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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

At Sweetest Heart of Mary Church in Detroit on November 21, the Rev. Matthew Maxwell, MC (’08), became Thomas Aquinas College’s 74th alumnus priest — and, more notably still, the first American-born priest for the Miles Christi religious order.

“We are here with a conviction that God is about to do something great,” said the Most Rev. Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit, in his homily at the ordination Mass. “He is about to do the great work of grace because it is Christ who makes Br. Matthew a priest. It is Christ who acts, who consecrates you.”

Dedicated to helping the laity grow in holiness through spiritual direction, Ignatian spirituality and sound doctrinal formation, Miles Christi is a young order of priests founded in Argentina, but with a small, burgeoning presence in the U.S. Fr. Maxwell “is the first priest recruit of our work in the States,” Rev. John Ezratty, MC, superior of Miles Christi’s Michigan chapter, told Detroit Catholic. “It is kind of the beginning of a long history. Up until now, we have been working with a lot of men, but the fact that a person born in the States is now becoming a priest is a big milestone.”

Fr. Maxwell’s ordination marks the culmination of a 10-year journey, which began with his entering the order as a postulant in 2011. After spending the first years of his formation in Michigan, he completed his novitiate at the Miles Christi motherhouse in Argentina, then undertook theological studies at Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. Fr. Maxwell now ministers in the Archdiocese of Detroit, where he offers spiritual direction, organizes formation groups, and contributes to the formation of Miles Christi seminarians.


“In late spring of this year, Fr. Peter Sharpe received a phone call from The Most Reverend John Folda, Bishop of the Fargo Diocese, explaining that Fr. Jerome Hunkler was about to retire and asking if he would be willing to take his place. Leaving a congregation one has come to know and love is never an easy thing, but Fr. Peter answered with a resolute ‘yes.’”

Rev. Peter Sharpe (’04) Rev. Peter Sharpe (’04)So writes the South  Steele Ozone and Kidder County Press about a Thomas Aquinas College alumnus, Rev. Peter Sharpe (’04), who now serves as pastor at three parishes in the Diocese of Fargo: St. Mary’s, St. Paul’s, and St. Francis de Sales. “As a priest, I have found I can’t fix people, nor is it my job, but the Lord can and does change lives,” Fr. Sharpe tells reporter Maria Wanchic. “If we’re patient enough, we’ll see what good plans God has in store for us.”

After graduating from the College in 2004, Fr. Sharpe entered Fargo’s Diocesan Seminary Program, spending one year at Cardinal Muench Seminary in Fargo and four years at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland. Before taking on his new, three-parish responsibilities this fall, he served for seven years as a pastor in Velva and Karlsruhe, North Dakota.

In addition to his pastoral duties, Fr. Sharpe wrote an article earlier this year for the diocesan website, Why are non-Catholic but baptized Christians not to receive the Eucharist? — a topic he later took up in a diocesan podcast.

“When you say ‘Amen’ and receive Communion at Mass, you are publicly declaring that you believe all that the Catholic Church teaches and believes,” Fr. Sharpe explained. “Further, you are acknowledging that you are trying to live as the Catholic Church expects. So if you don’t believe all that the Catholic Church believes or aren’t living according to her standards, when you receive Communion, it would be like you are publicly saying a lie, which, of course, you wouldn’t want to do.”

The word “amen,” offered before reception of Holy Communion, is too often underappreciated, he adds, especially by Catholics, who say it so frequently that they can easily lose sight of its import. “When you say that ‘amen’ to those words, ‘the Body of Christ,’ that means something,” Fr. Sharpe implores. “Words mean something, and this ‘amen’ means something.”

So, too, do the words mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

“I am a sinner, who has already publicly declared that a little earlier in the Mass,” says Fr. Sharpe of the Confiteor. “But I’m also believing that God’s power has changed my life, and I want it to continue to change my life.”


Rev. Mark Bachmann, O.S.B. (’82), on the Catholic Man podcast Rev. Mark Bachmann, O.S.B. (’82), on the Catholic Man podcast

“What you’re looking for, for a long-term work like a Benedictine life, is something beautiful, something … that is worthy and can sustain your devotion for several decades,” says Rev. Mark Bachmann, O.S.B. (’82). “That requires a certain amount of investment.”

