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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

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. 


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.”


Rev. Gary Selin, S.T.D. (’89) Rev. Gary Selin, S.T.D. (’89)“Amid new challenges to priestly celibacy at the Vatican’s Amazon Synod and from other corners of the Church,” writes the Cardinal Newman Society, the Church needs witnesses who are “well-prepared to dispel errors and misconceptions about this important discipline of Catholic priests.” Among these witnesses, the story continues, is Thomas Aquinas College alumnus Rev. Gary Selin, S.T.D. (’89), formation advisor and assistant professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and the author of Priestly Celibacy: Theological Foundations.

As part of its ongoing Profiles in Faithful Catholic Education series, the Newman Society has published an interview with Fr. Selin, whose book presciently preceded the renewed debate on priestly celibacy by three years. “The principal reason for celibacy is that it perfects the configuration of the priest with Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church,” he says. “Celibacy consequently allows the priest to give himself more freely to the Church in imitation of Christ.” 

He also discusses his time at the College. “I treasure the memories of the many wonderful hours in the classroom, as I learned from the sources of wisdom of the Great Books that formed our Western civilization, under the guidance of our well-formed tutors of the college,” says Fr. Selin. “These excellent conversations continued over meals, during walks, and into late night in the dormitories. One can never put a price tag on these conversations that made life worth living.”

This experience, he adds, proved invaluable in preparing him for his current work with seminarians. “My time at the College helped me begin to acquire the virtues necessary in becoming a disciple before learning to be a leader,” observes Fr. Selin. “I am very grateful to the College for giving me the environment in which I was able to grow in those virtues.”

The full interview is available via the Cardinal Newman Society website.


K. E. Colombini (’85) Ken Colombini (’85)The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) recently announced that it has named Ken Colombini (’85) as its new communications director.

“Ken brings an impressive depth of experience in communications leadership to the association, including previous work with corn growers and the ethanol industry, Fortune 500 companies, and state government,” says RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “I know Ken will have an immediate and positive impact on our association’s work.”

A former newspaper reporter, editor, and columnist, Mr. Colombini transitioned to public affairs in the 1990s with positions in California state government, where he ultimately served as deputy director for communications at California State Parks. He moved from Sacramento to St. Louis in 2000 to take a position at Anheuser-Busch, culminating in work as the company’s director of governmental and environmental communications. Now as the RFA’s communications director, he is responsible for the development and implementation of a broad range of the national trade association’s communication strategies.

Mr. Colombini is also a prolific writer in Catholic and related media, having published numerous essays in First Things, the National Catholic Register, Crisis, Inside the Vatican, The American Conservative, and other online outlets. He and his wife of 31 years, Beth (Milligan ’86), are the parents of five children, ages 30 to 16, and five grandchildren.

 “My four years at Thomas Aquinas College served as a great preparation for a career in journalism and public affairs for three reasons: the curriculum itself, the seminar methodology, and the devotional life the school encouraged,” Mr. Colombini reflects. “The Great Books coursework was instrumental in providing not only a foundation in logic and rhetoric, but in storytelling, crucial to this line of work. The many debates and conversations we enjoyed (both inside and outside the classroom) provided lessons in preparing arguments or position statements and in understanding and dissecting those of others, such as political or policy opponents. Most importantly, however, the spiritual life we lived helped foster humility and charity, and the importance of a rightly formed conscience.”

Beyond the preparation for his career, however, Mr. Colombini credits his alma mater with something far more significant: “I also take great joy in the fact that, more than three decades later, many of the friendships fostered on campus have lived on and inspire me still today, even in ways we could not have imagined back then, such as through social media.”

 


Katrina Trinko and Rob Bluey

Five years ago, this blog reported that an alumna journalist, Katrina Trinko (’09), had been named the managing editor of a new online publication of The Heritage Foundation. Five years later, The Daily Signal now attracts 26.8 million site visits per year and boasts 400,000 subscribers to its “Morning Bell” daily email blast — and Miss Trinko has been named its editor-in-chief.

