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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

St. Paul's School Choir St. Paul's School Choir

Alumni, friends, and benefactors of the College who are within driving distance of Washington, D.C., are warmly invited to join the full student body of Thomas Aquinas College, New England, at this year’s March for Life. And the night before, they are welcome to enjoy a free concert of beautiful choir music at the invitation of alumnus Eric Maurer (’98).

A co-founder of the Lyceum in Cleveland, Mr. Maurer now teaches math, science, and Latin at St. Paul’s Choir School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In keeping with the tradition of many great cathedral schools throughout the ages, St. Paul’s offers boys, grades three through eight, a Catholic education that integrates rigorous academics with the performance of choral masterworks. On January 23 the school’s choir is hosting a concert, “Regina Caeli: Music in Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” for all March attendees. The concert will take place at The Catholic University of America’s St. Vincent de Paul Chapel, beginning at 7:30 p.m.


Alex Potts (’14)

Having recently completed his flight training for the Apache helicopter, U.S. Army Warrant Officer Alex Potts (’14) is now stationed in Katterbach, Germany, where he will spend the next three years training with European forces before his first deployment. “Germany’s been great so far!” he writes. “Beautiful farmland and pleasant locals. I’m living in the very center of Europe, so I’m excited to travel to see the different areas where the authors we read at TAC were writing from.”

Mr. Potts joined the Army through its Street to Seat program, through which servicemen quickly move through boot camp, warrant officer school, and then flight school. He spent most of the last year on flight training, culminating in the arduous task of mastering the Apache.

“The Apache is the helicopter with all the attack systems, so you not only have to learn how to fly, you have to learn how to fly and operate all the systems on board,” Mr. Potts explains. “You have to be able to manipulate all four of your limbs in a coordinated manner, while at the same time looking at your intended spot of landing, doing mental calculations about how far or how close you need to be; you’re trying to manage your altitude, your airspeed; you’re listening to five different radios at the same time; and you have a helmet-mounted eyepiece over your right eye showing all this information, such as your engine torques, your direction, where the aircraft is heading, the velocity you’re going at, what your copilot is looking at. It’s like a circus. It’s like juggling ten balls at once.”

In other words, it’s his dream come true. “I love it. I thrive on it, I really do,” he says. “It’s a fantastic experience, and when you get out of that cockpit at the end of the day, it’s a real sense of fulfillment.”

Serving his country, Mr. Potts adds, likewise fulfills a longing he has had since his first encounter with the dialogues of Socrates. “Reading about the duties that Socrates placed on man to one’s God, to one’s family, and to one’s country — that really stuck with me,” he says. “I thought to myself: I’m an able-bodied man, a healthy young man. I should put in that service to my country as a duty or an obligation, a form of justice for everything that my country gives me. That may sound a little bit cheesy, but it’s actually the truth.”

Indeed, his philosophical background informs the notion of duty that drives his service. “It helped me to better understand the rights, the freedoms, the values that we’re fighting for in America, and I think that makes you a more effective soldier in the end,” he argues. Likewise, he has found the intellectual life of the College to be an ideal preparation for the demands of the Armed Forces. “There was a sense of discipline in the intellectual life at Thomas Aquinas College which I think very much carries over into the military, which has discipline permeating throughout the entire structure.”

Those years of learning “sparked a love,” Mr. Potts continues, which will remain with him for life: “I still read the same books, and I still pray to the same God” A philosopher as well as a pilot, he has recently begun an online graduate degree in philosophy with Holy Apostles College and Seminary — to occupy whatever time he has left when not flying helicopters.


Sr. Maria Kiely, OSB (’77) Sr. Maria Kiely, OSB (’77)Sr. Maria Kiely, OSB (’77) lives in Washington, D.C., teaching Greek at the Dominican House of Studies and Latin at Catholic University. She is on the editorial committee for ICEL, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. ICEL was established during the Vatican Council by Bishops from countries where English is used as a liturgical language. It is responsible for the revised translation of the Roman Missal, promulgated in 2011 and now in use.

