Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Michael Van Hecke ('86)

This November, the Vatican will host the World Congress on Catholic Education, at which educational experts from across the globe will meet to discuss “the challenges that the ‘educational emergency’ unavoidably provokes for our societies, educational systems, and the Church.” Among those experts invited to participate will be one of the preeminent advocates for Catholic liberal education in the United States, Michael Van Hecke (’86).

“The aim of this Congress echoes everything I’ve strived for in my work,” says Mr. Van Hecke. “The issues of this congress are the same issues I’ve been discussing with colleagues, superintendents, and bishops for … years.”

Mr. Van Hecke is the headmaster of St. Augustine Academy, a K-12 classical school in Ventura, California, that is consistently ranked among the best Catholic schools in the United States. He is also the president of the Catholic Schools Textbook Project and the president and founder of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education (ICLE).

“People are desperate to know how to revitalize Catholic schools,” Mr. Van Hecke observes, and “the Catholic Textbook Project and the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education have become the organizations to go to for help.” Catholic schools in more than 50 dioceses in North America and overseas and now using Catholic Textbook Project textbooks, and the ICLE has been active in helping Catholic schools across the country to adopt classical, authentically Catholic curricula.

The Congregation for Catholic Education is hosting the World Congress, which will take place in Vatican City, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s declaration Gravissimum Educationis and the 25th anniversary of the Pope St. John Paul’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae. “I am grateful for the Vatican invitation and look forward to the November Congress and its international discussion,” says Mr. Van Hecke. “I hope that others might benefit from the experience we have gained from our work with Catholic schools here in North America.”


David Halpin (’79)Please continue to pray for the repose of David Halpin (’79), husband of Natalie (St. Arnault ’80) and father of Rose (’06) and Margaret Tannoury (’08), who died on March 6. Below is the text of his obituary, penned by the Halpins’ daughter Elizabeth:

... for God is greater than our hearts
and all is known to Him.
— 1 John 3:20

David B. Halpin, attorney at law, of Chesterton, Indiana, passed away Friday, March 6, 2015, in South Bend, Indiana. He was 63 years old. A true renaissance man, Dave lived and worked wholeheartedly for the Catholic faith and his family. He is most lovingly remembered by all who knew him. David is survived by his wife, M. Natalie Halpin (St. Arnault) and their children — David, Eugene, Rose, Margaret (Tannoury), Elizabeth, Gertrude, Thomas, James and Seth Halpin — along with their grandson, Alexander Tannoury, and son-in-law, Chadi Tannoury. Also surviving are his mother, Margaret Kathleen Halpin (Nolan), and his siblings — Philip, Patrick, Timothy, Margaret (Ortiz), Mary Ann (Shapiro), Peter, Kathleen (Santoro), and John Halpin — along with their spouses, children, and numerous extended-family members. He is preceded in death by his father, Eugene Philip Halpin.

Born to Peggy and Gene Halpin on October 21, 1951 in Seattle, Washington, Dave grew up in South Pasadena, California. His childhood recollections were of a bygone era — attending parochial grammar school with the nuns, playing the drums in a rock ’n roll garage band, working his father’s catering truck route in downtown Los Angeles and surfing the Pacific Ocean waves before it was “cool.”

After graduating from South Pasadena High School in 1969, Dave enlisted in the United States Coast Guard. It was through the Guard that he learned the importance of discipline and the necessity of higher education. He was honorably discharged in November 1974. In the fall of 1975 he began his undergraduate studies at Thomas Aquinas College in Southern California. He received his Bachelors of Liberal Arts in 1979. While attending the College he was ordained to meet his life partner and wife, Natalie St. Arnault. They married December 29, 1979, at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Denver, Colorado.

Dave graduated from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 1983. Subsequently he was sworn and admitted into various jurisdictions, courts, and state bars. He was licensed to practice law in Colorado, New Mexico, Illinois, and Indiana. He was also licensed in Native Tribal Law for the Navajo Nation, White Mountain Apache, and Zuni Pueblo.

Dave and Natalie moved to Indiana in November 1991. They raised their nine children in the Chesterton/Duneland area — a semi-rural community in Indiana on the southern shores of Lake Michigan. Dave led the family by example with prayer, hard work, and quiet acts of love. He was a great storyteller and fantastic impersonator; he had a knack for making a room burst into laughter with his keen sense of humor and wit. He was an avid reader, swimmer, and bicycle enthusiast. He took pride in the Halpin homestead — sweating in his yard most summer Saturdays or snow blowing the drive in the bleak of winter.

Dave was a member of St. Patrick Parish, its Men of St. Joseph, and the Knights of Columbus. His life will be honored by family and friends with love, laughter and prayer.

