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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Rev. Joseph Levine (’89) Rev. Joseph Levine (’89)A robust debate among clergy has opened following the publication of His Holiness Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetita, in particular the question of how priests should minister to divorced-and-remarried Catholics. An alumnus priest, Rev. Joseph Levine (’89), is the latest to enter the discussion, offering in the pages of Crisis a response to an earlier essay published by Rev. Paul Keller in Crux.

In his article, Fr. Levine, pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles, Oregon, draws heavily from his ministerial experience.  “I have been a pastor now for a little more than four years and have found myself immersed in the trial-by-fire experience of pastoral work in the area of marriage,” he writes. “I regard marriage preparation as so important that I attend personally to the preparation of every couple who gets married in my parish; I have also attended to the other end of the matter, the nullity process, shepherding individuals in their application to the marriage tribunal” — a real-life example of the kind of “accompaniment” to which the Holy Father has called the clergy

“Ultimately,” Fr. Levine writes, in tending to the needs of his flock, the priest must not lose sight of one overriding question: “Is the marriage bond something real and, if it is real, is it indissoluble?


Rev. Deneys Williamson (’10) at his ordination with his bishop, the Most Rev. Buti Joseph Tlhagale, Archbishop of Johannesburg Rev. Deneys Williamson (’10) at his ordination with his bishop, the Most Rev. Buti Joseph Tlhagale, Archbishop of Johannesburg

When Rev. Deneys Williamson (’10) left his home in Johannesburg, South Africa, to become a freshman at Thomas Aquinas College in 2006, he scarcely thought of becoming a priest. “I came as a young, arrogant, 19-year-old, thinking I was probably called to marriage, and hoping to meet a nice, beautiful American girl,” he says. “I had a few inklings of a priestly vocation, but I put those on the back burner.”

Still, he was open to God’s will. “I realized that I was at a stage in life where I had to make a choice and either start practicing my faith seriously or reject it and start acting like a pagan,” he remarks — and by God’s grace, he made the right decision. On October 8, 2016, the Most Rev. Buti Joseph Tlhagale, Archbishop of Johannesburg, ordained Fr. Deneys to the priesthood of Jesus Christ in the city’s Immaculate Conception Church.

Ten years prior to his ordination, when he was still in high school, Fr. Deneys learned about Thomas Aquinas College from an ad in a magazine. “When I saw what the College offered in terms of a program, I realized that it was exactly what I was looking for — a classically liberal education. Nothing like that exists in South Africa,” he says. “So I shipped off to Southern California, the other side of the world, to take a chance.”

Over the course of what he describes as “four wonderful and happy years on a bucolic campus,” he gradually discerned his calling. “When I was at the College the seed of my vocation was slowly nurtured and watered by the friendships, by the sacraments, by being introduced to a life of prayer, thanks to the work of the chaplains, and the intellectual life,” he says. Particularly helpful was time spent before the Blessed Sacrament and his Junior Theology class. “Reading the first 12 questions of St. Thomas’ Summa Theologiae, about the qualities of God, was a seminal moment in my intellectual life and journey,” he observes. “Seeing the primacy of God, both in the universe and in our own lives, really lit the desire within me.”

By late junior year he began to think more seriously about the priesthood, particularly the religious life, but he was still uncertain. So after graduation he returned to Johannesburg and taught for a year while continuing his discernment. “There was a need for priests in my city, a scarcity of priests, and the Bishop was calling for young men to step forward,” he recalls. “That’s when I put two and two together. ‘Why don’t I give it a try?’ I thought. And so that’s what I did.”

In August 2011 Fr. Deneys became a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Johannesburg. He then spent five years in Rome, where he completed his philosophy studies and earned a licentiate in sacred theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross before returning to South Africa this past August.

The day after his ordination, Fr. Deneys offered his first Mass at the church where he now serves as curate, or assistant priest, “a large, active parish,” Johannesburg’s St. John the Apostle. Only weeks into his priesthood, he is already busy offering Masses, hearing confessions, leading catechetical programs, and providing adult formation and spiritual direction.

St. John the Apostle is a multicultural parish, reflecting both South Africa’s diversity and the legacy of the country’s troubled history. “I was born toward the end of Apartheid, and grew up in post-Apartheid South Africa, so I don’t know what it was like living under the policy of racial segregation, but it’s clear that the scars and wounds still remain,” Fr. Deneys reflects. “The Church, however, can play a big role in helping the country to heal.”