The subprior of Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey in Hulbert, Oklahoma, where 10 Thomas Aquinas College alumni are brothers, Fr. Bachmann recently appeared as a guest on The Catholic Man podcast. Over the course of the one-hour interview, he spoke of the importance of Gregorian chant, both to his Benedictine community and to the Church as a whole. Chanting the Divine Office requires a certain amount of “investment” in terms of education and work, he explains, but its beauty and richness give meaning — and bear witness to — the prayerful life of a monk.

“One would ask, ‘Why would you bother to do something as strange as pray in Latin and pray in chant, which is music that’s characteristic of the 2nd to 12th century?’” Fr. Bachmann continues.  “Largely, we don’t feel as deeply and as naturally the Faith as our fathers did, and so we’re going back and by praying with the chant and praying the office in Latin. We’re getting in tune, we’re meeting up with the way the Church has prayed for centuries and centuries.”

The full podcast is available via the player below:


Michael Masteller (’13) Michael Masteller (’13)

Please say a prayer for Michael Masteller (’13), who, by God’s grace, will be ordained to the transitional diaconate this Saturday!

One of three alumni seminarians studying for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Mr. Masteller was originally scheduled to be ordained on May 23, but the Ordination Mass was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. At last, the Most Rev. Alejandro D. Aclan, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, will ordain him on October 10 in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles.

“Even though we are living in difficult times, we know that the Lord has gone before us and that He always opens a path for our future and never fails to lead us to the Father,” Mr. Masteller reflects. “In my own life, I have known this to be true; the Lord found me when I was in darkness and brought me into new life and freedom. He has never ceased to lead me as I follow Him on my vocational path toward the diaconate and ultimately the priesthood.”

In making the next step down this path, Mr. Masteller is answering a call he initially discerned during his student days. “It was at the College that I received the first stirrings of vocation, and my friends from the College and the education I received there have continued to strengthen me over the years for this mission,” he says. “I look forward to my diaconate ordination and in making myself fully available for God and to be at the service of the Church. Please pray for us!”

Mr. Masteller will be the fifth alumnus ordained to the transitional diaconate this year, joining Rev. Mr. Ryan Truss (’16)Rev. Mr. David Allen (’10), Br. Matthew Maxwell (’08), and Br. John Winkowitsch, O.P. (’04). Deo gratias!


Rev. Andrew De Silva (’03) offers Palm Sunday Mass
for soldiers at the Army Reserve Center in Staten Island, New York. Rev. Andrew De Silva (’03) offers Palm Sunday Mass for soldiers at the Army Reserve Center in Staten Island, New York.

“I have always been drawn to the Armed Forces,” says Rev. Andrew De Silva (’03). “And one reason I was drawn to my ministry to American soldiers is the great need for good Catholic chaplains among our men and women in uniform.”

The College’s 73rd and most recently ordained alumnus priest, Fr. De Silva serves in the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, as well as in the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps. He is the parochial vicar at St. Agnes Parish in Clark and a chaplain to the Army’s 8th Medical Brigade in Staten Island, New York. It was his lifelong admiration of the military that helped lead him to the Army chaplaincy — and almost kept him from attending Thomas Aquinas College.

For as long as he can recall, the College has been a part of Fr. De Silva’s life. His father, Dr. Norman De Silva (’75), was a member of the first graduating class and an early member of the teaching faculty. His mother, Maureen (Barlow ’76), was a fellow graduate, and after Dr. De Silva died of cancer in 1985, she married a classmate, James Finley (’76).

Yet, despite these ties to the College, when he graduated high school, his affinity for the Armed Forces brought him instead to the Virginia Military Institute. He had heard that the first year at VMI was “one of the toughest military experiences you could have” — a challenge too appealing to let pass.

Triumphing over this obstacle, however, proved to be a fleeting satisfaction. “I found myself seeking something more intellectually or philosophically challenging,” Fr. De Silva says. “I decided I would rather search for the truth at Thomas Aquinas.” Thus he transferred to the College as a freshman, where he developed “the ability to think about something and articulate my thoughts on whatever it was that I was studying” — talents, he says, that would serve him well in the years ahead.

After graduating in 2003, Fr. De Silva spent the next three years as a manager for a large-scale wine retailer in Virginia. He had become lackadaisical in his practice of his faith, he admits, until two friends from the College independently surprised him with the same question: “Have you ever considered becoming a priest?”

