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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Cover of "The Glory of the Cosmos"What are the Christian’s responsibilities toward the environment and its care? A new book sets out to answer this question, decoupling it from the snares of ideology and partisanship and turning instead to the intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church.

“Today we have those who view the natural world as little more than raw material for our use and exploitation, and on the other hand, those who want to attribute some sort of divinity to that world,” writes Thomas Storck, editor of The Glory of the Cosmos: A Catholic Approach to the Natural World. “The Church has her own approach to these questions, an approach that, while of course not seeing the natural environment as possessed of divinity, neither does it see it as simply so much inert stuff, stuff meant solely for our manipulation, profit, and pleasure.”

In The Glory of the Cosmos, Mr. Storck and several Catholic scholars consider environmentalism from the vantage of Catholic philosophy and theology, particularly the works of the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas. Eschewing both the paganism and the deism that are too often at root in contemporary environmental debates, the authors consider what it means to contemplate and honor the splendor of God’s creation. The book features four alumni-authored essays:

“In this collection you will find not only an edifying series of reflections on the Catholic Church’s teaching on our place and role in the natural world, but you will meet the Catholic tradition’s great sources of philosophical and theological insight,” writes Dr. John G. Brungardt, an assistant professor of philosophy at Newman University, about The Glory of the Cosmos. “Readers will encounter the calm strength of the Catholic contemplative spirit, asking them to turn and see the glory of the cosmos and showing them how.”


Lt. Mark Forrester (’12) teaches his students at Holy Family Academy remotely from a COVID-19 testing station. Lt. Mark Forrester (’12) teaches his students at Holy Family Academy remotely from a COVID-19 testing station.

The Diocese of Manchester, N.H., has presented its annual St. Joseph Award for teaching excellence to a graduate of the College who couples his extraordinary devotion to his students with service to his family and country: Mark Forrester (’12).

Mark Forrester (’12) Mark Forrester (’12)Last December, Mr. Forrester and his wife, Clare, welcomed their first child, little baby Isla. Three months later, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Charged with overseeing a sudden shift to online learning at Holy Family Academy, where he teaches math and theology, Mr. Forrester was able to get his colleagues transitioned to Google Classroom in just four days. Then, less than a month later, the New Hampshire National Guard — where Mr. Forrester serves as a lieutenant and firing platoon leader —called him to active duty at a COVID-19 testing site in northern New Hampshire. What was supposed to be a one-month assignment soon stretched out to three months away from his young family and home.

Throughout that time, however, Mr. Forrester never abandoned his students. “He taught classes in his National Guard fatigues from inside a tent or out in a field — often with a whiteboard propped on one chair and a laptop propped on another,” writes Mark Gillis, Holy Family’s Head of School. “When Mark could not be there for the regularly scheduled class during the day, he scheduled help sessions for students in the evening. He continued the dual task of administering COVID tests and moral theology tests until the end of the school year.”

All the while, Mr. Gillis adds, Mr. Forrester “kept up his joyful spirit and sense of humor” while continuing to assist his Holy Family colleagues in whatever ways he could. “Mark Forrester — National Guard lieutenant, Holy Family Academy teacher, and father of a beautiful family deserves a special tip of the hat,” observes Mr. Gillis. “If witness of Christian discipleship is the most powerful form of education, then Mark Forrester is a master teacher.”


Samantha Cohoe ('06) Samantha (McCall ’06) Cohoe

“On the eve of the French Revolution, a teenaged alchemist is on the verge of a great discovery. But its cost may be her mind.”

That’s the one-line pitch that alumna author Samantha (McCall ’06) Cohoe makes for her newly released young-adult novel, A Golden Fury (Wednesday Books). The historical fantasy (“more historical than fantasy,” she explains) follows the perilous adventure of protagonist Theosebeia Hope as she risks her life and her sanity in an always brave, sometimes foolhardy, and occasionally terrifying pursuit of alchemy’s greatest prize: the Philosopher’s Stone.

Cover "A Golden Fury"“The goals of alchemy always seemed like they were worthy of having a fantasy story written about,” reflects Mrs. Cohoe. “The boldness of thinking that, if you get everything right, you can scientifically create eternal life and turn lead into gold, seemed promising as a setup.” The result is a quick-paced, entertaining read that gently touches upon worthwhile questions about natural law, human dignity, pride, parenthood, ambition, and loving one’s enemies.

