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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Thomas Graf ('19)A member of the College’s most recent graduating class, Thomas Graf (’19) is featured in the latest edition of Catholic Answers magazine, owing to one of the more amusing aspects of his job at the San Diego-based apologetics apostolate. In the editorial, editor Tim Ryland discusses some of Thomas’ discoveries while checking over YouTube’s auto-generated captions for CAL videos. Apparently algorithms struggle with the jargon of the Faith, producing some hilarious mis-transcriptions, such as:

  • A mac to the Heart (Immaculate Heart)
  • Pop a rat singer (Papa Ratzinger)
  • Tow mystic (Thomistic)
  • Kappa Gas is Live (Catholic Answers Live)

Mr. Graf interned at Catholic Answers between his junior and senior years at the College, and is now a fulltime employee in its video, radio, and marketing departments. “Having a firm foundation in the philosophy and theology of the Catholic faith,” he said at graduation, “will help me to communicate these very difficult, higher concepts with the broader world” — starting with YouTube!

Sr. Anna Mercia (Maggie Conklin’17)

On July 16, the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Maggie Conklin (’17) entered the novitiate with the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. After nearly two years with the community, she now gets to wear the sisters’ habit, and she has received her religious name: Sr. Anna Mercia!

Deo gratias!

Sr. Bridget Coughlin (’13), right, enters the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey Sr. Bridget Coughlin (’13), right, enters the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey

The Dominican Nuns at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey, have published a lovely blog post and slideshow welcoming Sr. Bridget Coughlin (’13) into their community. Entering as an aspirant, Sr. Bridget will, by God’s grace, begin the postulancy within a few months. (Also visible in the slideshow is another recent alumna, Sr. Maria Johanna (Barrett ’14), O.P.)

With the addition of Sr. Bridget, eight members of the Class of 2013 have now entered the religious life and/or seminary. The others are:

And a ninth member of the class, Alex Bueche, will enter the Norbertine Order later this summer!

Deo gratias!

Nnadozie Onyekuru (’17) Nnadozie Onyekuru (’17)

This spring Nnadozie Onyekuru (’17) completed his studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Keough School, where he earned a master’s degree in global affairs. His time at Notre Dame “was a continuity of God’s providence,” he writes — a period during which he thrived and grew in many ways. “I had the privilege of interacting with contemporary policy shapers, including a former White House Chief of Staff, an international statesman, a Nobel Peace Laureate, and the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States.”

For the last year Mr. Onyekuru served as one of the university’s International Ambassadors — “one of my favorite communities at Notre Dame” — a select group of undergraduate and graduate students who welcome international students and help them adjust to campus life. In April, the International Student and Scholar Affairs program honored him for his efforts, naming him a co-recipient of the ambassador team’s service award. “I truly did not deserve it,” he writes with characteristic humility of the honor. “And I am immensely grateful to my teammates and the International Ambassadors who welcomed me to Notre Dame two years ago.”

Recently Mr. Onyekuru has been published in two university publications: In May he penned a brief essay, New Nigerian Bishop is Peacemaker, on Arc of the Universe, a blog edited by Notre Dame Professor of Political Science Daniel Philpott. Then, in June,  he wrote A Subscript in Global Education for the school’s Policy Pulse journal, describing the promise of a new, online tutoring service — and how it can be leveraged to improve educational outcomes — in his homeland of Nigeria.

“I am deeply grateful for all the opportunities I received at Notre Dame,” writes Mr. Onyekuru, “and for my formation at Thomas Aquinas College, which helped me to enjoy them thoughtfully.”

crucifix from Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel

Please pray for the repose of the soul of John Kaiser (’07),  who, after a long illness, passed away on June 20, surrounded by his loving family. Please pray also for the consolation of his parents, Patti (Grimm ’79) and Ken (’78), his brother Will (’03), and all the members of the Kaiser and Grimm families.

Saints of God, come to his aid!
Come to meet him, angels of the Lord!
Receive his soul and present him to God the Most High.

May Christ, Who called him, take him to Himself;
may angels lead him to Abraham's side.
Receive his soul and present him to God the Most High.

Give him eternal rest, O Lord,
and may Your light shine upon him forever.
Receive his soul and present him to God the Most High.

