Faith in Action Blog
Christina (Andres ’82) Deardurff“The Jubilee is a time of joy,” writes Christina (Andres ’82) Deardurff. “It is a time of remission of sins and universal pardon.”
Published on the Inside the Vatican website in May, shortly after His Holiness Pope Francis announced the Year of Mercy, Mrs. Deardurff’s story is an informative account of the significance of the current Jubilee and the graces that it makes available. “The Pope himself opens the door in St. Peter’s Basilica,” in a symbolic gesture, she writes, that “reflects the exclusion of Adam and Eve — and of the whole human family — from the Garden of Eden due to sin, and the readmittance into grace of the penitent of heart.”
A homeschooling mother of 10, Mrs. Deardurff recently joined the staff of Inside the Vatican as an editorial assistant at the magazine’s U.S. office in Front Royal, Virginia. Before taking a leave from writing and editing to raise her children, she worked in journalism and public relations, serving as an editor and contributor to Child and Family Review. She and her husband, Richard (’84), have also been active in promoting Catholic Montessori education and care for the mentally handicapped, particularly those with Down Syndrome.
An archive of Mrs. Deardurff’s other stories for Inside the Vatican is available on the magazine’s website.
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
Margaret (Steichen ’84) O’ReillyA home-schooling mother of 12 children, Margaret (Steichen ’84) O’Reilly has remarkably found time to pen a beautiful essay about the Holy Eucharist in Homiletic and Pastoral Review.
“That the infinite Son of God would give himself entirely to his beloved Church — not just his image or a mere symbol of his love, but his very self, whole and complete — is unfathomable by finite minds,” writes Mrs. O’Reilly, who earned catechetical certification from Our Lady of Peace Pontifical Catechetical Institute in Beaverton, Oregon. “That he would remain forever present to his people in a form that does not overpower us, but that can enter into and transform us, springs from an intellect surpassing all created intellects. It flows from a love surpassing all human love.”
Among the many wonderful insights Mrs. O’Reilly includes in her article is that “the Lord of all creation, who made things as they are, alone has the authority to alter the natural order of created things.” Following His command, “the disciples and their consecrated successors … accomplish the unimaginable.”
The full article, A Divine Reflection: You and the Holy Eucharist, is available via the Homiletic and Pastoral Review website.
Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87)
This week educators from across the United States are gathering in Cleveland, Ohio, for Rejoicing Together in Truth, the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education's Third Annual Catholic Schools Conference. Among the speakers (PDF) are four graduates of the College:
- Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87), a tutor at Thomas Aquinas College and the executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education
- Luke Macik (’87), headmaster of The Lyceum in South Euclid, Ohio, which is hosting the conference
- Michael Van Hecke (’86), headmaster of St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, California, president of the Catholic Schools Textbook Project, and president and founder of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education
- Dr. Arthur Hippler (’89), a member of the theology department at Providence Academy in Plymouth, Minnesota
- Mark Langley (’89), founder and academic dean of The Lyceum
- Jessie (Ellis ’86) Van Hecke, a kindergarten and first grade teacher at St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, California
- Merrill Roberts (’03), teacher at St. Jerome Academy in Hyattsville, Maryland
In June Dr. Seeley, Mr. Van Hecke, and Mr. Macik spoke about the conference and the broader Catholic classical schools movement on the From the Median program on the Salem Radio Network's WHK in Cleveland. Audio of that program is available courtesy of From the Median:
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges and Pope Francis’s second encyclical, Laudato Si’, some Catholics have complained that the Holy Father has spent too much time talking about the environment, and not enough about the sanctity of marriage. Dr. John Finley (’99), however, suggests another perspective. In Catholic World Report, the alumnus and former tutor offers “three reasons why Catholics should take seriously the encyclical’s subject matter, precisely in view of the Supreme Court’s decision.”
“The concerns of Laudato Si' are not foreign — indeed, they are closely akin — to the age-old concerns hubristically dismissed by the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges,” writes Dr. Finley. “In a pre-Christian world, the normative goodness of the natural world and of human sexuality could be recognized.… In a post-Christian world dominated by the will to power, the love of money, and an increasing enslavement to technology, rejection of Christ includes rejection of that greater whole, with all its parts, down to things as fundamental as nature and nature’s stewards: man and woman.”
A professor of philosophy at the Archdiocese of St. Louis’s Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, as well as a husband and the father of two young sons, Dr. Finley contends that modern attempts to redefine marriage are part of a larger tendency to view nature as the plaything of human desires. Thus “any work of evangelization today has a greater job than it did in the days of the early martyrs,” he continues, “for it has to be as much concerned with the natural as with the supernatural.”
The full article is available via Catholic World Report.
“I was in my dress and getting ready to leave,” recalls Lane (Smith ’04) Scott, describing that woeful day in 2011 when she almost got her Ph.D.
After spending three years completing her coursework and another four writing a dissertation, she had made the six-hour, 400-mile drive from her home in Angels Camp, California, to Los Angeles to defend her dissertation at Claremont Graduate University. Then the phone rang.
