Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

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.

 


Isabel Cacho ('11)Isabel Cacho (’11) has taken her love of learning and the Western intellectual tradition to Slovakia, where she is teaching at the Collegium of Anton Neuwirth. The Collegium, which organizes various educational activities for university students and young professionals, offers a year-long, residential formation program for undergraduates, focusing on the influence of Christianity on Western civilization. In addition to conducting seminars and teaching English, Miss Cacho is also involved in several facets of the school’s administration and outreach.

In a profile of Miss Cacho in the Collegium’s website, she notes, “It was at Thomas Aquinas College that I learned that education is about freedom. It is about freeing your mind to dwell on the higher things, which is what separates us from other creatures.”

The beneficiary of a liberal education, she now seeks to share that gift, saying, “I hope I will inspire the same love of truth that my professors motivated in me.”

 


November
09, 2012

Fr. Higgins with Cardinal Dolan

His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, greeting Rev. John Higgins (’90) last year with a popsicle and a soda at the completion of Fr. Higgins’ 50-mile walk to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

One year ago, Rev. John Higgins (’90), pastor of the Church of the Assumption in Peekskill, N.Y., walked 50 miles from his church to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in midtown Manhattan to raise money for his parish elementary school. This weekend, he will undertake that same journey.

Fr. Higgins’ 2011 pilgrimage raised $77,000 for the 225 students of Assumption School, many of whom live under the poverty level. This year he hopes to top that total. “It’s about 110,000 steps to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and we hope to get a dollar for every step that we walk, making our goal $110,000,” he writes. “I think we can do it!”

Help sponsor Fr. Higgins’ walk for Assumption School either online via PayPal, or by sending a check to:

Assumption School
920 First Street
Peekskill, NY 10566
ATTN: Walk 2012

Godspeed, Fr. Higgins!

 


Plato and AristotleNumerous Thomas Aquinas College alumni — including several who have are now members of the teaching faculty — led sessions and presented papers at the annual meeting of American Catholic Philosophical Association last weekend. The gathering, held in Los Angeles under the theme “Philosophy in the Abrahamic Traditions,” drew more than 100 scholars from across the United States.

At the ACPA’s request, Thomas Aquinas College hosted two of the Conference’s satellite sessions, both on the subject of Aristotelian Natural Philosophy.  The first was chaired by Dean Brian T. Kelly (’88) and the second by Senior Tutor Glen Coughlin (’81). Dr. Coughlin also hosted a third session in his capacity as president of the Society for Aristotelian Studies, a national organization.

Several other alumni also spoke and/or presented papers at the conference:

  • Dr. Thomas Cavanaugh (’85)
    Professor of Philosophy, University of San Francisco
    “Socrates’ Burial? The Question of an Individual’s Immortality”
  • Dr. Anthony Andres (’87)
    Tutor, Thomas Aquinas College
    “Charles De Koninck on Contingency”
  • Dr. Anthony Crifasi (’92)
    Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Benedictine College
    “Aquinas on the Passions’ Contribution to Moral Reasoning” (commentator)
  • Dr. David Arias, (’02)
    Tutor, Thomas Aquinas College
    “Hylomorphism and Organ Transplants”
  • Dr. Daniel Shields (’05)
    Visiting Professor of Philosophy, Xavier University
    “Aquinas on the Moral Life of the Non-Believer”
  • Mr. David Grothoff (’07)
    Graduate Student, Catholic University of America
    “Geometrical Proportion and Continuity in Aristotle's Physics”
  • Mr. John Brungardt (’08)
    Graduate Student, Catholic University of America
    “The Existence of the Primum Mobile in Medieval and Modern Science”
  • Mr. Ryan Shea (’08)
    Graduate Student, Catholic University of America
    “The Figure Analogy in De Anima II.3 and the Methodology of Aristotelian Natural Philosophy” 

The late Charles De Koninck, one of the great philosophers of the 20th century, had a profound influence on the establishment of Thomas Aquinas College.

Charles De Koninck Dr. De Koninck was the teacher of three of the College’s founders, Mr. Mark Berquist, Dr. John W. Neumayr, and Dr. Ronald McArthur. In addition, his most famous student, Dr. Ralph McInerny, educated 11 of the College’s tutors, including late president Thomas E. Dillon, President Michael F. McLean , and Dean Brian Kelly at the University of Notre Dame.

Suffice it to say, the College owes a great debt to Dr. De Koninck’s legacy, a debt that two of its alumni have sought to repay by way of a newly launched website, The Charles De Koninck Project.