Last fall, ICEL finished translating the Latin Liber Hymnarius, the hymnal for the Liturgy of the Hours revised after Vatican II. At their annual meeting last November, the bishops of the USCCB voted to accept the ICEL translations of the 294 hymns of the Liber Hymnarius. These will appear in fascicles as a complement to the existing Liturgy of the Hours; later they will be integrated into the forthcoming revised edition of the Liturgy of the Hours mandated by the USCCB. 

Since the Liber Hymnarius includes hymns of St. Ambrose, Prudentius, medieval authors, and others spanning the entire tradition of Catholic hymnody, the ICEL translations represent a retrieval of a significant aspect of the liturgical and spiritual patrimony of the Church. The theological richness of these hymns is such that they will bring new depth to the recitation of the hours of the liturgy. They may also be used in any circumstances where the singing of hymns is appropriate.

According to ICEL, the English hymns are close translations of the Latin texts, so that as much as possible of the theological and spiritual content of the originals may be preserved. The meters proper to each Latin text have been maintained, so that each hymn may be sung both to the chant melody given in the Liber Hymnarius and to any modern metrical tune of the same meter. Though rhyme is a salient feature of English hymnody, it is less prominent in Latin hymns; some of them rhyme and some do not. Even hymns that rhyme are less clearly defined by it, because rhyming and assonance often result merely from the inflections of the language. Rhyming also requires frequent inversions that compromise the content and become tedious in longer hymns.

ICEL has sought to prepare for the reception of the hymn translations by the Bishops’ Conferences and by the wider public by making representative examples available through the internet. Under the direction of Daniel Grimm (’76), the Thomas Aquinas College choir has sung representative examples of the ICEL hymns set to chant melodies and to modern hymn tunes, which are available on YouTube. As the choir sings, the text of each hymn appears verse by verse on the screen.

If you have questions and would like to know more about the hymns, please feel free to contact ICEL.


Thomas A. Alexander (’99) Thomas A. Alexander (’99)

After serving for two years in the Department of Defense as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counter Narcotics and Global Threats, Thomas A. Alexander (’99) was recently appointed to a new role: Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict.

In his new position, which he assumed in November, Mr. Alexander is the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense and the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy on all counterterrorism, special operations, counter narcotics, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, and stability operations. He also provides oversight of all organizational, training, and equipping activities for United States Special Operations Command and oversees a $14 billion budget.

“I rely on the College’s training each and every day,” Mr. Alexander says of his undergraduate education. “Foremost is the ability to quickly analyze and methodically resolve complex matters; then, to prioritize sound facts and morals in my decision making. I am never afraid to defend a position rooted in these fundamentals.”

Mr. Alexander holds a juris doctor from the Ave Maria School of Law. Prior to joining the Department of Defense, he served as chief counsel to the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the U.S. House of Representatives. He also formerly served as National Security Subcommittee Staff Director for the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the U.S. House of Representatives. Earlier in his career he worked in the Department of Defense as the Director of Congressional Investigations in OSD-Legislative Affairs and, prior to that, as Counsel to the Oversight Subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The book from his liberal education which he credits as having made the most lasting impression? Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.


Margaret (Steichen ’84) O’Reilly Margaret (Steichen ’84) O’ReillyAlumna author Margaret (Steichen ’84) O’Reilly has published a novel about the life and work of a saint of particular interest to readers of this blog: the College’s patron, St. Thomas Aquinas.

In Humble Servant of Truth, Mrs. O’Reilly tells the story of the Angelic Doctor, beginning with his precocious, deeply faithful childhood, and continuing through his days as a monk and scholar, touching upon his numerous, glorious encounters with the Divine. The work is part of the Mentoris Project, founded by a member of the College’s Board of Governors, Robert Barbera, which publishes biographies and novels based on the lives of prominent Italians and Italian-Americans.