It was her adviser. “He said that the department chair had not actually bothered to read my dissertation until the night before, and then determined that I had an incomplete understanding of the subject,” she sighs. The defense was canceled. “Dissertation defenses never get canceled. Everyone knows that once the defense is scheduled, you’re golden. It was mortifying — unprecedented. I was in my dress and on my way to the campus, and instead of being done I had to write an entirely new dissertation.”Read more
When alumnus Jared Kuebler (’03) joined the Thomas Aquinas College teaching faculty in 2011, he had already completed his doctoral studies (theology, Ave Maria University), but not his dissertation. He therefore spent most of his vacation and free time over the last few years completing this requirement — a challenging task for a full-time college instructor and father of six. His diligence, however, has paid off and, as a result, he has earned the title of doctor.
Last week, Dr. Kuebler traveled back to Ave Maria and successfully defended his dissertation, “Created and Uncreated Duration: Time and Eternity in St. Thomas Aquinas.”
“Ultimately, my thesis was that the divine eternity is understood by St. Thomas as including the notions of duration and measure, but that both notions are understood in an analogous sense,” Dr. Kuebler explains. “I attempted to lay out the way in which one should understand those analogies based on our first knowledge of time, duration, and measure as taken from our experience of the sensible world.”
Rev. Matthew Lamb, S.T.L, the founder of Ave Maria’s theology graduate program, served as Dr. Kuebler’s thesis director, and the dissertation received the examining board’s hearty approval. Dr. Kuebler is now the fifth Thomas Aquinas College alumnus — and the third member of its teaching faulty — to earn a doctorate at Ave Maria, in a program that is just 10 years old and has accepted only three or four Ph.D. students per year. The other alumni are Dr. John Froula (’99), Dr. Jeff Froula (’02), and tutors Dr. Katherine Gardner (’06) and Dr. Paul Shields (’07).
Congratulations, Dr. Kuebler!
The Canadian Broadcast Corporation’s Ottawa Morning recently aired an episode about Elizabeth (Susanka) and Jeff Fennelly (both ’03) and their adopted son, Shawn. Now eight years old, Shawn is profoundly deaf and suffers from limited vision, cerebral palsy, and reflux disorder. Doctors once feared that he would never sit or stand on his own, or give and receive affection.
Yet under the Fennellys’ care, Shawn has thrived. He is walking and he feeds himself. His vision his improving, and he delights in the love of his parents. The Fennellys’ devotion to their son is heroic, from their initial fight to adopt Shawn, to their decision to relocate, so that they would be closer to his therapists, to the $10,000 they spend each year on Pedialite. At the moment, they are busily trying to learn American Sign Language so that they can communicate with him more effectively.
Thanks be to God for these loving parents, and may God bless this beautiful family!
Full audio of the episode is available in the player below:
A Third Order Carmelite, Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro recently appeared on Radio Maria’s “Carmelite Conversations,” where she spoke about her book, Diary of a Country Mother. The memoir, which chronicles the life of her beloved son Tim, reflects her yearlong journey of prayer and meditation, begun about six months after Tim’s death at the age of 15 in 2005.
“This account of the life of my son simply reveals that each person, no matter his mental or physical problems, has a great worth beyond measure, and leaves an enormous impact on those near to them and those farther afield,” Mrs. Montanaro tells host Mark Damis.
At the beginning of the interview, Mrs. Montanaro also describes how she and her husband, Andrew (’78), met while students at the College. “Conversation is a very big part of anything that goes on at Thomas Aquinas because, since everyone has taken the same classes, we can speak about the same things with one another,” she reflects. “So we became very good friends and discussed the important things of life” — a friendship that eventually led to marriage and Tim’s adoption.
“Tim’s death was very sudden for us,” she recalls, “and so then the rest of life just became trying to accept it and to deal with it.” The Montanaros found consolation by uniting their suffering with that of Christ. “It helps us so much, whenever there is an especially deep trial in our lives, to remember that life is not always the picnic or the party, the banquet. It’s very often the walk, carrying the Cross up the Hill of Calvary,” she says. “And that was particularly true to us as we were suffering, to remember that we were suffering with Christ, and He was carrying us, and we were carrying the Cross.”
Some timely words of advice in USA Today from alumna journalist Katrina Trinko (’09): “No one needs to be able to buy a big-screen TV on Thanksgiving.”
The managing editor of the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal and a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors, Miss Trinko has penned an op-ed encouraging Americans to abstain from shopping during the upcoming holiday. Lamenting that many, perhaps most, retailers compel their employers to work on what should be a day of rest and family, she writes:
Consumers could fight back by not shopping on Thanksgiving. And that’s what we should do — if we care about our fellow Americans and preserving our communities.
After all, the holidays are a time to remember and take care of each other. Sometimes being a good community member means helping others financially or taking time to pitch in with a difficult task. But sometimes it means other sacrifices, including our own convenience.
Sure, some of us might want to buy that big-screen TV at 50 percent off on Thanksgiving afternoon. But let’s help a brother (and a sister) out. Wait until Black Friday.