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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Derek Remus ('11)

“Thought you might like to know,” writes Derek Remus (’11), “that Bishop William McGrattan of the Diocese of Calgary, Alberta, has called me to be ordained to the transitional diaconate.” The blessed event will take place at the end of Advent, on December 23, just in time for the newly ordained deacon to proclaim the Gospel and preach the homilies throughout Christmas.

It was four years ago — two years after his graduation from the College — that Mr. Remus entered St. Joseph’s Seminary in Edmonton, Alberta, for the Diocese of Calgary. By God’s grace, he will be ordained to the priestood next summer, making him the first alumnus to serve as a diocesan priest in Canada!

Please keep an all alumni seminarians in your prayers.


Fr. Miguel elevates the host at his first Mass.

 

Rev. Miguel (Gaspar ’08) Batres, O.Praem., was not surprised when, as a transitional deacon studying at Rome’s Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, he was asked to serve at Vespers for His Holiness Pope Francis. After all, several of Fr. Miguel’s Norbertine confreres had done so in recent years, in no small part because they are experienced with Gregorian chant and can speak Latin. He was, however, caught off guard when, on the eve of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the Pope approached him and started a conversation.

“I was not expecting to talk to him!” he recalls. “So when he came to me, I didn’t know what I wanted to say. I just said, ‘Can I give you a hug?’ I then hugged him and told him, ‘Thank you for the responsibility you take, and be assured of my prayers.” In meeting the Holy Father, says Fr. Miguel, “It struck me — this is the Vicar of Christ. This is the successor of St. Peter, and this is not just an everyday opportunity. It was an amazing privilege.”

Twice more in the ensuing months Fr. Miguel would get to serve with Pope Francis — including on Good Friday, when he chanted the words of Christ during the papal Celebration of the Passion of our Lord at St. Peter’s Basilica. That sense of gratitude he had experienced in Rome filled him yet again on June 24, when the Most Rev. Timothy Freyer, Auxiliary Bishop of Orange, California, ordained him a priest at Mission San Juan Capistrano.

A canon at St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California, Fr. Miguel — the second youngest of 11 children of Mexican immigrants — had long imagined this day. “It’s something I received as a child,” he says of his vocation. “I don’t remember ever wanting to be anything else.” During his sophomore year in high school, his parish priest took him for a visit to Thomas Aquinas College. “I saw the goodness of the school,” he says. “And I knew that it would be good for my future as a priest.” At the College, another priestly mentor, Rev. Charles Willingham, O.Praem., brought him and some friends to St. Michael’s Abbey for the Easter Triduum, a visit that ultimately led to his entering the Norbertine Order.

Since his ordination, Fr. Miguel has taken on the role of his community’s provisor, charged with providing for its material needs. He also offers Masses in Spanish at nearby parishes. In the fall he will teach freshman religion at the abbey’s prep school. “It has been very beautiful to offer the Mass and serve as a priest,” he says. “It is a true blessing, almost at times unbelievable, and I am very grateful for it. Thanks be to God!”


 His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark, and Rev. Patrick Seo (’06)

In his third year at Thomas Jefferson University’s school of medicine, around the time that most medical students consider the possible specializations that will define their careers, Rev. Patrick Seo (’06) made a rather unconventional choice. Although he had been thinking about family medicine — he liked working with a wide range of patients in a hands-on, personal way — he decided instead to become a physician of souls.

Providence had intervened. “I had just read St. Anthony in the Desert by St. Athanasius, and it gave me this fire to do God’s will,” he recalls. “I realized I hadn’t been living for God.”

After graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 2006, Fr. Seo reflects, he entered medical school mostly by default, following in his parents’ footsteps. Medicine was a noble profession, to be sure, but was it his calling? The sense of restlessness he experienced suggested otherwise. He knew God was asking more from him. Thinking of St. Anthony’s monasticism, he concluded that he was being called to the religious life.

Leaving his medical studies behind, Fr. Seo began visiting religious houses across the country, among them a Carthusian monastery on a Vermont mountaintop, where he spent a month in prayer and contemplation. “I loved the silence and the solitude, and I loved my time there,” he says. “But I didn’t have a sense of peace about staying.” Through prayerful reflection and spiritual direction, he began to discern that his vocation was perhaps not to the religious life after all, but to the secular priesthood.