Mrs. O’Reilly discusses the book in a recent episode of the Mentoris Project Podcast. In the half-hour interview with host Roseanne Welch, she discusses a wide range of subjects, beginning with why Aquinas’ work “matters” today. “I think it matters the same way that you would say the Pythagorean Theorem matters in math, because truth matters,” she says, echoing the slogan of her alma mater. “If somebody discovers some truth, it’s important later, too, and not just at the time that he found it. The things that Thomas Aquinas figured out with his incredible mind are helpful to those of us who maybe wouldn’t see them otherwise, as well as to later philosophers and theologians, who can build off of them.”

A home-schooling mother of 12 children, Mrs. O’Reilly also discusses the role the College played in preparing her to write her first book. “We studied St. Thomas with respect through all four years, and especially the latter years,” she recalls. Moreover, the College provided her with mentors who fostered her love of learning. “In college I had the most admirable tutors and other influences in my life — people who were so good, and whom you could really admire,” she says. “I knew that I would be in good shape if I just followed their example and advice and learned from them.”

From these mentors she acquired a devotion to the Angelic Doctor, which she is pleased to share with others through her writing. In St. Thomas, Mrs. O’Reilly reflects, we see the unity of faith and reason that is at the heart of the Catholic faith. “Because he had such a powerful intellect, he wanted to see and then to teach the reasons that he saw for the things that he believed.”

Roseanne Welch interviews Margaret (Steichen ’84) O’Reilly Roseanne Welch interviews Margaret O’Reilly.


 Suzie Andres (’87)Suzie Andres (’87)A regular writer on Catholic Exchange, alumna author Suzie Andres (’87) opens her latest column with a timely question: What is the Perfect Christmas Gift?

“This is the kind of question my husband asks for a living,” Mrs. Andres writes of Dr. Anthony P. Andres, a member of the Thomas Aquinas College teaching faculty. “At the beginning of every class, he asks an opening question like the one we’re asking now. And, as it sometimes happens in my husband’s classes, we could give the correct answer to our question straight out of the chute, but, not to answer a question with another question, then where would we be?”

Drawing on her own recollection from the discussions around the College’s classroom tables, Mrs. Andres notes that an immediate correct answer hardly means the end of the conversation! “Sometimes, no one believes the person who instantly hit on the right answer,” she observes. “Other times, it takes a lot of back and forth before the meaning of the answer is clear, or the evidence for it.”

Which then brings her back to her opening question about the perfect Christmas gift. “Baby Jesus!” she answers without hesitation. “The Father gave Him to us, and we can do no better than imitate the Giver of all good and perfect gifts. The Infant Jesus is the very reason we give each other gifts at Christmas time, so why not recognize that not only is He ‘the reason for the season,’ but He’s actually the one real gift we need to give and get?”

Yet despite answering her question so quickly, Mrs. Andres continues with much worthwhile “back and forth” about how we can give the Perfect Gift to those we love. Her suggestions are creative and excellent — e.g., prayers, sacramentals, spiritual books — especially her reflection on “covert giving,” that is, gifts for “those people in your life to whom you would like to give Jesus, but you know that, for one reason or another, it makes more sense to give Him in a hidden way.”

If you’re looking for ways to give the gift of Jesus — not just on Christmas, but throughout the entire Christmas season and beyond — Mrs. Andres has provided a wide and wonderful array of answers. 


Raymond Tittmann (’94) Raymond Tittmann (’94)After reviewing nearly 900 nominations, the legal-news website Law360 has identified 160 lawyers as its 2019 MVPs — “attorneys who have distinguished themselves from their peers over the past year through high-stakes litigation, record-breaking deals, and complex global matters.” Among those included is a Thomas Aquinas College alumnus: Raymond Tittmann (’94).

A partner in the Los Angeles office of Wargo French, Mr. Tittmann is a litigator specializing in insurance coverage, class and collective action, unfair competition, and complex commercial litigation. This year, he “helped a subsidiary of The Home Depot negotiate a global settlement of thousands of claims brought by homeowners and their insurers,” write the website’s editors, “landing him on the list of Law360’s 2019 Insurance MVPs.”