In lieu of flowers, checks can be made payable to Dave’s widow, M. Natalie Halpin. Please post farewells, stories and/or condolences via the White-Love Funeral Home website.

God’s blessings and the peace of Christ to each and every one touched by Dave’s life.


Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro

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.

Diary of a Country Mother“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.”

The full interview with Mrs. Montanaro is available via the Radio Maria website, and Diary of a County Mother is for sale, in paperback and Kindle formats, on Amazon.com.


Dr. John. J. Goyette (’90)Over the weekend the Ventura County Star published a lengthy feature about the latest assault on human life in California — physician-assisted suicide, now euphemistically dubbed “aid in dying.” The story includes quotations from both prominent supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 128, which would permit doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients. Among those opposed to the measure is an alumnus and tutor of the College, Dr. John. J. Goyette (’90).

“The very idea of physician-assisted suicide is an implicit judgment that a life that involves suffering is not really worth living,” Dr. Goyette tells the Star. “It’s seeing human beings as disposable.” Framing the controversy not so much as one of religion but of human dignity, he adds, “Natural law forbids taking innocent human life,” a prohibition of which “faith reminds us.”

Dr. Goyette continues by observing that assisted suicide’s supporters have a grimly utilitarian view of the end of human life. “The underlying assumption is that a death with pain and suffering is somehow meaningless or undignified — that doesn’t really fit with our experience,” he says. “Suffering is an opportunity for people to show care and compassion. A death that’s filled with compassion, that’s not a meaningless or undignified death.”

The full story is available on the Ventura Star website.


Sara Majkowski ('14), front right, and fellow members of Catholics in Action
Sara Majkowski ('14), front right, and fellow members of Catholics in Action

Less than one year since her graduation, Sara Majkowski (’14) is living just outside of Phoenix, where she is an educator by day and — in her spare time — she is learning the ropes of film production and finance.

This entrée to the movie business comes as a surprise. Like several other recent graduates, Miss Majkowski went to Phoenix to teach in the city’s rapidly expanding consortium of Great Hearts charter academies, classical schools that are, as she puts it, “very academically rigorous, with high standards in terms of behavior and academics.” But upon settling into her new city, she found herself a church — St. Anne’s in Gilbert — with ties to an emerging lay apostolate, Catholics in Action.

Directed by the pastor of St. Anne’s, Rev. Sergio Muñoz Fita, Catholics in Action is an American offshoot of Catholic Action, an international apostolate of the Secular Institute Servi Trinitatis. CIA, as it is known, is “about lay people obtaining sanctity in their lives as lay people,” Miss Majkowski explains. “We pray together in adoration. We receive spiritual formation. We reach out to the community, the poor, and young people who need formation, everything Christ directs us to do.”

Although a new member, Miss Majkowski is already heavily involved in CIA and its good works. She is helping to organize a trip to the 2016 World Youth Day in Poland, and she is busily raising funds for an upcoming film, Footprints.

The genesis of Footprints came about last summer, when two groups from St. Anne’s — one men, one women — made 40-day pilgrimages along Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela. A camera crew accompanied the men’s group, obtaining footage for a film that aims, Miss Majkowski says, “to document their spiritual experience, undergoing psychological trials and harsh physical demands.” There will be a premier screening in June and a general release, they expect, within a year. “I’m working on raising funds to complete production through a Kickstarter campaign, selling merchandise, approaching businesses, and spreading the word,” she says.

Meanwhile, Miss Majkowski thrives at Arete Preparatory Academy in Gilbert, where she teaches history and Latin to elementary-school students. “There is so much that goes into teaching — finding ways to make the lessons ‘stick,’ holding students’ attention, being responsible with grading, working with parents, and planning events,” she says. “I like it. I like it a lot.”


Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01) and Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05)
Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01) and Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05)

The latest issue of the Claremont Review of Books features one Thomas Aquinas College alumnus writing about another: Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01), a visiting assistant professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, reviews The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law, by Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05), an assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University.

“I wanted to title my review ‘Natural Law Photobombs Locke-ish Selfie: What Happens Next Will Shock Your Political Philosophy,” jokes Mr. Peterson via Facebook. “But they went with Nature Trail. I guess I’ll keep my day job.”

Alas, sans the Gawker-worthy headline, the review begins:

“The debate over what we mean when we speak of rights, especially in the American context, often concerns what John Locke understood them to mean. Locke’s ambiguity is a gift that keeps on giving to scholarly presses. In The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law, S. Adam Seagrave, a self-identified Aristotelian-Thomist, mercifully refrains from attempting the definitive commentary on what he rightly calls Locke’s ‘problematically vague and incomplete’ account of the basis of rights. Instead, he makes not a wholly Lockean but, as he says, a ‘Locke-ish’ case for how natural rights arise from the very structure of human beings.”

