Faith in Action Blog
Luke Macik (’87), headmaster of The Lyceum in South Euclid, Ohio, recently appeared on the From the Median program on the Salem Radio Network’s WHK in Cleveland. There he discussed the school he leads, its commitment to Catholic liberal education, and the tremendous success it is enjoying. His appearance was part of an ongoing series titled, “The Importance of Teaching Our Students to Think Critically in a World Filled with Sound Bites,” which in December included an interview with Thomas Aquinas College President Michael F. McLean.
“Your school is just like the city on the hill,” host Molly Smith told Mr. Macik, who replied that the Lyceum adheres to a simple but proven educational philosophy: “Have students read really good texts, that is, original works. Have them study Latin and Greek. Don’t dumb things down for them, and get to the real business of education.”
In just its 11th year, the Lyceum has become one of the top Catholic high schools in the nation. It earned a spot on The Cardinal Newman Society’s 2014 Catholic Education Honor Roll of schools “marked by the integration of Catholic identity throughout all aspects of their programs and excellence in academics.” A quarter of the Lyceum’s graduates are National Merit Scholars, Finalists, and Commended Students, having scored in the top 1 percent to 5 percent on the PSAT, and the school’s average SAT score is in the top 14 percent of the nation.
During the interview Mr. Macik cited his own education at Thomas Aquinas College as evidence of the great versatility of a classical education, particularly his work as an attorney prior to become a full-time educator:
“I had this kind of education in college. I studied the liberal arts, studied the great books … then found myself going to law school and then — of all places in the world — I had an opportunity to practice law among the Navajo Indians.… I’m probably one of very few people who can qualify as an expert in Navajo court in their own law system, but it just shows you the applicability of the liberal arts. I did that for 15 years. I was their insurance defense counsel.… The real training I had for the practice of law in Navajo court was not what I did in law school — I had no courses on Navajo law — it was what I did in my undergraduate work.”
Streaming and downloadable audio of the complete interview are available courtesy of From the Median:
“Here at the College we’re studying the age-old questions of man. We talk about justice. We talk about the way in which human nature is set in place by God Himself. We talk about some of the most ancient questions that man has had for all times.”
So began Sarah Dufresne (’14) in an interview with host Coleen Kelly Mast on a recent episode of the Mast Appeal program on Ave Maria Radio. The College’s resident assistant and a member of its most recent graduating class, Miss Dufresne called in to the show as part of a series of interviews with young adults. Over the course of the 15-minute conversation, she discussed the College’s curriculum, its pedagogy, and its strong Catholic character.
“We have, in a way, some of the best Catholic ‘peer pressure’ here, in that your friends around you — your peers — are going to Mass, they’re going to confession,” she said. “You have peers who are actively trying to seek the Faith and learn and grow intellectually in what the Faith means and what the Faith calls us to do. It is an encouragement.”
In addition to helping students grow both intellectually and spiritually, the College, Miss Dufresne noted, prepares them well for whatever careers they may pursue after graduation. “People want to hire employees who have critical-thinking skills, who have strong relational abilities, the ability to relate and to hear and to dignify another person in conversation. I think those are qualities that Thomas Aquinas College really instills in its graduates,” she said.
“When you receive the truth, you want to proceed as humbly as possible,” Miss Dufresne continued. “But when you do have the truth, it gives you a certain form of confidence. I think graduates have confidence in what they know, and that’s attractive to people who are hiring young minds.”
After serving for three years as the parochial vicar at Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish in Topeka, Kansas, Rev. Nicholas Blaha (’02) has moved on to a new assignment. The young priest is now the head of campus ministry at Emporia State University, a 6,000-student, public university some 100 miles southwest of Kansas City.
It is a position for which he is well suited. Prior to entering the seminary in 2006, Fr. Blaha spent three years as a missionary on secular campuses for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. That experience, he says, gave him a glimpse of what it would mean, as a priest, to serve as an alter Christus. “I saw God working in people’s lives, bringing about conversions,” he notes. “It wasn’t me doing it, but in some sense, it wouldn’t have happened had I not been there. That was a mark of the call of God; God is going to do this, but he won’t do it without me.”
Writing on Kansas City’s archdiocesan blog, Evangelized Kansas, Fr. Blaha adds that his time as a campus missionary gave him, “a front row seat to the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of young men and women” and “a sense that I could do this sort of thing for the rest of my life.” Providentially, he is now doing “this sort of thing” again as an ordained priest of Jesus Christ.
In that same blog post, Fr. Blaha also reflects on his four years at Thomas Aquinas College:
“I truly loved what I studied there, especially the theological works of our patron, St. Thomas Aquinas. The founders of the College emphasized that his work was the greatest synthesis of faith and reason our Church has ever seen — and that if there was any hope for a growth in understanding in our own age, it would have to take into account and build upon Thomas’s insights. Furthermore, the College was saturated with a Catholic culture, and the friendships I made there continue to sustain me to the present day, though we are separated often by thousands of miles.”
Please pray for Fr. Blaha, the souls in his care, and his work at Emporia State.
