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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

 Siobhan Heekin-Canedy (’18) Siobhan Heekin-Canedy (’18)When she competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Siobhan Heekin-Canedy (’18) witnessed firsthand the spectacle and grandeur of the games. “Athletes enjoyed palatial bedrooms, a cafeteria fit for a tsar, and a larger-than-life atmosphere that matched Russia’s geopolitical ambitions,” she writes for the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs.

Yet there was a dark underside to the games, which she — as an ice dancer for Ukraine — was acutely aware. “Before the Closing Ceremony had begun [Russian President Vladimir Putin] took steps toward annexing Crimea,” using the Olympics to shield international attention from his crime. “What better way to keep up appearances and distract the world from the events taking place farther up the Black Sea coast?”

After the games, Miss Heekin-Canedy retired from ice dancing and enrolled at Thomas Aquinas College, graduating in 2018. She now pursues a master’s degree in international relations — with concentrations in Russia, Eastern Europe, and international public law — at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where she is fulfilling her “longtime dream of a career in international relations, which began when I was figure skating for Ukraine and traveling all over the world.”

At Fletcher she has become involved with the school’s Initiative on Religion, Law, and Diplomacy, for which she will be the student leader next year. Last month she arranged to bring in papal biographer George Weigel to speak about the role of religion in Russia-Ukraine relations, she reports, “which was fantastic.” Over the summer she will work as an intern at the Holy See’s Mission at the United Nations, and then return to Massachusetts to complete her degree in the fall.


Rayonnant Gothic rose window (north transept), Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral Rayonnant Gothic rose window (north transept), Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral*

“The heart of Paris has fallen in fire, and Catholics are heartbroken,” observes alumnus author Sean Fitzpatrick (’02). “Such blows like the destruction of Notre Dame Cathedral are beyond rationalization — but this does not mean that they … occur without reason.”

Sean Fitzpatrick (’02)Sean Fitzpatrick (’02)In his latest article for Catholic Exchange, Mr. Fitzpatrick, the headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy in Elmhurst, Pennsylvania, reminds readers that “God can and will bring about the good,” and “He will not let His Church perish in flame” — no matter what the travails of the moment. “Tragedies like the burning of Notre Dame offer Christians the chance and the grace to embrace the peace afforded by placing all things in the hands of God,” he remarks. “Just as one cannot have hope without hesitation, or fortitude without fear, there can be no trust without some degree of devastation and loss.”

Erik Bootsma (’01) Erik Bootsma (’01)Meanwhile, writing in Crisis, fellow Thomas Aquinas College graduate Erik Bootsma (’01), connects the tragic events of Paris to the Paschal Triduum. “It is perhaps just coincidence that the great Cathedral of Paris dedicated to Our Lady was engulfed in flame at the beginning of Holy Week, but I tend not to think so,” he reflects. “One simply cannot avoid the connection that the ‘death’ of the Cathedral of Notre Dame somehow echoes the death of Our Lord, which we commemorate this Holy Week on Good Friday.”

With Christ, however, death never gets the last word. A classically trained architect and the owner of Erik Bootsma Design, Mr. Bootsma cites examples of the rebuilding of other great churches to give hope that Notre Dame will one day reclaim its former glory. And just as the cathedral’s near-destruction points to Good Friday, its promised reconstruction hints at the glory of Easter. “On the third day after His death on the Cross, Jesus rose from the tomb into new life,” he writes. “The rebuilding of the cathedral would be not just a work of art, but a work of faith — just as it was for those who built it — symbolizing Christ himself, resurrected and glorified.”

As. Mr. Fitzpatrick concludes, “We look to the Resurrection, and we pray, to see the rise of Notre Dame from the ashes.”

 


* Photo credit: By Zachi Evenor based on File:North rose window of Notre-Dame de Paris, Aug 2010.jpg by Julie Anne Workman - Flickr,based on File:North rose window of Notre-Dame de Paris, Aug 2010.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.0


David A. Shaneyfelt (’81) David A. Shaneyfelt (’81)Alumnus attorney David A. Shaneyfelt (’81) — recently featured on this blog for having been named, once again, a California “Super Lawyer” — has turned his attention to the most significant criminal proceeding in the history of jurisprudence: the trial of Jesus Christ.