“For the first time, I actually asked myself that question: ‘Is God calling me?’” Fr. De Silva muses. “The answer came back very clear: ‘Yes.’” With the help of a friendly deacon, he began a 30-day Lenten Ignatian retreat that included three hours of prayer squeezed between shifts in his fulltime work schedule. “At the end of those 30 days of listening to God, I was ready to say back, ‘Yes, I’m going to give my life to You.’”

He left the wine business and became a brother with the Community of St. John in Princeville, Illinois. The community sent him, first, to study theology in France, and then to serve as a campus minister at Seton Hall University, where he earned a master’s degree in pastoral ministry and biblical studies. He was also commissioned, while still a brother, as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain Corps — and began to discern a vocation to the diocesan priesthood. In 2016 he became a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Newark.

On Saturday, May 25, 2019, His Eminence Joseph W. Cardinal Tobin, C.Ss.R., conferred Holy Orders upon Fr. De Silva at Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. In his first assignments, he is the parochial vicar at St. Agnes while also working with those at the Army Reserve Center on Staten Island. “I’ve dealt with soldiers who are addicted, or soldiers who are suicidal,” Fr. De Silva reflects. “Soldiers struggle on different levels, and I pray that my presence among them will bear good fruit.” 


Fred Arthur (’96) Fred Arthur (’96)

Friends and loved ones gathered today at Santa Clara Church in Oxnard, California, for the funeral Mass of an alumnus of Thomas Aquinas College, Fred Arthur (’96). Serving as principal celebrant at the Mass was one of Mr. Arthur’s TAC classmates, Rev. Ramon Decaen (’96), a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska.  Audio of Fr. Decaen’s homily (recorded on a cell phone, thus the uneven quality) is available in the player at the bottom of this post.

Rev. Ramon Decaen (’96) Rev. Ramon Decaen (’96)“Today we pray in a special way for our brother Fred, whose gentle smile illuminated the campus at Thomas Aquinas College,” said Fr. Decaen in his homily.  “He had a great love for people, a great love for everyone. … He was always generous, very giving of himself.”

Fr. Decaen noted that he was “maybe the first person that Fred met at the College,” as they were freshman roommates.  The two became fast friends and, he added, “It’s when Christ unites us in friendship that we help each other on the road to heaven.”

The priest also joked about some cultural differences that the two had to work through — Fr. Decaen being a lifelong Californian, and Mr. Arthur a citizen of Ghana — mostly relating to the temperature of the room and who slept on which bunk. “We come from many different backgrounds, many different countries, many different beginnings, but we are all united together as one body, the Body of Christ,” Father said. “United in love, united in conviction, united in respect for the dignity of the human person, we are reminded that God is here with us.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only a limited number of friends were permitted in the church, but among them were several alumni of the College. Fr. Decaen urged all those gathered — and, by extension, Mr. Arthur’s friends everywhere — to pray for the repose of his soul and the consolation of his wife, Nana, and their four children. “That’s our goal today,” Father said. “We pray that he may go to the heavenly kingdom, and through the grace of this most powerful prayer that we celebrate today, we call upon God’s grace to give him rest in eternal life.”


The Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis, ordains Rev. Mr. Ryan Truss (’16) Photos courtesy of The St. Louis Review

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis was largely empty of worshipers on Saturday, May 2 — but it was overflowing with grace.

That morning, the Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis, ordained Rev. Mr. Ryan Truss (’16) and five other young men to the transitional diaconate, their last stop before, God willing, entering the priesthood next year. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the ordinandi were allowed to bring no guests but their parents and had to wear masks throughout much of the ceremony. The parents, also masked, were seated with full pews between them.

“My ordination day was very blessed indeed,” writes Rev. Mr. Truss (’16). “I wish that more of my friends and family could have been there to share my joy in person, but I am glad that so many were able to tune into the livestream! To receive ordination at a time like this convinces me that God is never outdone in generosity, even in times of pandemic.”

The St. Louis Review has graciously shared the following photos from Deacon Truss’ ordination, which reflect the beauty, the sorrow, and the hope of that sacred day:

Ordinandi postrate on the floor

 

The Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis, ordains Rev. Mr. Ryan Truss (’16)

 


Ryan Truss (’16) Ryan Truss (’16)On Saturday, the Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis, will ordain Ryan Truss (’16) and five fellow seminarians to the transitional diaconate — in that city’s all-but-empty Cathedral Basilica.

“I’ve just received word that, despite precautions that must be followed due to the current situation with COVID-19, my ordination to the transitional diaconate will go on as planned!” writes Mr. Truss. The Mass is closed to the public, but it will be livestreamed via the Cathedral’s website at 10:00 a.m. CDT. 

