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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Dr. Paul W. White (’95)Add two more titles to the honorifics that Dr. Paul W. White (’95) has earned over the course of his career as a physician and officer in the United States Army: “Colonel” and “Consultant to the Surgeon General for Vascular Surgery.”

In 2006 Dr. White began a two-year fellowship in vascular surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Six years later he was named the fellowship’s director, training the Army’s general surgeons to become vascular surgeons by teaching the latest methods in research, testing, imaging, and surgery, both endovascular and conventional. In this capacity he became, in 2016, the consultant to the Surgeon General for vascular surgery. Last June he was promoted to the rank of colonel.

“I still work directly with patients because a lot of surgical training is apprenticeship-based, where we’re training the fellows in the operating room,” he explains. “But as an active duty Army officer, I have deployed several times, and I have other duties as far as field exercises, teaching courses, research, and academic work.” Dr. White is also a devoted husband to his wife, Margaret, and father to their seven children, ranging in age from 16 months to 16 years.

Additionally he finds time to serve his alma mater as a member of Thomas Aquinas College’s Washington, D.C., Board of Regents. “I am happy to do it because my four years at the College were as formative as any in my entire education,” he says. “I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the College, and if there is anything I can do to help it in any way, it is my pleasure and joy.”


December
26, 2018

Members of the Morlino family in Rome for the October canonization of St. Katharina Kasper Members of the Morlino family in Rome for the October canonization of St. Katharina Kasper

In late October, alumna Genevieve Morlino (’17), along with her brother Dominic (’21) and their family, traveled to Rome for what she describes as “a rather momentous event” — the canonization of a family member.

St. Katharina Kasper St. Katharina Kasper“St. Katharina Kasper started the Congregation of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ in Germany in 1850, and her order has spread throughout the world,” writes Miss Morlino. “My mom and her sisters are some of her closest living relatives.” Miss Morlino’s late grandmother attended St. Katharina’s beatification in 1978. There she met His Holiness Paul VI, who presided over the beatification and whom, in God’s providence, His Holiness Pope Francis also canonized this October, alongside St. Katharina. “When we heard she was being canonized,” says Miss Morlino, “we all knew we had to go.”

A recent story in the National Catholic Register tells the history of St. Katharina, the miracle that led to her canonization, and the Morlinos’ decision to witness the solemn occasion. “Katharina Kasper was my grandmother’s great-great aunt,” the story quotes Miss Morlino’s mother, Fran, as saying. “We didn’t really think we would get [to Rome] this soon, but when we heard about the canonization we said, ‘Well, we’ll do what it takes to get there.’”

Spurred by her love of Jesus in the poor and the ill, St. Katharina established the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, along with four other women, in a small wooden house. Their mission is to minister to the sick and needy, especially children, and they are known for their love of simplicity. In the years since its founding, the community has spread from St. Katharina’s native Germany to Brazil, England, Germany, India, Kenya, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, and the United States.

Meanwhile Miss Morlino, like her great-grandmother’s great-great aunt, is serving the poor as a program development assistant at Catholic Charities of Ventura County.

St. Katharina Kasper, pray for us!


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.”


Votive candle rack

Please pray for Margaret (Boersig ’81) and Dave Mason, parents of 10 children, including Sophia (Feingold ’09), Jake (’10), Dominic (’13), Veronica (’14), Nathaniel (’18), and Alex (’19). Mr. Mason has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and Mrs. Mason, who has been struggling with kidney cancer, is now nearing renal failure.

Please pray for their full recovery and for the protection of their family. St.  Peregrine, pray for them!


Michael Swanson (’93), city attorney of Klamath Falls, Oregon, with his wife, Sharon Michael Swanson (’93), city attorney of Klamath Falls, Oregon, with his wife, Sharon

The city of Klamath Falls, Oregon, has a new City Attorney: Michael Swanson (’93). The City Council named Mr. Swanson, who previously served for 20 years as a deputy district attorney, to his new position at its September 17 meeting. He began the very next day.

“We are extremely excited to bring Mr. Swanson on to our City of Klamath Falls team,” said Council President Phil Studenberg. “He brings over two decades of commitment to this community and many strong partnerships.”

Upon graduating from the College in 1993, Mr. Swanson enrolled in law school at the Willamette University College of Law. “It just seemed like a natural outgrowth from what we learned at TAC,” he says, “as far as the logic and philosophy, reading texts closely, forming arguments, and being able to support them from the text. It appealed to me.”

A native of Oregon City, he then joined the District Attorney’s Office in Klamath Falls. “I wanted an opportunity to give to a community,” he recalls. “Being a deputy district attorney allowed me to serve people who had been harmed in our community, and at least let them get some closure for what had occurred to them.”

Yet after 20 years of practicing criminal law, he is grateful for a change of pace. As city attorney, he is responsible for all of the city’s legal affairs, including contracts, employment, and land use. “Every day there is a challenge,” he says. “There is something different to review, something to look at. I’m rediscovering my research skills!”


Beau Braden, D.O. (’00) Beau Braden, D.O. (’00)“IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Not long after Beau Braden moved to southwest Florida to open a medical clinic, injured strangers started showing up at his house. A boy who had split open his head at the pool. People with gashes and broken bones. There was nowhere else to go after hours, they told him, so Dr. Braden stitched them up on his dining room table.”

So begins an extensive feature story in the New York Times about the efforts of Beau Braden, D.O. — a member of the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 2000 — to establish a hospital in this impoverished rural community. The owner and managing physician of the Braden Clinic in nearby Ave Maria, Dr. Braden studied medicine at Midwestern University and holds two masters degrees in public health from the University of Southern California. Since leaving a faculty position at the University of Colorado in 2014 and coming to Ave Maria, he has observed serious, unmet medical needs in the region — which, he tells the Times, has “fewer hospital beds per person than Afghanistan.”