In a series of free podcasts, Mr. Shaneyfelt investigates Our Lord’s trial, beginning with His arrest, and continuing all the way through the Crucifixion. Along the way, Mr. Shaneyfelt considers such questions as: What are the sources of evidence at Jesus’ trial? What happened in the Garden of Gethsemane? And what is the significance of the date of the Crucifixion vis-à-vis the Passover Feast?

The seven hour-long podcasts provide an excellent source of listening for Lent and Holy Week.

“A great deal of scholarship has gone into the relatively few words of the New Testament that describe the legal process employed to put to trial, convict, and execute, a Jewish rabbi, whose followers for 2,000 years since then have regarded as the Eternal Son of God, the Word made flesh to dwell, and to die, among us,” writes Mr. Shaneyfelt on his website, One Catholic Lawyer. “My goal in this podcast series is to introduce listeners to some of this scholarship, to unpack it, and to let listeners appreciate the difficulty — and reward — of parsing Biblical texts.”

A lawyer in Camarillo, California, Mr. Shaneyfelt has spoken publicly about Our Lord’s trial for more than 20 years at churches, schools, and organizations throughout the state. “Believers and non-believers, I think, will at least find the subject fascinating, because history offers us great insights into passages that are often short and cryptic,” he writes. “But I also think, or at least hope, that believers will come to see deeper meanings and significance in the details addressed and, in the end, will grow in faith and love for the One Who is at the central focus of this event.”


Dr. Thomas A. Cavanaugh (’85)

At its upcoming national convention, University Faculty for Life will award its Rupert and Timothy Smith Award for Distinguished Contributions to Pro-Life Scholarship to a graduate of the College, Dr. Thomas A. Cavanaugh (’85). The organization, which presents the award annually to honor “scholarly achievement and service of the pro-life movement,” chose Dr. Cavanaugh for his work on medical ethics, particularly as it pertains to euthanasia.

A professor of philosophy at the University of San Francisco, Dr. Cavanaugh is the author of  Hippocrates’ Oath and Asclepius’ Snake: the Birth of the Medical Profession, which Oxford University Press published last year. The book examines the Hippocratic Oath through a broad survey of Ancient Greek myth, drama, culture, and language. Drawing on extensive research, it addresses the subject of physician-inflicted harm, particularly doctor-assisted suicide, which Dr. Cavanaugh finds to be antithetical to medicine’s therapeutic ethic.

Over the last year, Hippocrates’ Oath and Asclepius’ Snake has received critical praise from a wide range of sources. Writing for America, Dr. Christopher Kaczor called the book, “required reading for anyone interested in the ethics of medicine.” In Commonweal, Mary McDonough declared that Dr. Cavanaugh “has recovered the root of medical ethics.”

As a recipient of the Smith Award, Dr. Cavanaugh will find himself in select company. Past hnorees include such luminaries as Dr. Robert P. George, Dr. Hadley Arkes, and Rev. Robert Spitzer, S.J.


The Augustine Institute recently featured on its Facebook page an employee who is an alumna of both the Institute and Thomas Aquinas College: Constance Graves (’11). “A woman with a heart for catechesis,” the post begins, she “has committed herself to this work.”

Upon graduating from the College in 2011, Miss Graves earned a master’s degree in education at the University of St. Thomas in Texas, after which she moved to Colorado, where she earned a second master’s, this time in theology and theological studies at the Augustine Institute. Since completing her studies in 2017 she has stayed on at the Augustine Institute, where she works on curriculum development and media-asset management.

“I was concerned with the problem of effectively handing on the faith to the children when it was not practiced in the home,” says Miss Graves says in her profile. “It was around this time that I saw the catechetical films produced by the Augustine Institute Studios. The quality of the videos and the effectiveness of their catechetics impressed me, and I applied to the Augustine Institute Graduate School with the hope of finding answers to the questions I had encountered. I now work full time at the Augustine Institute, and this understanding is being put to use working on curriculum with the academic department.”

Miss Graves is not the first alumna to be featured in the Augustine Institute’s promotions. In September the school posted a testimonial from first-year students Elizabeth and Theresa Gallagher (’18).


Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly“Who says Christmastime has to be perfect?” asks Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly, in a new column for the News Tribune of Tacoma, Washington.