“Certainly, this is not how any of us would have imagined our ordination day,” he adds. “But I am confident that God will use these circumstances to bring about a greater trust in His providence.” 

On the morning after his ordination, Sunday May 3, Mr. Truss will assist and, for the first time, serve as the homilist at a Mass at St. Gerard Majella Church in Kirkwood, Missouri. That Mass will be available via livestream at 8:00 a.m. CDT. 

Saturday’s ordination marks the penultimate step in a journey that, for Mr. Truss, started when he first began to discern a call to the priesthood as a young boy. “I can still remember how, on the day of my First Holy Communion, I longed to become a priest so that I could bring Jesus to others,” he recently told the St. Louis Review.

The call to Holy Orders only became more strong during his time at the College:

After high school, I went to California to attend Thomas Aquinas College. Here I grew in my knowledge and love for God through our daily discussion of the great books and through the sacraments, which were readily available and were celebrated with reverence. At college, I was also surrounded by friends, teachers and chaplains whose faith inspired me to continue discerning my vocation. I entered the seminary soon after graduation.

Please pray for Mr. Truss and his fellow ordinandi!


Cover of "Secrets from Heaven" Cover of "Understanding Marriage & Family" 

Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94) Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94)

Ever prolific, alumnus priest Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94) has authored not one but two new books, both of which are being released today.

The first is Secrets from Heaven: Hidden Treasures of Faith in the Parables and Conversations of Jesus, published by Catholic Answers. “The origin of this book came about through a series of retreats I have given,” Fr. Sebastian explains in a recent episode of the Catholic Answers Live radio program. “When you talk to people, and you teach people, and you give retreats based upon the exact words of Jesus Himself in the Gospels, it just has a power to go straight to people's hearts.”

A professor of philosophy at St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California, Fr. Sebastian warns that the words of Jesus can become so familiar that we unwittingly cease to give them the serious consideration they demand. “Sometimes we think that we just need to read the Bible the way we read any other book, and we fail to appreciate the fact that this is a book written by God,” he says. “In other books there are details that really aren't significant, but that's not true about the Word of God. That’s not true about the Scriptures, and preeminently that’s not true about the words of Jesus in the Scriptures.”

Thus Fr. Sebastian closely examines a number of passages from the Gospels, searching Jesus’ words for “hidden treasures”  — oblique references to other passages, carefully chosen words, telling moments of silence — that are rich in meaning. These, he says, are Our Lord’s gifts: “It’s as if Jesus were speaking directly to us.”

Fr. Sebastian’s second new release is Understanding Marriage & Family: A Catholic Perspective, published by Arouca Press. The book sets out to explain and defend the traditional understanding of marriage, using reason, revelation, and the context of our own human choices and experiences. The result is a work that presents the Church’s teaching in a manner that is not only clear and convincing but also deeply helpful to the lives of Catholic husbands, wives, mothers, and fathers struggling to live out their vocations in confused and confusing times. 

Understanding Marriage & Family has received several favorable reviews, notable among them one from the Most Rev. Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, who, before COVID-19 upended calendars across the world, was set to be Thomas Aquinas College’s 2020 Commencement Speaker. “Ascending upon both reason and faith, Fr. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem., with providential clarity, charity, and certainty, dismantles the desolation of lives unmoored from human nature, and marriages divorced from their divine inspiration, proposing anew to all willing to hear, the freeing and fulfilling proposal of Christian marriage in all its solidity and sublimity,” says Bishop Paprocki. “Look within to regain hope, recover communion, and rediscover the fullness of married joy!”


“Simply put, we have now a great opportunity — and a responsibility — to pray,” observes Rev. Michael Hurley, O.P. (’99), the pastor of St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in San Francisco. In a new video posted to the website of the Western Province of the Order of Preachers, Fr. Hurley instructs the faithful on the virtues and the mechanics of making a spiritual communion, especially now that so many Catholics lack access to the Sacraments:

“St. Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, says, ‘What can separate us from the love of Christ?’ In a word, nothing,” says. Fr. Hurley. “Neither death nor life, principalities or power, or any created thing, nothing on heaven and earth  — not even the coronavirus — nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and His presence in our lives.”


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“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 admire this college and your faithfulness to the Church’s mission for higher education and the New Evangelization.”

– The Most Rev. José H. Gomez

Archbishop of Los Angeles