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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

stars in the night sky

“According to thousands of years of human observations, the heavenly bodies were eternal, they always were, they always will be, world without end. They were immortal, divine, yet visible, and moving with what must be mathematical precision. The hope of drawing close to God by uncovering the mathematical elegance and precision of the divine heavens is what attracted Ptolemy to devote his life to studying the heavens.”

Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87) Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87)So writes Thomas Aquinas College tutor and alumnus Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87) in a fascinating essay for The Imaginative Conservative, The Gravity of Gravity: A Quick Look at Astronomy and its Relevance. In discussing the discoveries of Ptolemy, Copernicus, Brahe, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and Einstein, Dr. Seeley explains the effects of astronomy on history and culture, and why its study is an important part of a liberal education. He also writes about how his alma mater — and the emphasis its classical curriculum places on astronomy — made him a lifelong stargazer:

At the beginning of Sophomore year, I spent two weeks systematically observing the sky with the naked eye, then studied Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein over the next three years. Not only was I introduced to the historical developments of science, but I came to see the reasons why we believe that the Earth moves, and that all things are heavy. More than that, I was able to enter into Dante’s imaginative vision of the cosmos, and understand the ways in which St. Thomas used astronomy to help understand the science of theology.

The Ptolemaic portion, especially grounded in the two weeks of observations, made me a friend of the night skies for the rest of my life. The observations involved watching the sky at different times through the night, and watching it at the same time every night for a while, noting especially what was rising and what was setting. It set up a habit of keeping track of the sky …

In addition to serving on the College’s teaching faculty, Dr. Seeley serves as executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education. His full article is available via The Imaginative Conservative.


St. Paul's School Choir St. Paul's School Choir

Alumni, friends, and benefactors of the College who are within driving distance of Washington, D.C., are warmly invited to join the full student body of Thomas Aquinas College, New England, at this year’s March for Life. And the night before, they are welcome to enjoy a free concert of beautiful choir music at the invitation of alumnus Eric Maurer (’98).

A co-founder of the Lyceum in Cleveland, Mr. Maurer now teaches math, science, and Latin at St. Paul’s Choir School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In keeping with the tradition of many great cathedral schools throughout the ages, St. Paul’s offers boys, grades three through eight, a Catholic education that integrates rigorous academics with the performance of choral masterworks. On January 23 the school’s choir is hosting a concert, “Regina Caeli: Music in Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” for all March attendees. The concert will take place at The Catholic University of America’s St. Vincent de Paul Chapel, beginning at 7:30 p.m.


Sr. Maria Kiely, OSB (’77) Sr. Maria Kiely, OSB (’77)Sr. Maria Kiely, OSB (’77) lives in Washington, D.C., teaching Greek at the Dominican House of Studies and Latin at Catholic University. She is on the editorial committee for ICEL, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. ICEL was established during the Vatican Council by Bishops from countries where English is used as a liturgical language. It is responsible for the revised translation of the Roman Missal, promulgated in 2011 and now in use.

Last fall, ICEL finished translating the Latin Liber Hymnarius, the hymnal for the Liturgy of the Hours revised after Vatican II. At their annual meeting last November, the bishops of the USCCB voted to accept the ICEL translations of the 294 hymns of the Liber Hymnarius. These will appear in fascicles as a complement to the existing Liturgy of the Hours; later they will be integrated into the forthcoming revised edition of the Liturgy of the Hours mandated by the USCCB. 

Since the Liber Hymnarius includes hymns of St. Ambrose, Prudentius, medieval authors, and others spanning the entire tradition of Catholic hymnody, the ICEL translations represent a retrieval of a significant aspect of the liturgical and spiritual patrimony of the Church. The theological richness of these hymns is such that they will bring new depth to the recitation of the hours of the liturgy. They may also be used in any circumstances where the singing of hymns is appropriate.

According to ICEL, the English hymns are close translations of the Latin texts, so that as much as possible of the theological and spiritual content of the originals may be preserved. The meters proper to each Latin text have been maintained, so that each hymn may be sung both to the chant melody given in the Liber Hymnarius and to any modern metrical tune of the same meter. Though rhyme is a salient feature of English hymnody, it is less prominent in Latin hymns; some of them rhyme and some do not. Even hymns that rhyme are less clearly defined by it, because rhyming and assonance often result merely from the inflections of the language. Rhyming also requires frequent inversions that compromise the content and become tedious in longer hymns.