An alumna, a member of the College’s Board of Governors, and a News Tribune reader-columnist, Mrs. Connolly offers a comical look back at the time she tried to get her nine children to stage a Nativity scene for the family Christmas card. “I managed to get in a couple of pictures before the branch holding James broke,” she writes. “My angel plummeted right into our makeshift manger, almost killing ‘baby Jesus.’”

Yet in what she calls “authentic chaos,” there is a certain beauty reflective of the real Nativity:

It is said, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” As a weathered mama, I disagree. Love means always saying you’re sorry and beginning anew — embracing each other’s wounded, rustic, imperfect hearts over and over again.

It’s like that very real Christmas, 2,000 years ago, the one that lived and breathed in Bethlehem.

No room in the inn. Really? Only a smelly barn? A homeless, teenage, pregnant girl riding on a donkey in labor? No beautiful layette and crib? Just old sheets and an animal trough? But in that rustic, imperfect, messy world, love, light and a true family were born.

Peace, says Mrs. Connelly,  can be found no matter how difficult the circumstance: “It’s buried under the stress and the mess, but it’s there, and it comes out in unexpected places.”


Sarah (De Laveaga ’14) Ellefson presents a talk in the Dillon Seminar Room

Alumna entrepreneur Sarah (De Laveaga ’14) Ellefson returned to campus in the waning days of the fall semester to deliver what she billed as “the talk I wish I heard” while still in school — “Five Tips for Starting a Creative Business after College.”

Sarah (De Laveaga ’14) Ellefson Sarah (De Laveaga ’14) EllefsonA successful wedding, family, and travel photographer based in Santa Barbara, Mrs. Ellefson discussed how students can begin preparing now — even amidst their studies — to launch their own businesses post-graduation. Her tips included finding a mentor, learning about the market, developing a brand, and pursuing summer internships. Moreover, many of the skills required to become a successful business owner, she observed, can be developed as a student. “If you can set up good habits and discipline now,” she advised, “when you start your own business and you have a huge task list of things to run down, you’re going to know how to manage your time.”

Although encouraging, Mrs. Ellefson’s comments were also prudent, warning students that creating a business demands hard work, a significant investment of time and resources, and — more often than not — a day job to cover the bills until the business is self-sufficient. “I think if you’re a student here, you’re not used to things being easy, so I don’t expect you to be intimidated by this,” she said. “I want you to get excited about it and know that the hard work and diligence you’re putting in here can also transfer into starting your own business.”

A liberal education, she added, is especially valuable for entrepreneurs. “You are learning the art of critical thinking,” said Mrs. Ellefson. “That’s something that a lot of people who start a business don’t have, and then they fail and they can’t figure out why, because they were never taught how to think critically and analyze thoughts and ideas. So this time here, your education here, is very worthwhile.”


Dr. Caroline Johnson ('97)

 

Five years ago, the College profiled alumna Dr. Caroline Johnson (’97), who, as a traveling internist, was the portrait of versatility. A member of the Rural Physicians Group, she spent about 30 weeks out of the year working round-the-clock shifts that ranged from 7 to 21 days at remote hospitals across the United States.

“Usually the hospital will have an emergency-room doctor, but for everything else, it’s me,” she said. “It can be anything from an infection of the skin to someone coming in with pain in the chest. In extreme cases, we can airlift a patient elsewhere, but for the most part, we don’t have the benefit of a specialist. I can’t call in a gastrointestinal doctor to come see a case of liver disease. It’s up to me. I have to be prepared for situations I could not possibly have expected.”

In the five years since the publication of that profile, Dr. Johnson has found ways to become ever-more versatile.

In 2013 she returned to Phoenix, where, in addition to working as a hospitalist, she took on the role of a clinical instructor at the Midwestern University’s Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine. Then, in 2015, she undertook a two-year nephrology fellowship at the Mayo Clinic, after which she relocated to Texas. “I am now working as a Transplant Nephrologist in the Baylor system,” she writes. “I am Board-certified in three specialties: internal medicine, pediatrics, and nephrology, with a special area of focus in transplant.”