The Carthusian novice master thus suggested that Fr. Seo go back to his native New Jersey, where an auxiliary bishop — the Most Rev. Manuel Cruz of Newark — was said to “love Carthusians even more than the Carthusians do.” His Excellency, in turn, offered Fr. Seo a one-year position working in the cathedral while discerning his next step. When the year was up, Fr. Seo entered the diocesan seminary and, four years later, His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark, ordained him to the priesthood on May 27, 2017, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Today Fr. Seo is the parochial vicar at Our Lady of Mercy, a 3,300-family parish in Park Ridge, New Jersey. Tending to the spiritual care of his flock — a wide range of people with a seemingly infinite variety of needs — is reminiscent, he finds, of his medical-school rotations. “The diocesan priesthood is the family medicine of the spiritual life. We are the front line,” he says. “The Lord gave me this joy that comes from being with His people, and it will be exciting to see how He uses me to deliver His grace.”


The ordination of Rev. Jeffrey Hanley (’13) and Rev. Maximilian Nightingale (’13)

“What is God calling you to do? What does God want you to do and to be?” Rev. Jeffrey Hanley (’13) — then a 17-year-old high school student from southern Michigan — was attending a Catholic youth conference in Ohio when he first heard these questions. They unsettled him. “Until then, I had always thought about what I wanted to do in life in terms of my own fulfillment,” he recalls. “But hearing the question turned around like that — what does God want me to do? — gave me an inkling that I was being called to the priesthood.”

As it happens, there was another 17-year-old high school student from southern Michigan at that conference, Rev. Maximilian Nightingale (’13). He, too, was just starting to think seriously about his vocation. The two young men, who lived in adjacent parishes and attended rival public high schools, had never met before, but soon discovered that they had much in common.

In addition to their deep faith and their budding vocations, they shared an interest in the great books. A year earlier, Fr. Nightingale had taken up Plato’s Republic and Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment; Fr. Hanley, meanwhile, had been reading Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy. Both also expressed an interest in attending Thomas Aquinas College, and although they would only bump into each other on rare occasions over the next two years, they each decided to enroll as freshmen in 2009.

“I fit in right away,” remembers Fr. Nightingale of his first days on campus. “I loved the reading. I loved the discussions. The spiritual life was even more than I had expected. Before I came to the College, I thought I might go to weekday Mass once in a while. But then, when I got there and I found that lots of people were going every day, I began to do the same.” For both students, the experience made all the more clear the call that they had begun to hear in high school. “My time at the College helped foster that vocation, helped me to grow stronger in my faith, in my understanding of the Faith, as well as in my spiritual life,” observes Fr. Hanley. “It helped me to become more attuned to the word of God, both in word and in sacrament.”

As their awareness of their vocations grew, so did their friendship. By senior year, when they roomed together in St. Bernard Hall, both had submitted applications to become seminarians in their home diocese of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Shortly after graduating from the College in 2013, they entered Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. One year later, they departed for Rome, where they spent three years at the Pontifical North American College. And on June 24, 2017, the Most Rev. Paul J. Bradley, Bishop of Kalamazoo, ordained Fr. Hanley and Fr. Nightingale at the city’s St. Augustine Cathedral.

“During the Litany of Saints, when you are on the ground, giving your whole life right there, and everyone is praying for you — that’s when you feel the weight of what you are doing,” says Fr. Nightingale. “Then, right afterward, at the reception, you are giving first blessings to everyone who is coming up. It is amazing to see, as people tell you what they would like you to pray for, the great hope that is inspired by just the sight of a newly ordained priest.”

Witnessing an ordination is a reminder that “the Lord is faithful to His promises,” explains Fr. Hanley. “The Lord promised that we would not be left without a shepherd to guide His people. I know in talking with a lot of parishioners, a lot of friends, a lot of family members, they see Fr. Nightingale and my ordinations as one of those ways in which the Lord fulfills that promise.”

The young priests are currently serving at parishes in Kalamazoo, where they will remain for the rest of the summer. Fr. Nightingale is a parochial vicar at the cathedral, and Fr. Hanley at St. Joseph Catholic Church. In the fall, however, both will return to the North American College in Rome, where, over the next two years, they will complete their licentiate work in order to become canon lawyers. There they will be joining a fellow alumnus, Rev. Nicholas Callaghan (’96), who is studying canon law for the Diocese of New York.

“Most of our canon lawyers are approaching retirement age,” says Fr. Nightingale, and so Bishop Bradley, recognizing the impending needs of his diocese as well as the aptitudes of his two newest priests, chose them to undergo legal training. “Everything we studied at Thomas Aquinas College was a preparation for this,” Fr. Nightingale continues. “I think, especially, of St. Thomas’ treatise on law, which we read in our Junior Theology class. That background helps us to approach ecclesial law, for sure.”