ICEL has sought to prepare for the reception of the hymn translations by the Bishops’ Conferences and by the wider public by making representative examples available through the internet. Under the direction of Daniel Grimm (’76), the Thomas Aquinas College choir has sung representative examples of the ICEL hymns set to chant melodies and to modern hymn tunes, which are available on YouTube. As the choir sings, the text of each hymn appears verse by verse on the screen.

If you have questions and would like to know more about the hymns, please feel free to contact ICEL.


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.


Margaret Walsh (’15) Margaret Walsh (’15)“I enjoy working with students and seeing them have these amazing moments where they realize they can do more than they thought they could,” says educator and entrepreneur Margaret Walsh (’15). “They start moving forward, faster and faster, and get so excited about their accomplishments.”

Shortly after graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 2015, Miss Walsh founded Secret Garden Educational Pathways, an online tutoring and remediation service for students of all ages with special needs. “We work with students with reading remediation, students who have dyslexia, or dysgraphia — where they can’t get their thoughts out on paper — or students who have autism or autism-related symptoms,” she says. “There’s a whole umbrella of learning difficulties that the reading remediation and education therapy that we offer can help.”

Miss Walsh holds a master’s degree in special education and has received specialized training from Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes and Equipping Minds Cognitive Therapy. Her company, which is based in Southern California but offers its services globally via the Internet, consists of five teachers, three of them TAC alumnae.  “We’re doing remediation, which is different from what a lot of schools do,” she says. “A lot of times the mentality that I hear and see is, ‘Let’s help you learn how to live with your disability.’ What we’re trying to do is say, ‘Let’s help you increase your abilities so that you can do more than what a diagnosis is predicting you can do right now.’”

The approach is all-encompassing. In addition to academic instruction, Secret Garden offers nutritional consultation as another means of identifying students’ learning difficulties. Wherever possible, its teachers — who are all Catholic — use faith-based reading materials, such as stories about the lives of saints, to add a spiritual dimension to their students’ education. “We’ve chosen to bring Catholic materials in so that we can provide that opportunity for the students to explore their faith while at the same time increasing their academic ability,” Miss Walsh explains. “That is at the heart of why I started this business.”

The goal of Secret Garden Educational Pathways is to enable students to grow cognitively so that they can “start to enjoy school,” says Miss Walsh, and bolster their long-term educational prospects. “Wherever God takes them, we’re trying to help them improve their potential and improve their capabilities so they can do more.”


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.


Will Bertain (’08) teaches a class at the St. Jerome Institute Will Bertain (’08) teaches a class at the St. Jerome Institute

At the St. Jerome Institute (SJI), a just-opened, classical high school in Washington, D.C., “the curriculum is designed as a single, unified, four-year program of study,” in which “students and tutors collaborate on analyzing reading, exploring questions, and formulating arguments.” Perhaps it should come as little surprise, then, that a graduate of a college with an integrated, classical curriculum, taught via the Discussion Method, would be a good fit to help lead such a school — and why SJI hired Will Bertain (’08) as its first assistant headmaster.

“I was thrilled to hire Will,” says Peter Crawford, the school’s headmaster. “Will’s philosophical formation from Thomas Aquinas College enables him to offer teenagers a deep academic mentorship. Additionally, his many years of experience serving students in classical, Great Books, liberal arts schools, and the practical insights he has gleaned in this time, will be key to the success of our school. Of greatest importance, Will’s personal commitment to virtue and excellence makes him a living lesson for all of our students. His leadership is a true gift to the hearts and minds of our first class and future generations of students.”

A founding faculty member and master teacher at Glendale Preparatory Academy, Mr. Bertain worked for the Great Hearts Academies in Arizona for more than a decade, holding the positions of academic dean and interim-assistant headmaster at Anthem Preparatory Academy. He taught middle and high school students in a wide range of courses, including history, Latin, mathematics, and Humane Letters. He also led numerous enrichment seminars and pedagogical workshops for Great Hearts teachers.