Citing the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium, he notes that the Church is called to be a symbol, or reflection, of the unity of the human race. “If you translate that to our situation in South Africa, our job is to show that it is possible for people of different cultures to live together, that we can live together, that our relationships go deeper than skin color,” he says. “We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, because His blood flows through all of us.”


Rev. Reginald (Ryan ’97) Wolford, O.P., offers his first Mass. Rev. Reginald (Ryan ’97) Wolford, O.P., offers his first Mass.

On Saturday, October 1, the Most Rev. Robert J. Hermann, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of St. Louis, Missouri, laid hands on Rev. Reginald (Ryan ’97) Wolford, O.P., conferring upon him the Sacrament of Holy Orders. For Fr. Reginald, the timing of his ordination could not have been better. “I love St. Thérèse, and I have read her autobiography many times, including on my pre-ordination retreat. So I was honored to be ordained on her feast day.”

He did, however, have one “small regret.” Because he and his fellow Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Albert the Great would be celebrating his ordination, they would be unable to celebrate St. Thérèse’s feast day. Fortunately, providence intervened. “I offered my first Mass the next day at Little Flower Church in St. Louis, which was granted the privilege of celebrating its patroness’ feast on Sunday,” Fr. Reginald explains. “So when I arrived that morning, I learned that my first Mass would be for St. Thérèse. I think she might have worked it out that way.”

Providence has “worked out” much in the life of Fr. Reginald, who arrived at Thomas Aquinas College in 1993 as a teenager whose religious convictions fell somewhere between indifference and agnosticism. “My family was not Catholic,” he says. “I was baptized at the age of 10 in a Disciples of Christ church, but by the time I came to the College, we didn’t really go to church at all, and I didn’t know if I believed in anything.”

When Fr. Reginald was in high school, an ad for the College had caught his eye. “I was very interested in studying the great books via the Discussion Method,” he recalls, so he drove the 100 miles from his family home in Rancho Cucamonga, California, to visit. “I felt so at home there,” he says, “that I didn’t apply anywhere else.”

He did not remain spiritually indifferent for long. “I had been thinking about the Faith and had a few conversations around the dorm, and then someone invited me to Mass, so I showed up,” he says. The experience was transformative. “I was just fascinated by it all — the Latin, the Gregorian chant, the incense, the silence. I was hooked from that moment.” He soon began receiving religious instruction from one of the College’s chaplains, the late Rev. Wilfred Borden, O.M.I., and at that year’s Easter Vigil received a conditional baptism, his confirmation, and his first Holy Communion.

“From the time of my conversion I suspected I had a priestly vocation,” he notes, but careful to temper his convert’s zeal, he proceeded cautiously. After graduating from the College in 1997, he looked into a few religious communities but was “not ready to take the step yet.” So he spent some time testing various careers and interests — working in the arts in North Carolina, teaching at a boys’ middle school in Harlem, and earning a master’s degree at Austria’s International Theological Institute.

Finally, in 2006, he entered the Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception, a small religious community based near the College’s campus in Santa Paula, California. While with the Canons he earned an STB at the Angelicum in Rome, was ordained to the transitional diaconate, and pursued a doctorate at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago.

During his time in Chicago, however, he began to question his vocation — not to the priesthood and the religious life, but to his particular community. “I met a Dominican friar and, in talking to him, began to discern a desire for the Dominican Order,” he says. “I think it’s kind of a natural fit for me, having been educated in the Dominican tradition at the College. The academic apostolate, the study of St. Thomas, the Dominican tradition — I find it all very fascinating. The Dominicans are the itinerant preachers who are trying to reconcile people to the Church through their preaching. That is a role I hope to embrace.”

With the permission of both orders, Fr. Reginald thus began a three-year transitional period, which concluded in August, thus paving the way for his ordination. “All I can say is that it has all been the blessings of Providence,” he says. “I may have dragged my feet here and there, but I have tried ever to follow the Lord’s plan for me, and I am attempting to give myself to it fully.”


Rev. Joshua Morey, O.S.B. (’00) Rev. Joshua Morey, O.S.B. (’00)There are 11 Thomas Aquinas College alumni serving at Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey in Hulbert, Oklahoma, and one of them — Rev. Joshua Morey, O.S.B. (’00) — has recently been named the community’s subprior. Abbot Philip Anderson, O.S.B., appointed Fr. Morey to his new position this past spring, less than seven years after his ordination in 2009. As subprior, Fr. Morey succeeds another alumnus of the College, Rev. Mark Bachmann, O.S.B. (’82). In addition to his responsibilities as subprior, Fr. Morey teaches philosophy to the community’s seminarians and works in the Abbey’s business office.