After a thoughtful analysis of Dr. Seagrave’s book — mostly positive, albeit sprinkled with a few objections — Dr. Peterson concludes his review with praise:

“[Dr. Seagrave] has eschewed the imposing vagaries of modern scholarship in favor of actually engaging in the act of philosophy rather than mere commentary or critique. True philosophic exploration of difficult questions is much like the art of negotiating a fair deal: if one side walks away in smug satisfaction, you’re probably not doing it right. Everyone will disagree with some chunk of S. Adam Seagrave’s provocative work, but his effort is a brave breath of fresh air in the stagnant, painfully insecure, and often comically compartmentalized world of academic books.”

The full review is available via the Claremont Review of Books.


The video above comes from this year’s Easter Vigil Mass, offered by His Holiness Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica. Chanting the Exsultet is a graduate of the College, Frater Jacob, O.Praem. (Joseph Hsieh ’06).

A Norbertine canon and a transitional deacon, Frater Jacob is currently studying theology and music at the Norbertine Generalte in Rome. He is due to return stateside in time for his ordination to the priesthood on June 27. 

       

Exsúltet iam angélica turba cælórum:
exsúltent divína mystéria:
et pro tanti Regis victória tuba ínsonet salutáris

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King's triumph!

Alleluia, alleluia, He is risen!


The Catholic News Agency reports that the chart-topping Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, are releasing a new album in time for the paschal season, Easter at Ephesus. For three years in a row, the community, which is based in Gower, Missouri, has been the best-selling artist on Billboard’s “Classical Traditional” list. Two of the nuns, Sr. Mary Josefa of the Eucharist, OSB (Kathleen Holcomb ’07), and Sr. Sophia Eid, OSB (’08), are alumnae of the College.

Following the success of past albums Lent at Ephesus, Angels and Saints at Ephesus, and Advent at Ephesus, Easter at Ephesus features 27 tracks, in both English and Latin, including traditional hymns, original compositions, and chants. The compilation, the order’s mother superior tells the Catholic News Agency, is “a snapshot of the music our community sings already throughout the season in our little chapel.”

The album is available via iTunes, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the community’s website.

 

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Sean Kramer with his students

Sean Kramer ('86)Following yesterday’s post about alumnus Mark Langley (’89), who is brewing a batch of beer this Lent, is a story about Sean Kramer (’86), who, throughout these 40 days and nights, is teaching middle-school students to paint icons.

The subject of a recent profile in his native city’s archdiocesan newspaper, Catholic San Francisco, Mr. Kramer is an iconographer and teacher at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. For the past six years he has offered Lenten classes in iconography at St. Patrick School in Portsmouth, thanks to funding from the local council of the Knights of Columbus.

“As one works on an icon, one is working on oneself, realizing oneself as a more complete image of God,” Mr. Kramer told Catholic San Francisco. “The materials and steps in making an icon are all symbolic of levels of ourselves and the stages of our transformation.” The story notes that Mr. Kramer opens each class with a prayer asking God, the saints, and the angels to “help us make these holy icons images that will remind us and those who see them of God’s presence and love for us.’”


Mark Langley (’89)“I do not see a flickering candle at the end of this year’s Lenten journey,” writes alumnus Mark Langley (’89) on his blog, Lion & Ox. “No, I see a burst of glory and the veritable Super Nova, that is Christ’s Resurrection from the tomb, and what’s more, I also see over two cases of a very fine pale ale, some of which will enable me to celebrate that Resurrection with more propriety.”

The founder and the academic dean of The Lyceum, a classical school in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Langley is also a husband, a father of 12, and an amateur brewer. In this last capacity, he has detected a relationship between his faith and his hobby. “Lent was specifically designed for brewing beer,” Mr. Langley writes. “The reason for this is obvious. Beer takes exactly 40 days (more or less) to ferment and grow from a weak sweet slop of ‘wort’ into a fine, noble, life-giving, heart-cheering, spiritually-enhancing liquid — whose foam raises itself in the glass as does incense in the chapel.”

And so, at the start of Lent, Mr. Langley began a new batch of English pale ale that will be ready precisely on Easter Sunday. “Of course we fast and pray for forty days first primarily in imitation of our Lord,” he observes. “But the same period of time is also roughly speaking an ideal space for brewing beer, and therefore I think it is obvious that this is a fitting thing for Christians to do in the first week of Lent.”

To read more of Mr. Langley’s musings on Lenten brewing, read the full post on his blog.

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