Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Companions by Sir lawrrence Alma-Tadema 1892

Sean Fitzpatrick ('02)“The return of summertime every year often recalls the years that will never return: the golden days of youth,” writes Sean Fitzpatrick (’02). The headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and a regular contributor to Crisis magazine, Mr. Fitzpatrick has opened an online conversation about summertime-reading books that arouse seasonal memories of childhood. “What books,” he asks, “should be brought to lakesides, porches, and hammocks? Which stories provide that return to the perennial glories of summer and the passing glories of childhood?”

His initial suggestions are available in his article, What Are You Reading This Summer?

St. Monica Academy

An education success story comes out of Montrose, California, where St. Monica Academy is relocating — because it has outgrown its original campus in Pasadena.

The K-12 school, founded in 2001 with 44 students, has seen its enrollment swell to 240. As a result, it is moving this summer to the campus of a shuttered parochial school at Holy Redeemer Church, where it will open its doors at the start of the academic year.

There are many ties between St. Monica’s and Thomas Aquinas College, beginning with its headmaster, Marguerite (Ford ’79) Grimm. There are also 10 other alumni on the school’s faculty: Mary Kate Zepeda (’89), Darren Bradley (’98), Alexandra Currie (’05), Paula Grimm (’08), Daniel Selmeczy (’08), Marisela Miranda (’09), Jane Forsyth (’11), Colleen Smith (’11), Thomas Quackenbush (’14), and Thomas Trull (’15). Like the College, St. Monica’s employs a classical curriculum and stresses fidelity to the teaching Church.

“The classical model emphasizes the good, the true and the beautiful,” Mrs. Grimm recently told the Glendale News-Press. “Our curriculum overflows with heroes, beautiful illustrations, moral literature, music, poetry, scripture, math and science.” St. Monica’s is a mainstay on the Cardinal Newman Society’s list of “Schools of Excellence,” a ranking of the top Catholic schools across the United States, which also includes several others that are headed by Thomas Aquinas College alumni.

Notably, St. Monica’s has developed a reputation for athletic excellence, too. The Glendale News Press notes that the school’s sports teams have racked up 22 CIF playoff appearances and 13 league titles. This past year, the women’s basketball squad, coached by Colleen Smith (’11) “won 18 consecutive games, while achieving the fourth-highest team grade-point average out of the 576 schools that are in the CIF Southern Section.”

Who Designed the Designer

Dr. Michael A. Augros (’92)

Having recently been a guest on the Catholic Answers Live radio program, alumnus and tutor Dr. Michael A. Augros (’92) now finds his new book the subject of a review in

In God the Designer: Yes or No?, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus, president and founder of Trinity Communications, calls Dr. Augros’ Who Designed the Designer? A Rediscovered Path to God’s Existence, “a resounding success” in its effort “to refute the many atheists who, especially in modern times, think they have successfully demolished the traditional arguments for the existence of God based on the necessity of a first cause or a prime mover.” Dr. Mirus adds that Dr. Augros “writes well and uses many entertaining examples, making a potentially dry topic extraordinarily readable.”

The full review is available via




Dr. Michael A. Augros (’92)Taking a break from his work as the director of the College’s 2015 High School Summer Program, alumnus and tutor Dr. Michael A. Augros (’92) recently appeared as a guest on the Catholic Answers Live radio program. There he discussed his new book, which makes a philosophical case for the existence of God, Who Designed the Designer? A Rediscovered Path to God’s Existence. Host Patrick Coffin called the book “a wonder-filled romp through the ‘first cause’ approach of Plato and Aristotle and the great Thomas Aquinas.”

The full program is available, both in streaming and downloadable form, via the Catholic Answers Live website.


David Shaneyfelt (’81) and Raymond Tittman (’94)David Shaneyfelt (’81) and
Raymond Tittman (’94)

Two alumni attorneys who practice on opposite ends of the law recently teamed up with the honor of presenting a national webinar for the prestigious American Law Institute. David Shaneyfelt (’81), who represents companies in disputes against insurance companies, and Raymond Tittman (’94), who represents insurance companies, presented a continuing legal education course for attorneys entitled, Insurance Bad Faith: Strategies for Avoiding or Pursuing Claims. Mr. Shaneyfelt practices with The Alvarez Firm in Calabasas, California, along with fellow alumnus Justin Alvarez (’97), while Mr. Tittman is the founding partner of Edison, McDowell & Hetherington LLP’s Oakland, California, office. The two have never actually had a case against each other. Not yet, anyway.

Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87)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:


Christopher Zehnder (’87)Like his fellow graduate John Finley (’99), Christopher Zehnder (’87) sees a connection between Pope Francis’s warnings in Laudato Si’ and the Supreme Court’s recent attempt to redefine marriage. Writing in his personal blog, Notes from the Wasteland, Mr. Zehnder observes:

“It is fitting, in a way, that the Supreme Court’s decision should so closely follow the pope’s encyclical, for the former brings into focus the major theme of the latter. That theme is not the threat of climate change, whatever those who want either to dismiss the encyclical or coöpt it say. A major — if not the major — theme of Laudato Si’ is that, both in the moral order and the natural order, everything is connected. How we treat the ‘environment’ is how we will treat ourselves, and how we treat ourselves is how we will treat the natural world outside ourselves. …

“Those, therefore, who insist on the integrity of the natural world but rejoice at Friday’s Supreme Court decision are self-confused. Those who deplore the decision, call for respect for the nature of marriage and the basic meaning of sexual acts but ignore the integrity of the natural world, are self-confused. Those who think you must respect unborn human life but can subject human labor to irrational market forces are as confused as those who think you may kill unborn children but not oppress the worker. Sooner or later, these groups will need to decide on their core principle — relativism or respect for nature — for mankind will not remain in a state of interior division forever.”

Mr. Zehnder is the general editor of the Catholic Textbook Project, which aims to create a new generation of textbooks for parochial schools that accurately, beautifully, and engagingly reflect the Church’s contribution to human history. A high school teacher and former headmaster, he is the author of three of the project’s books: From Sea to Shining Sea: The Story of America; Light to the Nations II: the Making of the Modern World; and Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America.

Rev. Jacob (Joseph ’06) Hsieh with his parents and the Most Rev. Kevin William Vann, Bishop of Orange
Rev. Jacob (Joseph ’06) Hsieh, O.Praem., with his parents and the Most Rev. Kevin William Vann, Bishop of Orange

On Saturday, June 27, the Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Rev. Jacob (Joseph ’06) Hsieh, O.Praem., received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, becoming the Colleges’ 62nd alumnus priest. Fr. Jacob’s ordination came at the hands of the Most Rev. Kevin William Vann, Bishop of Orange and the College’s 2013 Convocation Speaker. It took place at the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, where many alumni and friends of the College were on hand to witness the occasion.

Two days later, Fr. Jacob offered his Mass of Thanksgiving on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. He now takes up his first assignment, teaching Gregorian chant to the novices in his community, the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. An accomplished musician, he has performed at Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and, this past Easter, he chanted the Exsultet at the papal Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. For the past year leading up to his ordination, he studied theology and chant at the Norbertine Generalte in Rome.

“One of my teachers at high school was a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College. He made me love the pursuit of truth and showed me how rich the Catholic faith is. This influenced me to go to Thomas Aquinas College,” Fr. Jacob reflects in the Norbertines’ electronic newsletter. “There, I met Fr. Michael Perea, a confrere at St. Michael’s who was one of the chaplains that year and who suggested I come to visit the abbey. I fell in love with the common life that was thriving there: the pursuit of holiness and truth in fraternal charity. I decided to join the abbey after my senior year.”

Fr. Jacob offers a blessing to Director of Gift Planning Tom Susanka Fr. Jacob offers a blessing to Director of Gift Planning Tom SusankaAmong those who witnessed Fr. Jacob’s ordination were two members of the College’s faculty, Director of Development Robert Bagdazian and Director of Gift Planning Tom Susanka. On behalf of the College, they presented its newest alumnus priest with two gifts that, God willing, provide him with spiritual strength: Bl. John Henry Newman’s Parochial and Plain Sermons and one of the knotted Rosaries that a friend of Founding President Ronald P. McArthur has given the College’s graduates in each of the last two years.

“It was wonderful to get to see Fr. Jacob humbly and reverently answer God’s call to the holy priesthood,” says Mr. Bagdazian. “We pray for him in his new ministry, and we thank God for continuing to use the College to bless the world with more good and holy priests.”

Dr. John Finley (’99)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.

Dr. Lane (Smith ’04) Scott and family

“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.”

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