For Fr. Hanley, taking this next step is a continuation of the journey that began when, as a teenager, he first consciously decided to live his life according to God’s will rather than his own. Becoming a canon lawyer is the way Our Lord has chosen for these two longtime friends, says Fr. Nightingale, “to do service for the Church — and for the people of God.”


Sean Wood ('13)

Friends of Sean Wood (’13) staged a lively and generous farewell for him last weekend at a benefit concert at the Camarillo, California, home of College Regent Justin Schneir and his wife, Hope. The concert, The Barnyard Folk Fest, raised just enough  funds — almost down to the penny! — to cover what remains of Mr. Wood’s student-loan debt, and thus paves the way for his entering the religious life. One week from today, on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mr. Wood will begin his postulancy with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in the Bronx, where, by God’s grace, he will spend a life of service to the poor on the streets of New York City.

For the last several years Mr. Wood has been the fiddler for the Schneirs’ eponymous band, Hope and Justin, playing alongside fellow graduates Daniel (’13) and Gabriel Bagdazian (’14). To send him off, his bandmates put together the Barnyard Folk Festival as a final hurrah and an opportunity to wipe out his debts before he takes this next step in his vocational discernment. The Hope and Justin Band headlined the concert, which drew hundreds of music lovers and well-wishers to the Schneirs’ home and involved the help of countless volunteers — many of them TAC alumni, students, and parents — who acted as performers, cooks, vendors, drivers, and technicians to make the day possible.

Thanks be to God for the Schneirs and the many generous souls who lent their time, treasure, and talent to the support of this would-be priest. And thanks be to God for Mr. Wood’s willingness to answer His call.

“We are astounded by the goodness of people,” write Hope and Justin on their Facebook page. “Sean is going to be a most excellent priest and friend of the poor. He loves you all!”


June 26,
2017

The Most Rev. Paul J. Bradley, Bishop of Kalamazoo, Michigan, ordains Rev. Jeffrey Hanley (’13), and Rev. Maximillian Nightingale (’13) The Most Rev. Paul J. Bradley, Bishop of Kalamazoo, Michigan, ordains Rev. Jeffrey Hanley (’13), and Rev. Maximilian Nightingale (’13)

By God’s grace, Thomas Aquinas College can now claim three more alumni priests! On Saturday, June 24 — the Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist — Rev. Miguel (Gaspar ’08) Batres, O.Praem., Rev. Jeffrey Hanley (’13), and Rev. Maximilian Nightingale (’13) were all ordained to the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ.

Ordination of  Rev. Miguel (Gaspar ’08) Batres, O.Praem. Ordination of Rev. Miguel (Gaspar ’08) Batres, O.Praem.The Most Rev. Timothy Freyer, Auxiliary Bishop of Orange, California, ordained Fr. Miguel, a Norbertine monk at St. Michael’s Abbey, at Mission San Juan Capistrano. Meanwhile, some 2,000 miles away, the Most Rev. Paul J. Bradley, Bishop of Kalamazoo, Michigan, ordained Fr. Hanley and Fr. Nightingale at St. Augustine Cathedral. Kalamazoo natives and Class of 2013 classmates, Fr. Hanley and Fr. Nightingale both entered the seminary shortly after their graduation and have studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

“John the Baptist had a calling that was indeed profound and important,” said Bishop Bradley is his ordination homily (PDF). “But He only prepared the way for Jesus. As an ordained priest, you will be one who is entrusted with that great mission of being Christ for others — an alter Christus —to allow those to whom you are sent to know Jesus’ Love and Mercy, wherever that mission sends you, and no matter what the circumstances are.” Photos from the ordination are available via the Diocese’ Facebook page, and video of the Mass can be seen in the player at the bottom of this post.

With these three latest ordinations, the Collegenow has 71 priests among its alumni. Thanks be to God!


Helmut KohlOver at First Things, Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist. (’06), has a thoughtful reflection about former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who died last week. “In order to understand Kohl’s characteristic blend of German patriotism and passionate support for European integration, it is important to note which German province he came from,” writes Pater Edmund, a Cistercian monk at Stift Heiligenkreuz in Vienna, Austria. Chancellor Kohl came from the left bank of the Rhine, notes Pater Edmund, which “unlike much of the right bank … remained Catholic after the Reformation.” Indeed, Pater Edmund concludes of Chancellor Kohl, “perhaps he was the last of those Rhenish-Catholic statesmen who still embodied something of the old spirit of Latin Christendom.”

The full story, The Left Bank of the Rhine, is available via First Things.


