Faith in Action Blog
On March 13, the day of His Holiness Pope Francis’ election to the Chair of St. Peter, Megan Baird (’02) launched a Facebook page dedicated to the new Holy Father. “Initially, it was a small project that I wanted to do during Lent in memory of my Mom, who died of cancer in 2007,” explains Miss Baird, an assistant manager for the Fort Worth Library system. “My mom would have LOVED this new Pope.”
Since then, Miss Baird’s online tribute has grown into something much, much larger. In eight months the page has received more than 50,000 “likes” — 50,650 as of this writing.
Friends of Pope Francis, which is “devoted to the spiritual support of our new Holy Father and the Church,” invites visitors to “leave messages and prayers of support for him.” Its feed contains many of the already iconic photos of Pope Francis visiting with the faithful, notable quotations, and prayers left in his behalf.
As its readership has expanded so, too, has Friends of Pope Francis’ mission. “The page has broadened in scope to honor our Catholic faith and the wise words of Catholics and previous popes and saints,” Miss Baird writes. “For Pope Francis himself said, ‘Christ is the center; not the Successor of Peter.’ It would be appropriate, then, to put focus on the Faith of the Church as well.”
The video above promotes a new Catholic boys boarding school, Gregory the Great Academy, which is being led by two Thomas Aquinas College alumni: Sean Fitzpatrick (’02) and Luke Culley (’94). Founded in the tradition of St. Gregory Academy — a recently shuttered school that the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter operated for nearly 20 years in Elmhurst, Penn. — GGA aspires to create a similar experience, rooted in the liberal arts and orthodox Catholicism. The new school, located in the Pocono Mountains, recently began its inaugural year with 23 students. “Please keep the Academy and its quixotic mission in your prayers,” asks Mr. Fitzpatrick, the school’s headmaster, “and help spread the word in this new endeavor for Catholic education.”
Please pray for their efforts, as well of those of other alumni who are working to foster a climate of holiness and excellence in Catholic high schools.
After 15 years in the home-inspection business, Philip Halpin ('97) has joined the StoryTel Foundation, which produces Catholic documentary films about people and organizations who answer God’s call to “restore the sacred.” In that capacity, he has co-produced, co-written, and edited Where Heaven Meets Earth, a documentary about St. Peter's Church in Omaha, Neb. — a once-failing urban parish transformed by a young priest who was determined to embrace the whole of Catholic tradition.
The documentary, the trailer of which is available above, recently appeared on EWTN. DVDs are available via the StoryTel website.
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....
Lost in the ongoing political debate over marriage is a more fundamental question, namely, where does marriage come from? Does the state have the power to define what marriage is, or does the definition precede and transcend the state — something government cannot alter?
Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94), a regular guest on the Catholic Answers Live radio program, takes on this question and others in a recent episode titled, The Nature of Marriage.
Marriage, Fr. Sebastian says, “comes about as a result of nature,” and as such is not subject to human redefinition. “The state doesn’t have the right to define triangles. The state doesn’t have the right to define dogs and cats. They are what they are. So the state doesn’t have the right to define marriage,” he explains. Moreover, for government to claim authority in this instance is to assert for itself “absolute power” over marriage “and, as a consequence, family life, because the foundational relationship in any family is the relationship of marriage.”
The show is available both in streaming and downloadable form on the Catholic Answers website, as are these other episodes featuring Fr. Sebastian:
- Open Forum for Non-Catholics (December 9, 2011)
- How Biblical Inspiration Works (October 21)
- The Role of Logic in Apologetics (May 7)
- Are You Predestined? (February 10)
- The Nature of Prophecy (December 6, 2010)
- Can Doctrine Develop? (April 26, 2010)
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.
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.”
Marianna Bartholomew has published an article with the Catholic News Agency about a sign of springtime in the Church — the return of hand-stitched altar linens at Blessed Sacrament Church in Lincoln, Neb. The linens are the handiwork of faithful parishioners in a newly established “Order of Martha,” an organization which boasted as many as 6,000 members in the 1960s, but by 2005 had dwindled to only five known groups nationwide. At the heart of this story is the priest who recognized two needs — one material, one spiritual — and by bringing them together inspired a group of committed laywomen who make beautiful vestments and altar cloths to be used in the Mass.
