Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

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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Who Designed the Designer?

Dr. Michael A. Augros (’92)In May, Ignatius Press published Who Designed the Designer? A Rediscovered Path to God’s Existence, by Dr. Michael A. Augros (’92), a graduate of the College and a member of its teaching faculty.

Who Designed the Designer? is a direct, concise antidote to the “New Atheist” arguments against the existence of God. The book draws upon universal principles to demonstrate the logical necessity for an intelligent, uncreated first cause of the universe. In so doing, it relies heavily on the works of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, placing a renewed emphasis on great minds that have thus far received little attention in the ongoing public debates about theism, intelligent design, and evolution. The result is a profound yet highly accessible investigation, beginning with the world as we encounter it and ending in the divine mind.


Sr. Maria Battista of the Lamb of God (Maria Forshaw ’07) Sr. Maria Battista of the Lamb of God (Maria Forshaw ’07)On June 12, some three years after entering the Carmel of St. Joseph in St. Louis, Missouri, Sr. Maria Battista of the Lamb of God (Maria Forshaw ’07) made her first vows as a Discalced Carmelite nun. “She remains as active in the musical life of the monastery as at the College,” writes her mother, Liza Forshaw. “At the Latin Mass celebrating her profession, she conducted her fellow sisters in Gregorian chant, and she plays the organ every day.” As a member of the this cloistered, contemplative community, Sr. Maria Battista is dedicated to a life of prayer in service of the Church.

Thanks be to God! Please keep Sister in your prayers as she continues to discern her vocation.

The ordination of Rev. Joshua Mayer ('03)

The photo above comes from this Saturday’s ordination of Rev. Joshua Mayer (’03) at the hands of the Most Rev. James S. Wall, Bishop of Gallup. Numerous Thomas Aquinas College alumni and their families traveled to New Mexico for the occasion, marking the ordination of the College’s 61st alumnus priest. Deo gratias!

Below, Fr. Mayer offers a priestly blessing to the family Theresa (Smith) and John Minkel (both ’03):

Fr. Mayer blesses the Minkel family

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 video above promotes the release of a new musical album, Benedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia, which features the voices of three alumni monks: Rev. Thomas Bolin, O.S.B. (’96), Br. Mary Evagrius Hayden, O.S.B. (’08), and Br. Philp Wilmeth (’13).

The three graduates are members of an 18-member Benedictine community at Monastero San Benedetto, a 1,000-year-old monastery in Norcia, Italy, birthplace of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica. Fr. Thomas serves as the community’s subprior; Br. Evagrius is currently pursuing graduate studies at the International Theological Institute in Trumau, Austria; and Br. Philip is set to make his simple vows on September 8, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The album, drawn from the monks’ daily life of prayer, features 33 tracks of Gregorian chant, including traditional Marian antiphons such as “Regina Caeli” and “Ave Regina Caelorum,” as well as previously unrecorded chant versions of responsories and an original composition, “Nos Qui Christi Iugum.” Benedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia is available for sale via, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and directly from the Monks of Norcia website.

Sr. Mary Catherine Blanding, IHM (’76)

The photo above comes from one of the College’s earliest graduates, Sr. Mary Catherine Blanding, IHM (’76). A nun with the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Wichita, Kansas, Sr. Mary Catherine is shown here teaching a group of novices “the perennial wisdom of St. Thomas,” she writes.

In addition to working with her community’s newest members, Sr. Mary Catherine instructs religious-education teachers at the Diocese of Wichita’s Regan Catechetical Institute, assists parishes with their religious-education programs, and offers spiritual formation for college students at the diocesan parish that serves Wichita State University.

In this Year of Consecrated Life, please pray for Sister, her catechetical endeavors, and all of the College’s religious alumnae!