Earlier this year, Tulsa World published a story which hailed Clear Creek as “a global attraction in rural Oklahoma,” and quoted Fr. Morey about the challenges and joys of religious life. “I know where I’m going to live and where I’m going to be buried,” Fr. Morey told reporter Bill Sherman; being a monk means “giving up your own plans … your own routines, your own ways of doing things.” And yet, in this sacrifice, there is the freedom of Christ. “There’s a certain liberation,” he said, “from things that hold you back.”

This comment recalls another that Fr. Morey made back in 2009, around the time of his ordination, when he was reflecting wistfully on his beloved alma mater. “As a cloistered monk, there is a chance that I may never see the College again,” he remarked. “This possibility does not sadden me. Oklahoma is where God wants me; that is enough.”


November
14, 2016

Thomas Aquinas College alumni at the ordination of Rev. Joseph Hudson, O.S.B. (’03), and Rev. Robert Nesbit, O.S.B. (’07) Thomas Aquinas College alumni at the ordination of Rev. Joseph Hudson, O.S.B. (’03), and Rev. Robert Nesbit, O.S.B. (’07)

By God’s grace, there are now two more Thomas Aquinas College alumni priests! On Sunday, November 13, His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, ordained Rev. Joseph Hudson, O.S.B. (’03), and Rev. Robert Nesbit, O.S.B. (’07), at Clear Creek Abbey in Hulbert, Oklahoma. Photos from the ordination are available in the slideshow below:

  • Clear Creek Ordinations 2016
    Slideshow: Photos from the ordinations of Fr. Hudson Fr. Nesbit
  • Clear Creek Ordinations 2016
    Slideshow: Photos from the ordinations of Fr. Hudson Fr. Nesbit
  • Clear Creek Ordinations 2016
    Slideshow: Photos from the ordinations of Fr. Hudson Fr. Nesbit
  • Clear Creek Ordinations 2016
    Slideshow: Photos from the ordinations of Fr. Hudson Fr. Nesbit
  • Clear Creek Ordinations 2016
    Slideshow: Photos from the ordinations of Fr. Hudson Fr. Nesbit
  • Clear Creek Ordinations 2016
    Slideshow: Photos from the ordinations of Fr. Hudson Fr. Nesbit
  • Clear Creek Ordinations 2016
    Slideshow: Photos from the ordinations of Fr. Hudson Fr. Nesbit
  • Clear Creek Ordinations 2016
    Slideshow: Photos from the ordinations of Fr. Hudson Fr. Nesbit
  • Clear Creek Ordinations 2016
    Slideshow: Photos from the ordinations of Fr. Hudson Fr. Nesbit
  • Clear Creek Ordinations 2016
    Slideshow: Photos from the ordinations of Fr. Hudson Fr. Nesbit
  • Clear Creek Ordinations 2016
    Slideshow: Photos from the ordinations of Fr. Hudson Fr. Nesbit

Fr. Hudson and Fr. Nesbit are two of the 11 Thomas Aquinas College alumni at Clear Creek. With their ordinations, the College can now claim 68 alumni priests. Thanks be to God!

 


Clear Creek monks Clear Creek monks

By God’s grace, the number of ordained alumni priests will soon rise to 68! On this coming Sunday, November 13, His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, will confer the Sacrament of Holy Orders upon two more graduates: Br. Joseph Hudson, O.S.B. (’03), and Br. Robert Nesbit, O.S.B. (’07). Brs. Joseph and Robert are two of the 11 Thomas Aquinas College alumni living and praying at Clear Creek Abbey in Hulbert, Oklahoma.

Please pray for them as they approach their ordination day!


Leveled Cathedral of St. Benedict

In August the monks of the Benedictine community at Monastero San Benedetto — of which three Thomas Aquinas College alumni are members — saw their monastery and their city badly damaged by the 6.2-magnitude earthquake that struck central Italy. This past Saturday they experienced yet more disaster as a 6.6-magnitude tremblor rocked the monastery and the region. The 14th century St. Benedict Cathedral, which the brothers serve and which is constructed over the 5th century ruins of the home of Saints Benedict and Scholastica, has been destroyed. Indeed, every church in the city of Norcia is now in ruins. By God’s grace, however, there were no casualties.

“We watch and pray all together on the mountainside for Norcia and for the world,” writes Fr. Benedict on the community’s blog. “The priests go into town to visit the sick and the homeless. We are grateful for your prayers, as ever.”

Please continue to keep Norcia and its monks in your prayers!


