to its 2012-13 Catholic High School Honor Roll, which recognizes “excellence in Catholic identity, academics and civic education at Catholic high schools across the United States.” Saint Augustine is one of just 50 schools nationwide — and one of three headed by Thomas Aquinas College alumni — named to the list.