In its profile, Law360 discusses how Mr. Tittmann was able to negotiate a $100 million class-action lawsuit down to a $24 million settlement. “Working with the varied stakeholders instead of against them, we were able to create a win-win opportunity to achieve global peace for all concerned,” he says. The story also describes his “most challenging case” of the year, representing seven insurance underwriters in a complicated dispute for which there was no known precedent. “Solving your client’s problem,” he notes, “almost always requires a creative solution to narrow disputes rather than expand them.”

Asked why he chose to become an insurance attorney, Mr. Tittmann references his time at the College. “I always tell people, if you can read Aristotle, you can read an insurance policy,” he says. “Every time I’m asked to parse a sentence in a policy or debate the meaning of the word ‘occurrence,’ I feel like I’m back in college.”


Margaret Walsh (’15) Margaret Walsh (’15)“I enjoy working with students and seeing them have these amazing moments where they realize they can do more than they thought they could,” says educator and entrepreneur Margaret Walsh (’15). “They start moving forward, faster and faster, and get so excited about their accomplishments.”

Shortly after graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 2015, Miss Walsh founded Secret Garden Educational Pathways, an online tutoring and remediation service for students of all ages with special needs. “We work with students with reading remediation, students who have dyslexia, or dysgraphia — where they can’t get their thoughts out on paper — or students who have autism or autism-related symptoms,” she says. “There’s a whole umbrella of learning difficulties that the reading remediation and education therapy that we offer can help.”

Miss Walsh holds a master’s degree in special education and has received specialized training from Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes and Equipping Minds Cognitive Therapy. Her company, which is based in Southern California but offers its services globally via the Internet, consists of five teachers, three of them TAC alumnae.  “We’re doing remediation, which is different from what a lot of schools do,” she says. “A lot of times the mentality that I hear and see is, ‘Let’s help you learn how to live with your disability.’ What we’re trying to do is say, ‘Let’s help you increase your abilities so that you can do more than what a diagnosis is predicting you can do right now.’”

The approach is all-encompassing. In addition to academic instruction, Secret Garden offers nutritional consultation as another means of identifying students’ learning difficulties. Wherever possible, its teachers — who are all Catholic — use faith-based reading materials, such as stories about the lives of saints, to add a spiritual dimension to their students’ education. “We’ve chosen to bring Catholic materials in so that we can provide that opportunity for the students to explore their faith while at the same time increasing their academic ability,” Miss Walsh explains. “That is at the heart of why I started this business.”

The goal of Secret Garden Educational Pathways is to enable students to grow cognitively so that they can “start to enjoy school,” says Miss Walsh, and bolster their long-term educational prospects. “Wherever God takes them, we’re trying to help them improve their potential and improve their capabilities so they can do more.”


Pat Cross (’14) Pat Cross (’14)

Earlier this month, Thomas Aquinas College bid farewell to an alumnus who has been instrumental in establishing the New England campus, and who is now leaving to devote his energies to his next professional pursuit — editorial cartooning.

“Pat Cross (’14)  has been a mainstay in our office through extraordinary times at the College,” says Admissions Director Jon Daly. “He was the first Admissions counselor — and for that matter, the first and only employee — on the New England campus for nearly two years. He brought the place to life when he first set foot there.”

Mr. Cross joined the Admissions Office shortly after his graduation in 2014 and worked on the California campus until 2017. He then headed to his home state of Massachusetts to help establish the East Coast campus, where he welcomed and gave tours to prospective students and their families. “For a year and a half, I was pretty much all alone here, before students arrived this summer,” he remembers.

“It was edifying to see how people back in California had a vision for this place, and how members of the local community were praying to make that vision a reality,” says Mr. Cross. “And it is inspiring to see how all those efforts and prayers have been realized. I am so impressed with the students out here, how they have risen to the occasion, and how devoted they are to the success of the College. I really admire them, and I am optimistic. I think TAC has a bright future in New England.”