 Rev. Deneys Williamson (’10) and the Most Rev. Buti Joseph Tlhagale, Archbishop of Johannesburg Rev. Deneys Williamson (’10) and the Most Rev. Buti Joseph Tlhagale, Archbishop of Johannesburg

 The Most Rev. Buti Joseph Tlhagale, Archbishop of Johannesburg, ordains Rev. Deneys Williamson (’10) The Most Rev. Buti Joseph Tlhagale, Archbishop of Johannesburg, ordains Rev. Deneys Williamson (’10)In joy and thanksgiving, the College is pleased to announce the ordination of its 66th alumnus priest, Rev. Deneys Williamson (’10), in his hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa. On October 8, Fr. Deneys received the Sacrament of Holy Orders at the hands of his archbishop, the Most Rev. Buti Joseph Tlhagale, at Johannesburg’s Church of the Immaculate Conception.

“During my discernment at the College, I looked into the religious life, but in the end I chose the secular priesthood, and have been very happy since,” writes Fr. Deneys. “The specificity of the secular vocation is to live in the midst of the world, with all its bustle and unpredictability, in order to transform it from the inside and consecrate it to God — to be salt and light — so that Christ our Lord may reign in all human realities. The secular priest’s job is to serve the lay faithful in their divine mission to perfect and sanctify the temporal structures of the world – family, work, and society.”

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 Our Sunday Visitor, author Jim Graves has published a thoughtful profile of Rev. Gary B Selin, STD (’89), a graduate of the College who is both a priest and a shepherd of future priests in his capacity as an assistant professor and formation director at the Archdiocese of Denver’s St. John Vianney Theological Seminary. “It can be exhausting,” Fr. Selin says of his demanding work, but the seminary “is a parish of souls that the Lord has given to me, and in that I find my peace and joy.”

The story describes Fr. Selin’s time at the College where, in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, he first discerned his vocation. “It was there I felt a tug on my heart,” he reflects. “Jesus was inviting me to grow in a deeper relationship with him in the holy Eucharist.”  It also discusses his recently published scholarly work, Priestly Celibacy: Theological Foundations, which proposes a systematic theology of priestly celibacy, ordered around the Eucharist.

The full profile is available via the Our Sunday Visitor website.


Altar party from the ordination of Fr. Reginald

Thanks to Br. Lorenzo Laorden, O.P., of the Dominican Central Province, who has generously shared with the College his photos from the ordination of Rev. Reginald (Ryan ’97) Wolford, O.P.

  • Ordination of Rev. Reginald Wolford, O.P.
    Slideshow: Ordination and Thanksgiving Mass
  • Ordination of Rev. Reginald Wolford, O.P.
    Slideshow: Ordination and Thanksgiving Mass
  • Ordination of Rev. Reginald Wolford, O.P.
    Slideshow: Ordination and Thanksgiving Mass
  • Ordination of Rev. Reginald Wolford, O.P.
    Slideshow: Ordination and Thanksgiving Mass
  • Ordination of Rev. Reginald Wolford, O.P.
    Slideshow: Ordination and Thanksgiving Mass
  • Ordination of Rev. Reginald Wolford, O.P.
    Slideshow: Ordination and Thanksgiving Mass
  • Ordination of Rev. Reginald Wolford, O.P.
    Slideshow: Ordination and Thanksgiving Mass
  • Ordination of Rev. Reginald Wolford, O.P.
    Slideshow: Ordination and Thanksgiving Mass
  • Ordination of Rev. Reginald Wolford, O.P.
    Slideshow: Ordination and Thanksgiving Mass
  • Ordination of Rev. Reginald Wolford, O.P.
    Slideshow: Ordination and Thanksgiving Mass
  • Ordination of Rev. Reginald Wolford, O.P.
    Slideshow: Ordination and Thanksgiving Mass
  • Ordination of Rev. Reginald Wolford, O.P.
    Slideshow: Ordination and Thanksgiving Mass

On Saturday, October 1 — the Feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux — the Most Rev. Robert J. Hermann, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of St. Louis, Missouri, ordained Fr. Reginald in the city’s St. Dominic Priory. Fittingly, Fr. Reginald offered his first Mass the next morning in a church named for St. Thérèse, Little Flower in Richmond Heights. He is now working toward his licentiate in sacred theology from the Liturgical Institute at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake. 

Fr. Ryan is the College’s 65th alumnus priest. Thanks be to God!


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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

NEWS FROM THE COLLEGE

“Thomas Aquinas College knows this — that the life of the mind involves the spiritual life as well — and that is why I have always thought of this institution as a college in the image and likeness of John Paul II.”

– George Weigel

Papal Biographer