“One of our first decisions was to hire Kate,” says Rob Bluey, Heritage’s vice president for communications. “It’s because of her leadership and commitment to outstanding journalism that The Daily Signal is a must-read source of news and commentary. I congratulate her on this promotion and look forward to working with her to continue growing our reach and influence.”

In her new role, Miss Trinko is responsible for directing The Daily Signal’s editorial content. She also continues to co-host The Daily Signal Podcast and produces commentary for the publication. Additionally she is a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors, writing columns on a wide range of topics such as culture, technology, and education.

“I’m honored,” she says, “to become the editor-in-chief of an outlet focused on illustrating how Washington’s policy decisions affect the lives of everyday Americans.”


Thomas Graf ('19)A member of the College’s most recent graduating class, Thomas Graf (’19) is featured in the latest edition of Catholic Answers magazine, owing to one of the more amusing aspects of his job at the San Diego-based apologetics apostolate. In the editorial, editor Tim Ryland discusses some of Thomas’ discoveries while checking over YouTube’s auto-generated captions for CAL videos. Apparently algorithms struggle with the jargon of the Faith, producing some hilarious mis-transcriptions, such as:

  • A mac to the Heart (Immaculate Heart)
  • Pop a rat singer (Papa Ratzinger)
  • Tow mystic (Thomistic)
  • Kappa Gas is Live (Catholic Answers Live)

Mr. Graf interned at Catholic Answers between his junior and senior years at the College, and is now a fulltime employee in its video, radio, and marketing departments. “Having a firm foundation in the philosophy and theology of the Catholic faith,” he said at graduation, “will help me to communicate these very difficult, higher concepts with the broader world” — starting with YouTube!


Dr. Matthew Peterson (’01), vice president of education at the Claremont Institute and editor of The American Mind, recently served as the commencement speaker at Providence Christian College in Pasadena, California. In his address, Who is the Elite?, he discussed the vital role that education should play — yet all too often, does not — in uniting the leaders of society with the public at large through shared values, a common ethos, and a unified sense of the common good.

T.S. Eliot worried that in our modern educational system our elites would be, “united only by their common interests and separated by everything else.” The modern elite, in other words, would not share ideas about human nature, character, or virtue, religion, or the most important questions human being have to answer to live a good life. Instead, Eliot worried that our modern elite would consist solely of individuals whose only common bond with each other was their professional interest.…

If education is just professional training, and if there is not a unified understanding of morality or religion, but in fact, a rejection of morality and religion, nor a unified elite culture educated to love and serve their communities and country, but in fact, a rejection of American principles and purpose, what is there to unite the elites except raw self-interest? What is there to prevent them from putting their own good above the good of everybody else’s? From becoming snobbish and corrupt?

You see, college doesn’t just unify us through our social lives, as important and vital the relationships we make are, and as meaningful as the time you’ve all spent together was. It also unifies us in what we learned. The secret is that a college’s curriculum is a central source of student and national and theological unity. But this unity, above all else, is what is broken down in many colleges today.

But not at all colleges! Dr. Peterson had kind words to say for his host, Providence Christian College, and its classical curriculum. And just a few months ago he was at his alma mater to take part in a Career Services panel for students who are considering careers in journalism. There he offered a robust assessment of the College’s program of Catholic liberal education, particularly in contrast to what is offered at most “elite” institutions today. “It is a priceless gift, and you should count yourself extremely lucky, extremely blessed, just to have that opportunity,” he told the College’s students. “It is incredibly rare, what you’re able to do, and it will assist you throughout the rest of your life. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. I’ve seen it in countless ways, countless people, graduates across the country doing amazing things, and they will all testify to this.”


 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


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Matthew Dugan (’18)

“When you’re discussing the great works you have to assimilate what’s being said by the author to your own understanding. Rather than passively receiving information, we’re becoming self-learners and independent thinkers, making the great ideas our own.”

– Matthew Dugan (’18)

Wayzata, Minnesota

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“The Catholic Church may be justly proud of this unique college of Saint Thomas Aquinas on account of the high quality of its professors and its cultural contribution through philosophy and theology.”

– Giovanni Cardinal Lajolo

President Emeritus of the Governatorate

Vatican City State