Fr. Seo, to the left of Cardinal Tobin, with his fellow newly ordained priests Fr. Seo, to the left of Cardinal Tobin, with his fellow newly ordained priests

On Saturday, His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, ordained the College’s newest alumnus priest, Rev. Patrick Seo (’06). The ordination took place at Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, with several alumni on hand to witness the blessed event.

“My dear brothers, you have not chosen Jesus; our Risen Lord has chosen you to go forth and bear fruit that will remain,” Cardinal Tobin told Fr. Seo and his fellow new priests. “I thank each of you for saying ‘yes’ to that call. I thank each of you also for all the times you will say ‘yes’ in the days to come. Most of these ‘yeses’ you will pronounce secretly, in ways only the Lord knows about. I thank you for saying ‘yes’ to giving your life in union with Jesus, the chief Shepherd, for in this offering is found the treasure of every priest, the pure source of our joy.”

Fr. SeoThe next morning Fr. Seo offered his first Mass at the Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey. His classmate Steve Six (’06) graciously provided the photo to the left of Fr. Seo delivering his homily. Fr. Seo is the College’s 68th alumnus priest. Thanks be to God!


Rev. Mr. Patrick Seo (’06) Rev. Mr. Patrick Seo (’06)

Please pray for Rev. Mr. Patrick Seo (’06), who, by God’s grace will be ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday, May 27. Deacon Seo is one of four alumni who are looking to be enter the priesthood this summer:  Rev. Mr. Miguel Gaspar Batres, O.Praem (’08), will be ordained a Norbertine father on June 24, and Class of 2013 classmates Rev. Messrs. Jeff Hanley and Maximillian Nightingale are set to receive Holy Orders for the Diocese of Kalamazoo on June 24 — thereby bringing the total number of alumni priests to 71.

Thanks be to God!


Rev. Gary B Selin, STD (’89, right), with his Denver seminarians Rev. Gary B Selin, STD (’89, right), with his Denver seminarians

“In the late 1970s, the Vatican hired a company to clean the Sistine Chapel,” begins Rev. Gary B. Selin (’89), offering an analogy to help explain a subject about which he has become a widely recognized expert — the Church’s teaching on priestly celibacy.

“Centuries of candle soot had darkened [the chapel’s] many beautiful images, rendering them dark,” he continues. “Some art historians theorized that Michelangelo held a dark, foreboding view of the creation, and thus he projected his angst onto the frescoes. But once the chapel was cleaned, people were amazed by its bright, vivid colors. Michelangelo was giving us a brilliant and bright view of the Catholic faith.”

So it is with celibacy, says Fr. Selin in a newly published interview with the National Catholic Register. “In the same way, many people maintain a dark view of priestly celibacy, seeing it as a yoke and burden that oppresses priests. But this viewpoint is due to the darkness of ignorance about the theological reasons for celibacy. If we allow our minds to be cleansed by the rich teaching of the Church, we will see that celibacy is bright, beautiful and Christ-like.”

An assistant professor and the formation director at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Fr. Selin is the author of Priestly Celibacy: Theological Foundations, which proposes a systematic theology of priestly celibacy, ordered around the Eucharist. The inspiration for the book was a talk he heard, as a seminarian, by Francis Cardinal Stafford, Major Penitentiary Emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary (and the College’s 2003 Commencement Speaker). That talk led Fr. Selin to choose priestly celibacy as the subject for his doctoral dissertation, which later became Priestly Celibacy: Theological Foundations (with a foreword by none other than Cardinal Stafford).

“Through my research into the biblical, patristic and magisterial sources, I discovered that the principle reason for celibacy is that it perfects the configuration of the priest with Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church,” Fr. Selin tells the Register.  “Consequently, the priest is more freely able to give himself to the Church. It enables him to be a father with undivided love, as well as shepherd, servant and bridegroom toward the Church.”

A celibate priest, he observes, “is a signpost, reminding us that this life is not the only one we have. We are created to be with the Triune God forever in heaven, where we will be like God, for we shall see Him as He is.”


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Thomas Esser (’18)

“It’s wonderful how, in the integrated curriculum, everything matches up. You’ll be reading one thing in language class, and then it will come up again in philosophy, and goes on to affect everything you read from then on. You get a deeper understanding of each discipline by seeing how they connect with the others.”

– Thomas Esser (’18)

Chino Hills, California

NEWS FROM THE COLLEGE

“Thomas Aquinas College is uniquely positioned and equipped to let light shine once more in our world, in our society, in our communities, in our families, in our relationships.”

– Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, S.T.L., D.D.

Archbishop of Oklahoma City