There are encounters with evil along the way, but none, the author insists, that need give parents concern. “My characters believe that alchemy is a science and pursue it as such, but yes, they do run into some supernatural stuff,” she says. “Without spoiling too much of the plot, I would reassure parents that any child who comes away from the book with a heightened curiosity in dark magic would have had to misread the book very badly. I would also add that any book can depict evil without endorsing it, as readers of great books know.”

Throughout A Golden Fury one can find several hints of the author’s liberal education, including smatterings of Latin and references to Rousseau. “To write historical fantasy, you have to do a lot of research,” notes Mrs. Cohoe, who credits the College’s Great Books curriculum with helping her to better understand history’s would-be alchemists as well as the characters she brings to life. “Reading primary sources and really getting into the minds of the writers in that time — and seeing the coherence of their world views, rather than just judging them from a modern perspective — helps me to write better historical fiction.”

Mrs. Cohoe lives with her husband, Caleb (’06), a philosophy professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and their three children in Colorado. Previously a Latin teacher at a classical Christian school, she left the classroom earlier this year to dedicate more time to her writing. Her next work, Bright Ruined Things — which she likens to “The Tempest meets The Great Gatsby” — is due to be released in fall 2021.


Renewing Catholic SchoolsFor those lamenting the persistent decline of Catholic schools — academic and spiritual, as well as number and reach — or those seeking ways to bring about their revival, alumni educators Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87) and Michael Van Hecke (’86) have a book for you.

“This book presents to all readers — whether parents, teachers, principals, priests, diocesan personnel or bishops — an opportunity to slow down from the daily crush of responsibility, and reflect on this great mission of the Church,” writes Mr. Van Hecke in Renewing Catholic Schools. “This book allows us, we hope, to reflect peacefully on the community of our schools, our character, our essence, and the purpose for which Catholic schools exist — to foster eternal happiness for all members of the school community.”

Michael Van Hecke (’86) Michael Van Hecke (’86)Published by the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, for which Mr. Van Hecke serves as president, Renewing Catholic Schools acknowledges the crisis in Catholic schooling, considers possible avenues for reform, and offers concrete suggestions for how parents, teachers, and administrators can begin to bring about renewal within their own schools.

“Crises can force us to realize that fundamental changes need to be made and start us looking to see what has gone wrong,” writes Dr. Seeley, a member of the Thomas Aquinas College teaching faculty and ICLE’s director of advanced formation. “They can make us admit that the problems began much earlier, that we have become content with years of underachieving and fundamental failures. They might even make us realize that we no longer have a clear sense of where we have come from and where we are going, but have just been sleepwalking or thoughtlessly following the crowd.”

Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87) Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87)Renewing Catholic Schools consists of 11 essays, three of which are by Dr. Seeley, and one by Mr. Van Hecke, all edited by Dr. R. Jared Staudt, director of formation for the Offices of Evangelization and Catholic Schools at the Archdiocese of Denver. The essays make an attempt to rediscover what Catholic schools have lost since their heyday and how their tradition of excellence can be restored. The book also cites examples of schools that are leading the way, such as St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, California, where Mr. Van Hecke is headmaster.

High praise for the work comes from none less than the Emeritus Secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, Most the Most Rev. J. Michael Miller, C.S.B., Archbishop of Vancouver. “This book should be in the hands of every Catholic educator in America,” His Excellency proclaims. “A bright future is on the horizon for schools that dare to be authentically Catholic.”

Renewing Catholic Schools is available for sale via the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education’s website.


Educational Entrepreneur Margaret Walsh (’15) recently appeared on consecutive episodes of EWTN’s At Home with Jim & Joy to discuss her company, Secret Garden Educational Pathways, which offers tutoring and remediation service for students with special needs. In the course of the interviews, she spoke of her time at the College, as well as the way her faith and her education have informed her ministry, which she likened to a vocation.

Margaret Walsh (’15) Margaret Walsh (’15)“After high school I went to Thomas Aquinas College, which was very foundational and formative for me,” Miss Walsh told hosts Joy and Jim Pinto. “That’s where I gained some of my inspiration for working with these students.”

Her work, which aims at helping students learn to learn, is predicated largely on Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy. “Seeing the connection between special education and the philosophy and theology I was doing in college was really eye-opening for me,” she said. “Aristotle and St. Thomas talk about the way that we come to know and understand; we interact with the world around us through our senses, and through the pathway that connects our senses to our mind, and then through the different pathways in our mind.” Even though “students who have special learning needs might learn a little differently,” she added, “it still follows a pattern that Aristotle saw long ago.”