“In the 47 years since his death, De Koninck’s writings have unfortunately faded from view even as their relevance to contemporary intellectual life has intensified,” notes the site’s introductory page. The Charles De Koninck Project, it continues, “exists to put the entirety of his writings online and foster discussion about them.”

Under the direction Executive Director David J. Quackenbush (’88) and Managing Director Matthew J. Peterson (’01), The Charles De Koninck Project seeks to “collect, translate and make all of his writings freely available online,” so that they will be widely available and read, and so that others may “take up the letter and spirit of his writings, spurring discussion in pursuit of truth.”

Mr. Quackenbush — who began the project of collecting, transcribing and translating De Koninck’s texts nearly two decades ago when he studied under Dr. McInerny at Notre Dame — is a member of the teaching faculty at Thomas Aquinas College. Mr. Peterson is a doctoral candidate in political philosophy and American government at Claremont Graduate University.

“We expect to have the bulk of De Koninck’s previously published writings available fairly soon, along with a substantial portion of previously unpublished and newly translated texts,” says Mr. Quackenbush. “We hope to press on until all relevant material is available.”

The Charles De Koninck Project invites outside contributions. “We welcome essays, lectures, blogs, and such for posting and linking at the site, and hope to host an active discussion of agreement, disagreement, and development of De Koninck’s thought,” says Mr. Quackenbush. “The project is intended to be a cooperative effort by all those interested.”


A Little Way of HomeschoolingSome 18 months after its publication, A Little Way of Homeschooling continues to elicit great interest. The second work of alumna author Suzie (Zeiter ’87) Andres, the book profiles 12 Catholic homeschooling families and their use of the “unschooling” educational method, while drawing upon the works of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. John Bosco, and ancient philosophers.

On Friday morning Mrs. Andres appeared on the Mothers at Home radio program with Judy Dudich on BlogTalkRadio. You can listen to the broadcast in the player below.


Starting tomorrow (Saturday, September 29), EWTN is sponsoring a Novena to the Mother of God for the United States, seeking Our Lady’s intercession and Our Lord’s blessing on the country as we approach the upcoming elections. The novena has the nihil obstat of one of the College's graduates, Rev. Gary Selin (’89), the formation director at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.

The inspiration for the Novena, says Fr. Selin, came from its author, Rev. Frederick L. Miller, S.T.D., of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland, who spent last year in sabbatical at St. John Vianney. During that time, the two priests discussed the state of the Church in America, the elections, and what Catholics could do for their country.

“I was concerned, as the year was going on, that we Catholics in the U.S. — starting with us clergy, but also the lay faithful — were not looking at the election enough from the spiritual perspective,” Fr. Selin recalls. From there, he and Fr. Miller thought of the Novena, which, in keeping with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom this summer, would “continue that spirit of prayer and fasting for our country.”

It was important to both priests, says Fr. Selin, that the Novena call upon the aid of the Blessed Mother. “I know from history and my own personal experience,” he notes, citing events from the Battle of Lepanto to the fall of Communism, “that when we invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary in time of great need — when we go to Jesus through Mary — Jesus has come through with very special graces.”

Thus the timing of the Novena to the Mother of God for the United States, which begins on the Feast of the Holy Archangels (September 29), and concludes on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7), just prior to the start of the Year of Faith (October 11). “Coming into an election, where so much is on the line for the Catholic Church and for our country with regards to attacks against religious liberty, the attack against the beauty of the Sacrament of Matrimony and even the marital act,” Fr. Selin explains, “we’re callings upon God through the intercession of Mary for very special graces on our country.”

Fr. Selin adds, however, that the act of transforming a nation must begin with our own, interior conversions. “First and foremost in this whole issue of the election, we have to start with ourselves, asking: How have we been faithful to God’s commands? How have we lived a deep prayer life, avoiding sin, growing in holiness and in our dedication to the Holy Eucharist? Then our public acts will be a beautiful overflowing of that commitment of faith.”

Fr. Selin has long had a devotion to the Blessed Mother. His senior thesis at the College was titled, “Mary: Archetype of the Church.” The Mother of God, he says, “has always been close to me in my vocational discernment and leading me here.” Likewise, she must play a role in the future of the nation: “Work has to be done in the public sphere — and that’s the work of the lay faithful to get out there, and we priests have to preach and encourage — but we cannot forget Our Lady.”