Please pray for Dr. Johnson’s good work and for her patients. “As doctors, we need to have a basic recognition of who we are in relation to God and the world, and a sense of humility,” she said in 2013. “Although there is much we cannot do, there is also so much we can do. It is our gift to help others in their suffering.”


Thumbnail of video with Fr. Miguel Batres Rev. Miguel Batres, O.Praem. (’08)

One of the College’s newest alumni priests, Rev. Miguel Batres, O.Praem. (’08), is now featured on The Abbot’s Circle, a digital library of spiritual resources from the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. In a four-minute video, he considers the question, What is the Mass?

“The Mass is the most perfect prayer anyone can offer,” says Fr. Miguel. “There is a great, great, infinite distance between man and God, and we ourselves do not have the means to give God the perfect worship, to give God the perfect praise. And so it is Christ Himself who gives us that means through that sacrifice. Through the institution of the Eucharist, through the institution of the priesthood, He makes the Mass possible.”

The second youngest of 11 children of Mexican immigrants, Fr. Miguel came to Thomas Aquinas College in 2004 at the recommendation of his parish priest. He became acquainted with the Norbertines through one of the College’s then-chaplains, Rev. Charles Willingham, O.Praem., and entered the Norbertine Order shortly after his graduation. While in the seminary, he studied in Rome, where he three times had the privilege of chanting at papal Masses. He was ordained to the priesthood in 2017, and he returned to offer Mass at his alma mater just last year.

Since his ordination, Fr. Miguel has taken on the role of his community’s provisor, charged with providing for its material needs. He offers Masses in Spanish at nearby parishes, teaches religion at the abbey’s prep school, and reaches a far wider audience through his work on The Abbot’s Circle, beginning with his video about the Mass.  

“The Mass,” he says, “is ultimately about giving God that praise, that adoration which he deserves form all of His creation.”


Be sure not to miss these recent articles by alumni writers:

  • K. E. Colombini (’85) K. E. Colombini (’85)In Crisis, K. E. Colombini (’85) ponders The Future of Ownership in a digital society where, paradoxically, an increasing number of goods are now immaterial, and yet our homes are bursting with ever-more possessions. “Lacking in the vast majority of these discussions in the mainstream media is the spiritual side of the equation,” he writes. “Even in talking about the benefits of minimalism, we often take a secular approach. By shedding our possessions, we become liberated from them, freer to travel and spend our money elsewhere. If there’s anything ‘tiny houses’ are built for, it’s not for large families, nor for entertaining and showing hospitality to large groups.” In a consumerist society, he asks, “What should be our relationship with our possessions? Do they own us, or do we own them?”

 

  • Erik Bootsma (’01) Erik Bootsma (’01)Also in Crisis, alumnus architect Erik Bootsma (’01) writes about the newly dedicated Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville, Tennessee — a hopeful sign, he says, that Restoring Sacred Architecture Will Reaffirm Theological Truth. “The richness of the architecture of the new cathedral points to and beautifies the sanctuary,” Mr. Bootsma argues, and that is key to both architectural and theological renewal. “The sanctuary, which took its form from the Holy of Holies, does not just symbolize the past, but is a conscious prefigurement of the Heavenly City to come and Christ’s eternal presence. We begin to understand, too, that God was present in earlier times, in the Temple, and will be present in heaven, but also that he is present now.”

 

  • Sophia (Mason ’09) Feingold Sophia (Mason ’09) FeingoldFinally, in the National Catholic Register Sophia (Mason ’09) Feingold considers What “Forgive and Forget” Really Means — and finds the oft-dispensed maxim wanting. “To forgive and to forget are not the same thing,” she observes. “The judge who sentences a man to life in prison has not necessarily refused to forgive him; he has simply determined that the prisoner’s character requires remediation, or society protection. The parent who sends a child to their room to ‘think about’ the nasty thing they said to Aunt Jessica is not necessarily unforgiving; they genuinely want their son or daughter to take five and come to a child’s-level understanding of how their words were hurtful. Forgiveness and punishment can and do coexist. Otherwise the Catholic doctrine of purgatory would be risible on the face of it.”

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“No one here tells us what to think. We read the great books, look into them deeply, and then discuss them actively in class, which has forced me to take responsibility for my own education.”

– Patrick Nazeck (’19)

Ridgecrest, California

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