We commend our brother John to you, Lord.
Now that he has passed from this life,
may he live on in Your presence.
In Your mercy and love, forgive whatever sins he
may have committed through human weakness.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lieutenant Commander Josh Bergen (’05) Lieutenant Commander Josh Bergen (’05)

After 12 years as a Surface Warfare Officer for the United States Navy, Lieutenant Commander Josh Bergen (’05) recently transitioned to a Foreign Area Officer (FAO), becoming a Latin America regional specialist. His first FAO posting is to Madrid, Spain, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in defense and security studies at Escuela Superior de las Fuerzas Armadas. (ESFAS), the Spanish military’s staff college.

After graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 2005, Lt.-Cmdr. Bergen taught English in Peru before being commissioned in the Navy through Officer Candidate School. Over the course of a dozen years, he served on four ships with stations in Virginia, Argentina, and Rhode Island. He has led sailors as a division officer and department head, with responsibilities ranging from interior communications to anti-submarine warfare and air-defense systems. Over the course of four deployments to Europe and the Middle East, he qualified and stood watch as officer of the deck, surface warfare coordinator, and tactical action officer.

Lt.-Cmdr. Bergen will study at ESFAS through summer 2020 in preparation for further assignments in support of security cooperation with the nation’s partners throughout the Western Hemisphere. “Transitioning to Foreign Area Officer allows me to combine my Naval career with my passion for Latin America and the Spanish language,” he says. He and his wife, his “beautiful and long-suffering” classmate, Bernadette (Coughlin ‘05) Bergen, are the parents of five children.

Dr. Matthew Peterson (’01), vice president of education at the Claremont Institute and editor of The American Mind, recently served as the commencement speaker at Providence Christian College in Pasadena, California. In his address, Who is the Elite?, he discussed the vital role that education should play — yet all too often, does not — in uniting the leaders of society with the public at large through shared values, a common ethos, and a unified sense of the common good.

T.S. Eliot worried that in our modern educational system our elites would be, “united only by their common interests and separated by everything else.” The modern elite, in other words, would not share ideas about human nature, character, or virtue, religion, or the most important questions human being have to answer to live a good life. Instead, Eliot worried that our modern elite would consist solely of individuals whose only common bond with each other was their professional interest.…

If education is just professional training, and if there is not a unified understanding of morality or religion, but in fact, a rejection of morality and religion, nor a unified elite culture educated to love and serve their communities and country, but in fact, a rejection of American principles and purpose, what is there to unite the elites except raw self-interest? What is there to prevent them from putting their own good above the good of everybody else’s? From becoming snobbish and corrupt?

You see, college doesn’t just unify us through our social lives, as important and vital the relationships we make are, and as meaningful as the time you’ve all spent together was. It also unifies us in what we learned. The secret is that a college’s curriculum is a central source of student and national and theological unity. But this unity, above all else, is what is broken down in many colleges today.

But not at all colleges! Dr. Peterson had kind words to say for his host, Providence Christian College, and its classical curriculum. And just a few months ago he was at his alma mater to take part in a Career Services panel for students who are considering careers in journalism. There he offered a robust assessment of the College’s program of Catholic liberal education, particularly in contrast to what is offered at most “elite” institutions today. “It is a priceless gift, and you should count yourself extremely lucky, extremely blessed, just to have that opportunity,” he told the College’s students. “It is incredibly rare, what you’re able to do, and it will assist you throughout the rest of your life. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. I’ve seen it in countless ways, countless people, graduates across the country doing amazing things, and they will all testify to this.”

Rev. Andrew De Silva (right, ’03) with Joseph W. Cardinal Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark and his fellow new priests at their May 25 ordination Rev. Andrew De Silva (right, ’03) with Joseph W. Cardinal Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark and his fellow new priests at their May 25 ordination.


On Saturday, May 25, His Eminence Joseph W. Cardinal Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark (New Jersey), conferred Holy Orders upon Rev. Andrew J. De Silva (’03), making him Thomas Aquinas College’s 73rd alumnus priest.

“You will participate in Christ’s ministry. You will share with all humanity the Word of God you have already received with joy,” Cardinal Tobin told Fr. De Silva and his five fellow ordinandi at Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. “In memory of the Lord’s death and Resurrection, carry Christ’s death with you and walk with Him in newness of life.” (See the Ordination Mass in the video player at the bottom of this post.)