While living on the New England campus, Mr. Cross worked only part-time for the Admissions Office. In his spare hours, he busily launched a successful career as an editorial cartoonist and illustrator. In just two years, he has established a foothold at the National Catholic Register, First Things, CatholicVote, Townhall, and The College Fix, where he is published regularly. Yet to keep progressing in his line of work, he needs to start giving it all of his time. “It’s hard to make it in a field like this,” he says, “unless you’re really giving your full attention.”

So, much to the disappointment of his erstwhile colleague and the College’s students, Mr. Cross has left Admissions work behind, and now works fulltime as a cartoonist. “I’ve always been very interested in the state of our country and the Church,” he reflects. “When I was younger I wanted to be Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but I very quickly learned you need to use the skills God gave you. For me, that’s always been art.”

Complementing his artistic talents, he says, are the analytical skills he developed at his alma mater. “There’s no way I would be able to approach the issues that we’re facing today without the foundation that I approach them with — the Catholic Western tradition — which I try to bring to bear on every issue,” says Mr. Cross. “That’s what TAC is all about: establishing the universals and hopefully giving us the wisdom so that we can apply them to the particular circumstances of our lives.”

Before he departed, the New England students — many of whom he had personally introduced to the College — threw a party in his honor. “Pat is a great man and we will miss him just as greatly,” says Mr. Daly, “sure though we are that he is fulfilling an even greater purpose in his work.”


Sr. Mary Catherine Eddyblouin (’19) Sr. Mary Catherine Eddyblouin (’19)The first of last year’s graduates to answer God’s call to the priesthood or religious life is Sr. Mary Catherine Eddyblouin (’19), who entered the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, on August 22, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary.

“I went to Thomas Aquinas College to study theology and philosophy, and it was there that the idea of a religious life began to come back into my heart,” says Sr. Mary Catherine on the Sisters of Mary website. “Before my junior year, my mother told me in no uncertain terms that I was going on a retreat with the Ann Arbor Sisters, whom we had heard about for many years. I dutifully went, expecting no more than to have a good retreat and return to normal life. Instead, it was like the world turned inside out! It became clear that this was where God had been leading me all my life. Suddenly, everything seemed to fall into place, revealing I was on a path I had been following without even knowing!”

Before she graduated from the College, Sr. Mary Catherine remarked that “the spiritual formation here is amazing, but the intellectual formation was also instrumental in getting me to realize my vocation,” allowing her to come to know and love God more deeply. “Mathematics, especially, brought me to more fully see the beauty of God,” she added, and it was the opportunity to keep learning that led her to the Sisters of Mary. “The Dominicans teach and they preach — that’s what they do,” she recently told the Bangor Daily News. “They study for their entire lives. … That’s something that was very attractive to me about them.”

Sr. Mary Catherine is one of five Thomas Aquinas College alumnae with the Ann Arbor Dominicans, where she prays alongside Sr. Mary Margaret (Eileen ’00) O’Brien O.P.Sr. Theresa Benedicta (Sarah ’02) Block, Sr. Juan Jose (Elisabeth ’09) Sedler, O.P., and Sr. Maria Jerome (Alma ’11) Poelman, O.P. As a postulant, she now wears the Sisters’ blue-and-white uniform, but she will not receive the full habit until she enters the novitiate next year.

Please pray for Sr. Mary Catherine, her vocation, and all alumnae sisters!

 


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Thomas Cavanaugh (’18) -- quote 1

“The things we discover in the classroom, we recognize as true not because someone told us that they are true, but because we have reasoned to them for ourselves.”

– Thomas Cavanaugh (’18)

Larkspur, California

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“I am happy with the mission of Thomas Aquinas College and with the results spread through various countries in the world!”

– Most Rev. Lionginas Virbalas

Metropolitan Archbishop of Kaunas, Lithuania