A member of this past year’s graduating class, Sarah Dufresne (second from left, above) is serving as the College’s resident assistant this year. This past weekend, she hosted a pancake breakfast for the students, a slideshow of which is available via the College’s website.
“We have books and catechism classes to educate the mind, but the heart is captivated above all by the majesty and mystery of divine worship.”
So writes Dr. Peter Kwasniewski (’94) — a professor of theology and philosophy, an instructor of music, and the choirmaster at Wyoming Catholic College — at Corpus Christi Watershed, where he blogs regularly. As the above quote suggests, the liturgy, its music in particular, is near and dear to Dr. Kwasniewski’s heart — so much so that he has recently authored Sacred Choral Works, a book containing 20 years of his musical compositions for the sacred liturgy. Complementing the book are three CDs featuring recordings of nearly all the compositions, so as to facilitate their learning for choir directors and members alike:
“Without the Bread of Life, there is eternal death for us,” Dr. Kwasniewski continues. “That is why, as long as the New Evangelization means what it should ― the proclamation of the truth that Jesus is Lord and there is salvation in no one else, either for the individual or for society ― it will also always and everywhere begin and end in the sacraments, and in particular, the Most Blessed Sacrament, in which, says St. Thomas, the common good of the entire universe is found.”
The Cardinal Newman Society has issued its 2014 Catholic Education Honor Roll, recognizing 71 Schools of Excellence “marked by the integration of Catholic identity throughout all aspects of their programs and excellence in academics.” To make the list, the Society explains, schools must have “an institutional commitment to providing a truly integrated and faithful Catholic education across all disciplines and in all areas of student activities.”
Notably, four of the just 71 schools honored on this year’s list — less than 5 percent of the Catholic high schools in the United States — are headed by Thomas Aquinas College alumni:
- Marguerite (Ford ’79) Grimm is the headmaster of Saint Monica Academy in Pasadena, California.
- Luke Macik (’87) is headmaster of The Lyceum in South Euclid, Ohio
- Rev. Mark Moriarty (’95) is the superintendent of St. Agnes School in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the pastor of the parish.
- Michael Van Hecke (’86) is the headmaster of Saint Augustine Academy in Ventura, California.
“The Honor Roll schools are a reminder that Catholic education is getting better every day—not only academically, but in the renewal of Catholic identity,” says Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick J. Reilly. “We are delighted to see the increased level of competition among the schools that participated in the program this year.”
Congratulations to Mrs. Grimm, Mr. Macik, Fr. Moriarty, and Mr. Van Hecke!
“Seeking to pass on the wisdom of Western civilization, which was founded on Christian principles, a grassroots movement of parents, educators and others is reviving classical education in the Catholic tradition.”
So begins Classical Education Makes a Comeback, a story in the latest edition of the National Catholic Register that features two graduates of the College who are at the forefront of the classical-education revival: Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87) and Mr. Michael Van Hecke (’86).
A tutor at the College, Dr. Seeley is also the executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education in Ventura, California, which promotes authentic Catholic education and assists classical schools across the country. The goal of Catholic liberal education, he tells the Register, is “a Christ-illuminated understanding of what the human person is in all our capacities,” adding that “an encounter with Christ and Christian civilization fulfills and develops students.”
Mr. Van Hecke is the headmaster of St. Augustine Academy, a K-12 classical school with 150 students in Ventura, California, and president of the Catholic Schools Textbook Project. “We don’t want our children to aim for college and a career. We want them to aim for the good life,” he says. “Do you think our Founding Fathers (just) aimed for college and career? If they would have done that, we wouldn’t have America.”
The full story is available via the Register’s website.
Now featured on the College’s website is a profile of Elizabeth Trojack (’06), foundress and head of the Elizabeth Ann Seton Montessori School in St. Paul, Minnesota:
“When I was discerning what college to go to, I was young, and I had my own mindset,” says Miss Trojack. Perhaps because her older sister, Anne (Schniederjan ’04), was a student at Thomas Aquinas College, Elizabeth was inclined to blaze her own path and go someplace else. “But I believe God had a different plan for me,” she says. While praying at Adoration, she detected an unmistakable call to that Catholic, liberal arts college in California that she had initially forsworn.
More than a decade later, she now understands the why behind that call. “I am so thankful that God led me to Thomas Aquinas College and to meet the people I met, to read the books I read, to learn from the tutors that I studied under,” she notes. “I absolutely wouldn’t be where I am today without the tools, the resources, and the critical-thinking skills that the College gave me.”
Follow the link to read the whole profile.
In July educators will gather in Emmitsburg, Maryland, for Love for Wisdom, Passion for Truth, the 2014 conference of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education. Among the speakers will be four graduates of the College:
- Laura (Steichen ’75) Berquist, the founder and director of Mother of Divine Grace School, a distance-learning program serving more than 4,000 students in the United States and abroad
- Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87), a tutor at Thomas Aquinas College and the executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education
- Jessie (Ellis ’86) Van Hecke, a kindergarten and first grade teacher at St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, California
- Michael Van Hecke (’86), Headmaster of St. Augustine Academy and the president of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education
The Conference will take place July 21-24 at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary. More information is available via the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education website.