What’s more, when special education is taught under the light of faith, educators can more readily recognize the innate dignity and value of persons with disabilities, which is all too often lost in more worldly contexts. “When you see the person as a valued individual who has infinite worth in the eyes of God, it changes your perspective on how you work with them and where you want to see them go,” Miss Walsh explained. “This [disability] is something that God has given this family and this student as a gift, in a sense, and learning to see it again from a Catholic perspective is really important because there is so much that you can offer up from any of this and so much joy that you can still find within the individual person. And, yes they have struggles, but they also have beautiful qualities within them that God has blessed them with — He hasn’t blessed someone else with that. He has blessed them.”

EWTN hosts Joy and Jim Pinto seemed sincerely impressed with Miss Walsh’s love for her students and the success she has achieved with them. “As a parent, this might be just what you’ve been praying about, to help you along with your child, to give you a little more help, a little more aid,” said Mr. Pinto. “Or maybe you’re a principal at a Catholic school, or a teacher at Catholic school, saying we could use a little bit more, somebody pulling up alongside of us, sharing how best to teach this young person — and doing it together.”


October
02, 2020

If, like recent graduate Jonathan Culbreath (’17) you are looking for words of wisdom from one of Thomas Aquinas College’s most beloved tutors, you are in luck! Alumnus Dr. John Francis Nieto (’89), a member of the California teaching faculty, has launched a blog, Half-Baked Books, which, as its names suggests, serves as a repository of Dr. Nieto’s musings, essays, and other literary endeavors.

Dr. John Francis Nieto (’89) Dr. John Francis Nieto (’89)“In this blog, I think you will encounter the thought of a wise man,” writes Dr. Nieto’s colleague and fellow alumnus Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87). “A man of wide experience, talent, energy, and commitment, he has been a political activist, a playwright, a poet, a man of prayer, a schola director, an acclaimed amateur chef, a whiskey connoisseur, a linguist, a dedicated and revered teacher. … Above all, he has been a student of the great minds — ancient and modern, theological, philosophical, mathematical, scientific, poetical, and musical — in a particular way of St. Thomas and Aristotle.”

Half-Baked Books covers a range of topics as broad as its creator’s varied interests — including, as Dr. Seeley describes it, “metaphysics, quantitative abstraction, illumination, participation, being another Christ, poetry, Dante, and much more.” To name just a few of the posts: Clothes and Participation, On the Meaning of the Sabbath, The Object of Poetry and Its Truth, Matter as the Cause of Quantity, and Music and Morality.

Enjoy!


 Ken May (’03)Ken May (’03)There are those, no doubt, who would argue that Ken May (’03), a cybersecurity expert and CEO, misspent four years of his life by pursuing a Catholic liberal education at Thomas Aquinas College. Surely he would have been better served earning degrees in computer science, or business, rather than studying the great books of Western civilization?

Mr. May disagrees. “My education at TAC did a wonderful job of preparing me for doing research, seeking original sources, and thinking critically,” he says. “It has served me quite well over the years.” So well, in fact, that Mr. May has authored a new book, detailing how history’s great thinkers provide invaluable insights into some of the most critical technological challenges of our times.

In his newly released The Art of Hacking: Ancient Wisdom for Cybersecurity Defense, Mr. May explores the teachings of the greatest minds in a wide range of fields — from Sun Tzu to Machiavelli, from Thucydides to Musashi — and how these can help small businesses and information technology professionals shield computer and data networks from attack. “The teachings of the greatest minds of the world have endured through countless generations,” he says. “The tools and techniques may change, but the primary principles remain the same.”

Citing age-old insights on warfare, politics, martial arts, history, and strategy, The Art of Hacking combines ancient philosophy with contemporary, practical advice. “The College’s curriculum was a driving force in my decision to write the book,” Mr. May observes. “Thucydides is in the book, as is Machiavelli. I was mostly focused on texts working with warfare, political strategy, and martial arts. I do wish dear St. Thomas wrote more on martial arts …”

Mr. May is chief executive officer of Swift Chip, Inc., an IT solutions firm serving more than 400 small- and medium-sized businesses in California, He is also an experienced educator, serving as a community instructor for SANS, the globally leading cybersecurity educational organization, where he teaches military, intelligence, and Fortune 500 teams in ways to protect the country’s IT infrastructure. He is the father of four young children, ages 5 to 11.

The Art of Hacking: Ancient Wisdom for Cybersecurity Defense is available in both printed an electronic formats via Amazon.