That priest is Rev. Brendan Kelly (’85), the pastor of St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Bee, Neb., and a teacher at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Lincoln.
The story begins in 2008 when Fr. Kelly, who was then assigned to Blessed Sacrament, discovered that the girls in his church took a keen interest in its tattered and aging altar linens. Remembering his grandmother’s participation in the Order of Martha, and mindful of the great joy its members took in offering themselves at the altar in this way, Fr. Kelly established a new chapter. The chapter has since sewn linens for Blessed Sacrament as well as for the College’s Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel.
This new Order of Martha has also borne great spiritual fruit — which you can read all about in Mrs. Bartholomew’s wonderful story.
William Sockey (’75) and the National Pilgrim Virgin StatueAmong the many Thomas Aquinas College alumni who are actively defending religious freedom in the face of the HHS Mandate is Bill Sockey (’75) — and he is doing it through prayer.
As the Custodian of the National Pilgrim Virgin Statue, blessed by His Holiness Pope Paul VI and given to the United States by the Bishop of Fatima in 1967, Mr. Sockey brings the statue to dioceses across the United States. In this capacity and with the World Apostolate of Fatima (WAF), he has for the last three years promoted a campaign urging Catholics to make reparation for the sins of the country and to pray daily for national peace.
Now, as a consequence of the HHS mandate, a new intention has been added to this prayer — as requested by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops — for the preservation of religious freedom. So far over 25,000 new members of WAF have pledged to say this prayer and make this reparation every day.
The prayer is:
“O my God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love Thee and I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love thee.
“O my Jesus, I accept and bear with submission whatever suffering I will encounter today for love of You, for the conversion of sinners and as reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Previously Mr. Sockey served as the vice-president of Catholics United for the Faith and the World Apostolate of Fatima as well as the executive director of the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima, the Couple to Couple League for Natural Family Planning, and the St. Thomas More Center for Catholic Family Life.
For more information about the World Alliance of Fatima — including arranging a visit of the National Pilgrim Virgin Statue to your diocese, see — www.wafusa.org.
It was a reunion of two Thomas Aquinas College classmates when Dr. Jonathan Doylend (’96), a postdoctoral researcher with the Optoelectronics Research Group at the University of California, Santa Barbara, recently spoke before the Catholic Business and Professional Group in Reno, Nevada. The group’s president, attorney Jeremy McNeil (’96), had invited his onetime roommate to address members about the alleged contradiction between faith and modern science. Among Dr. Doylend’s remarks was the following observation about why the Christian is especially suited for the natural sciences:
“Rather than being unmotivated to uncover explanations of what he sees in nature, a scientist who is also a Christian has two motivations that a non-Christian might not have. Firstly: He is confident that sense can be made of the universe, since he attributes its design to an intelligent being. His inquiry, in other words, is inherently optimistic.
“Secondly: He knows that by uncovering the secrets of the universe, he is not discovering a world which is chaotic and inelegant, and thus lesser than himself. Rather he is delving into the designs of the ultimate intelligence, and thus learning indirectly about God Himself.”
Mr. Doylend is, notably, one of several Thomas Aquinas College alumni to speak before the Catholic Business and Professional Group, including Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94).
Alumnus Greg Pfundstein (’05) has a new article in National Review Online about the alarmingly high incidence of abortion New York City. The column recounts a catalogue of horrors with its zip-code-by-zip-code breakdown of the city’s abortion rates. It also offers some salient insights pertaining to the current controversy over the HHS contraceptive-abortifacient-sterilization mandate, specifically:
“The abortion industry, most notably embodied by America’s largest abortion business, Planned Parenthood, contends that it has the solution to the problem it created in the form of ‘increased access’ to universally available contraception and wider distribution of its marginally effective radical sexual-education programs. Such a contention displays a startling lack of imagination. Note that New York City passed out 40 million free condoms in 2009, requires coverage of contraception by all insurance plans, and has had radical sex ed in the schools for some time (and now mandates it). Interested observers would do well to actually listen to the women who do not avail themselves of the ubiquitous and free contraception and try to understand what complex social dynamics are at work.”
Mr. Pfundstein is the Executive Director of the Chiaroscuro Foundation, non-profit philanthropy in New York. He holds a licentiate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America, and serves on both the Patient’s Rights Council and the Pro-Life Commission of the Archdiocese of New York.