Fr. De Silva is the son of Dr. Norman P. De Silva (’75), a member of the College’s first graduating class who went on to become a tutor before passing away in 1985.In addition to serving as a priest for the Archdiocese of Newark, Fr. De Silva is a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves Chaplain Corps.

In a recent article for Catholic Digest, published on the eve of his ordination, Fr. De Silva wrote about his experience as a manager for a large-scale wine retailer helped him to discern his vocation. Specifically a customer’s question about wines prompted him to reflect upon what it means for something (or someone) to be good:

I began thinking of the many times in my life I chose to pursue what I thought was good for me but in reality was simply pleasurable. I thought of the many times I had chosen the apparent good, forsaking the sometimes arduous task of determining what was truly good for me or others. …

Then I thought about God. No one knows the invisible background behind me or my choices better than the One Who created each one of us for no other reason than that we be truly happy. Before I was born, God knew me (see Jeremiah 1:5); God knew the entire story of my life and was constantly inviting me to live a good life — but never forcing me. …

[T]hat encounter, where for an instant I caught a little glimpse of what God must live so often with each one of us, remains a pivotal moment on my path toward joyfully serving the Church as one of her priests.

Fr. De Silva will return to California this weekend to offer a Mass of Thanksgiving at his home parish, St. Thomas Aquinas in Ojai, at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Crucifix in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel

Please pray for the repose of the soul of alumnus Douglas Alexander (’77), who died on May 18. Please also pray for the consolation of his wife, Leslie, and their six children.

A member of Thomas Aquinas College’s third graduating class, Mr. Alexander was a convert to Catholicism, entering the Church at the Easter Vigil of his Freshman Year. After his graduation in 1977, he went on to earn a master’s degree in political philosophy from the Claremont University Graduate School. Throughout his life he held numerous positions in organizations dedicated to Catholic education and education policy, including the Free Congress Foundation, Seton Home Study School, and the Catholic Schools Textbook Project, where he served as executive editor.

Eternal rest, grant unto him O Lord
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in pea

Jane Forsyth (’11) with Dr. Ernest Suarez, chair of the Department of English at The Catholic University of America, at the annual conference of Robert Penn Warren Circle Jane Forsyth (’11) with Dr. Ernest Suarez, chair of the Department of English at The Catholic University of America, at the annual conference of the Robert Penn Warren Circle

“I would like to extend my hearty congratulations to Jane Forsyth,” writes Dr. Ernest Suarez, chair of the Department of English at The Catholic University of America, “winner of the 2019 Eleanor Clark Prize for best essay by a junior scholar.”

A member of the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 2011, and now a doctoral student in English Literature at CUA, Miss Forsyth received the award at a recent conference at the Kentucky home of the late poet, novelist, and educator Robert Penn Warren.  Her award-winning essay was entitled “‘Pattern of Meaning’: Symbolic Dynamism as a Formal Structure in ‘The Waste Land’ and ‘The Well Wrought Urn.’” In a post on his department’s blog, Dr. Suarez notes that “the judges praised Jane’s essay … for its insights, originality, and stylistic elegance.”

The Eleanor Clark Prize is presented at the annual conference of the Robert Penn Warren Circle, which, for 29 years has honored the legacy of its namesake, the only author ever to have won Pulitzer prizes for both fiction and poetry. “Participants in the Robert Penn Warren Circle are united by their love for Warren and other critics who promoted ways of reading literature which attend to form and aesthetics rather than current theory or pragmatic concerns,” Miss Forsyth explains. “My paper examined ways in which the poetics of Cleanth Brook, a colleague of Warren, were inspired by the poetic innovations of modernist poetry, particularly by T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land.’ I was honored to receive this award from such an extraordinary group of academics.”

Miss Forsyth earned her master’s degree in English literature at CUA in 2018. This fall she will begin her final year of coursework toward her doctorate.

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Suzie Jackson (’15)

“The texts we are reading ask the fundamental questions in life, which every human person needs to be able to answer. You want to answer these questions, and you experience the beauty of wonder in discussing them.”

– Suzie Jackson (’15)

Manassas, Va.


“The students that have had an opportunity to be part of the life of the College have been enriched by their experience in an environment conducive to achievement. Now in all walks of life, graduates of Thomas Aquinas College are contributing, by following a wide variety of pursuits, to the betterment of society.”

– Renato Raffaele Cardinal Martino

President, Pontifical Council

for Justice and Peace