Regina (Aguinaldo ’97) Sweeney Very dedicated readers may recall that, 10 years ago, the Thomas Aquinas College Newsletter published a story (PDF) about Regina (Aguinaldo) and Owen Sweeney (both ’97), an alumni couple and then the parents of six children, who helped to found a Catholic Montessori school in Great Falls, Virginia.

A decade later, the Sweeneys have relocated westward, but their devotion to the Faith and its application in Montessori education continues. “After moving away from the area, I transitioned to a homeschooling mom,” writes Mrs. Sweeney, now the mother of nine. “As time went on, I realized that the true genius of Maria Montessori was not in the materials and lessons which she developed for children. Rather, it was her brilliance in observing and understanding the God-given nature of the child, based in Catholic theology.”

Drawing on her experience of applying Catholic Montessori principles to the raising of nine children, Mrs. Sweeney is now sharing her wealth of knowledge with parents everywhere by way of her new website, Catholic Montessori Home. The site includes a blog as well as a virtual community for parents, The Hamlet — the fruit of many, many questions about child-rearing that the Sweeneys have received over the years.

“With current events causing children to be home full-time with their parents,” Mrs. Sweeney notes, she saw that “it was time for me to share more widely what has worked for us in raising our children.”

What “has worked” for the Sweeneys, as the website’s title suggests, was the incorporation of Montessori principles into family life and homeschooling. Indeed, what led the couple to investigate the Montessori method in the first place was when their eldest, then two years old, had an overwhelmingly positive reaction to a Montessori-based catechetical program.

That daughter, by the way, is now a student at Thomas Aquinas College, California — making the Sweeneys not only TAC alumni, but also TAC parents. “Owen and I just love our alma mater, in a different light too now — as parents,” says Mrs. Sweeney. “Our oldest finished her freshman year this spring. Just the first in many more to come.”

The Sweeney children The Sweeney children


Louis Knuffke (’16)Louis Knuffke (’16)Only four years since his graduation, Louis Knuffke (’16) has been named the headmaster of the Chesterton Academy of Annapolis, Maryland. “Chesterton Academy offers an integrated, Catholic, liberal education that prepares its students for the fuller pursuit of the liberal arts, literature, the natural sciences, philosophy, and theology at the collegiate level,” says Mr. Knuffke. “It draws upon the perennial wisdom and richness of Western culture through the use of primary texts and Socratic discussion, taking inspiration from the wit and insight of its patron, G.K. Chesterton, now servant of God.”

After graduating from the College in 2016, Mr. Knuffke earned a Master’s in Theology at Ave Maria University and a Licentiate in Theology at the Dominican House of Studies. Over the years he has taught and tutored a variety of subjects — such as Latin, Greek, English, geometry, algebra, pre-calculus, and theology — at various schools, including  St. Michael’s College Prep in Silverado, California, the Mother of Divine Grace distance-learning school, and Queen of Apostles School in Alexandria, Virginia.

“As Headmaster of Chesterton Academy, I hope to guide the school in maintaining a clear vision of the essentials of Catholic liberal education,” says Mr. Knuffke. “It is the education that I received at Thomas Aquinas College, as well as my further studies in Thomistic theology, that have given me a deeper understanding of the path of knowledge from its beginning in logic to its culmination in sacred theology.”

Among Mr. Knuffke’s teachers at Chesterton Academy will be a fellow TAC graduate, Joseph Rivera (’17), who teaches Latin. “It has been a great joy to pursue the intellectual life in study and teaching together with fellow alumni while at Ave Maria University, in Washington, D.C., and now at Chesterton Academy,” Mr. Knuffke observes. “I am forever grateful to Thomas Aquinas College for these friendships and for its serious pursuit of wisdom through the arts and sciences. It is this wisdom that I hope to hand on now to the students at Chesterton Academy of Annapolis.”


Norman De Silva and family

Please pray for Dr. Norman P. De Silva (’75), a member of the College’s first graduating class who later served as a member of the teaching faculty. Today marks the 35th anniversary of his death on July 1, 1985. Head Chaplain Rev. Paul Raftery, O.P., remembered him at Mass this morning in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel.

May Dr. De Silva rest in peace!


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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

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“Thomas Aquinas College has always been thoroughly Catholic in its identity. It's an outstanding program of studies, founded on a loyalty to the Chair of Peter and to the Magisterium of the Church.”

– Raymond Cardinal Burke

Prefect Emeritus, Supreme Tribunal

of the Apostolic Signatura