“I was deeply blessed, professionally and spiritually, by my time at the Great Hearts Academies,” he says “As the years went on, though, I was increasingly drawn toward the possibility of working in an authentically Catholic school setting. When I had the chance to read some of the core documents for the St. Jerome Institute, I was profoundly moved. I thought to myself something along these lines: ‘Wait a second ... someone is actually doing this?! This is exactly what any new Catholic high school should be doing!’ I am deeply grateful for being given the opportunity as the assistant headmaster to be a part of such a project.”

Will Bertain (’08) teaches a class at the St. Jerome InstituteWith informal ties to nearby St. Jerome Academy, which serves elementary- and middle-school students, SJI aims to extend a liberal arts education to high school students in the region. “The Socratic seminar-discussion method holds pride of place as a pedagogical tool for us, as we contend that engaging in give-and-take inquiry with fellow students, working together toward understanding the Truth, addresses a fundamental human need,” says Mr. Bertain. “Our curriculum is one designed not only to cultivate the intellectual virtues, but to also further the development of the virtues of the body and the spirit — which is why we include physical education and pursue opportunities for community service.”

In addition to his work as an educator, Mr. Bertain is a busy husband and father. Joining him for his cross-country move to help found SJI and “get out of the Arizona heat” are his wife and TAC classmate, Michelle (Kuenstle ’08), and their six children. “I am so very grateful to my amazing wife, who has been a source of such strength for me,” he says. “I am also incredibly thankful to my alma mater, Thomas Aquinas College, to all of the faculty and staff, for having blessed me with the education I received. The longer removed I am from my time there, the more deeply I thank God for giving me the life-changing experience of being a student at Thomas Aquinas College.”


Nnadozie Onyekuru (’17) Nnadozie Onyekuru (’17)

This spring Nnadozie Onyekuru (’17) completed his studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Keough School, where he earned a master’s degree in global affairs. His time at Notre Dame “was a continuity of God’s providence,” he writes — a period during which he thrived and grew in many ways. “I had the privilege of interacting with contemporary policy shapers, including a former White House Chief of Staff, an international statesman, a Nobel Peace Laureate, and the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States.”

For the last year Mr. Onyekuru served as one of the university’s International Ambassadors — “one of my favorite communities at Notre Dame” — a select group of undergraduate and graduate students who welcome international students and help them adjust to campus life. In April, the International Student and Scholar Affairs program honored him for his efforts, naming him a co-recipient of the ambassador team’s service award. “I truly did not deserve it,” he writes with characteristic humility of the honor. “And I am immensely grateful to my teammates and the International Ambassadors who welcomed me to Notre Dame two years ago.”

Recently Mr. Onyekuru has been published in two university publications: In May he penned a brief essay, New Nigerian Bishop is Peacemaker, on Arc of the Universe, a blog edited by Notre Dame Professor of Political Science Daniel Philpott. Then, in June,  he wrote A Subscript in Global Education for the school’s Policy Pulse journal, describing the promise of a new, online tutoring service — and how it can be leveraged to improve educational outcomes — in his homeland of Nigeria.

“I am deeply grateful for all the opportunities I received at Notre Dame,” writes Mr. Onyekuru, “and for my formation at Thomas Aquinas College, which helped me to enjoy them thoughtfully.”


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.”


Crucifix in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel

Please pray for the repose of the soul of alumnus Douglas Alexander (’77), who died on May 18. Please also pray for the consolation of his wife, Leslie, and their six children.

A member of Thomas Aquinas College’s third graduating class, Mr. Alexander was a convert to Catholicism, entering the Church at the Easter Vigil of his Freshman Year. After his graduation in 1977, he went on to earn a master’s degree in political philosophy from the Claremont University Graduate School. Throughout his life he held numerous positions in organizations dedicated to Catholic education and education policy, including the Free Congress Foundation, Seton Home Study School, and the Catholic Schools Textbook Project, where he served as executive editor.

Eternal rest, grant unto him O Lord
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in pea
ce.


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Isaac Cross (’19) -- quote 2

“There’s a joy for life here you don’t get in most places, a sense of purpose, a sense of love and fellowship bound up in our common cause of seeking the truth.”

– Isaac Cross (’19)

Leominster, Massachusetts

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“I am grateful to Thomas Aquinas College for educating new leaders for our Church, leaders who are grounded in their personal relationship and commitment to Jesus Christ.”

– Most. Rev. George Niederauer

Archbishop Emeritus of San Francisco