Thus Dr. Braden proposed establishing a 25-bed hospital to serve the 50,000 residents of the area, spending $400,000 from a family trust on legal, consulting, and filing fees. Yet his efforts have been obstructed, possibly even for good, due to unforeseen opposition. A large hospital, some 35 miles away, has challenged Dr. Braden’s petition for state approval, fearing that his startup could undercut its patient base and revenues.

The Times story describes how Dr. Braden juggles the demands of his medical practice, the herculean task of trying to establish a new hospital, and family life: He “frequently flies himself from Immokalee’s tiny airfield to pull overnight shifts at nearby hospitals.” He assembled “a 2,000-page application to Florida’s health care regulators.” And he and his wife, Maria-Theresia (Waldstein ’05), “are raising five children.”

All the while, the physician remains steadfast in his commitment to bring a hospital to the people he serves. “I refuse to stop,” he tells the Times. “They’ve been trying to get a hospital in their community for 50 years. I’ll bring all of what I can to make sure this injustice stops.”


Sophia (Mason ’09) Feingold Sophia (Mason ’09) FeingoldIn response to the ongoing news of abuse and cover-up in the Church, alumna writer Sophia (Mason ’09) Feingold observes that the revived scandal has led critics to renew their calls to end priestly celibacy. The discipline, they argue, is too onerous, and living up to it makes abusers of otherwise good men.

Writing for the National Catholic Register, Mrs. Feingold offers an intriguing counter-argument: What if the burden on priests is not too heavy, but too light?

Drawing upon her Aristotle and Aquinas, Mrs. Feingold examines “the relation between good actions and willpower” as well as “the intermediary role played by habits and virtues.” Just as the runner prepares for a marathon by first running much shorter, and then progressively longer, distances, the Christian builds up virtue through small, regular actions — such as prayer and fasting — that in time make much greater disciplines, such as celibacy, tenable.

Writes Mrs. Feingold:

To build a good habit (of fasting, or skipping the donuts, or holding our tongue and horn on the highway, or working without intermission) is indeed difficult, and requires great and as it were active exercise of willpower; and of willpower in this sense, we are perhaps in limited supply. But it does not follow that we ought therefore to resign ourselves to daily mediocrity; for to exercise a good habit in proportion to its existing intensity is far less difficult than to build up the habit in the first place. … And of course, as more and more good habits are gained in this fashion, the exercise of the will itself becomes a habit, so that eventually even the initial problem of limited willpower becomes itself moot.

As regards the scandal, she argues, “The problem in the priesthood is not so much that priests are required to be celibate as that there is not enough stress on celibacy and the sort of self-restraint and self-discipline that supports celibacy.” What the Church, its priests, and we all could use, then, is not to surrender the fight for holiness, but to take it on ever more vigorously, availing ourselves daily of all the prayers, devotions, and sacrifices that make it achievable.

A wife, the mother of two small children, and a doctoral student in English at The Catholic University of America, Mrs. Feingold writes regularly for the Register. Other recent articles include: The Death Penalty and the Nature of Human Government, Why the Martyr Wears a Crown, and Sanctity Has a Beauty That Will Save the World.


Jon B. Syren (’87) Jon B. Syren (’87)On her blog, Miss Marcel’s Musings, alumna author Suzie Andres (’87) describes the “inestimable grace” of having recently been with the family of her late classmate Jon B. Syren (’87) for the 26th anniversary of his death — “this 26th feast day,” she writes, “and it’s been a feast indeed.”

Shortly after graduating from the College, Mr. Syren began to “fulfill his dreams,” writes Mrs. Andres, when he married classmate Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly:

… on the Feast of Our Lady’s Coronation in 1987, and with the birth of their daughter and son (who would’ve been the first of many, and thanks to God's infinite love did become the first of many, though their 7 siblings came later, after Angela remarried a second saintly man, thankfully one who is still among us!). And finally, his dream of being a doctor began coming true with his attendance [at the University of Washington, with his first year of medical school in his home state of Alaska] …

Jon’s secret was in pursuing sanctity — the Kingdom of God, or by another name: Love — rather than worldwide fame and fortune, power, popularity, and all the other things that people often mean by “success.” Not surprisingly, according to the words of Our Lord, by pursuing first the Kingdom of Heaven, Jon was given “all other things besides.”

Mr. Syren’s widow, Angela, is today a member of the College’s Board of Governors, and their daughter, Catherine (Connelly ’11) O’Brien, is a young wife and mother who recently completed her master’s degree in theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

 Suzie Andres (’87)Suzie Andres (’87)“The Communion of Saints is one of my favorite mysteries, more and more visible to me as I realize how close Heaven is to earth,” writes Mrs. Andres. “With Jesus in the tabernacle and coming to us in Holy Communion, the Kingdom of God is absolutely among us. And then, as Angela and Jack and Jon demonstrate so very visibly, the work of the saints continues day in and day out, with fruit beyond counting, beyond measure.”

It should be noted that Mrs. Andres is today celebrating another notable anniversary: the 30th anniversary of her marriage to her husband, Dr. Anthony P. Andres, a tutor at the College. She also recently appeared on the Catholic Exchange podcast, speaking about one of her favorite members of the Communion of Saints, Marcel Van.


Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress

The Cambridge Analytica saga, followed by Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress, has prompted, among many, a certain fatalism bordering on despair. Yes, it’s a shame that privacy is dead in the age of relentless datamining, most commentators concede, but what alternative is there? Life on the grid may have its shortcomings, but who among is so brave as to venture off of it?

K. E. Colombini (’85) K. E. Colombini (’85)To which alumnus author K. E. Colombini (’85), writing in Crisis, offers a refreshing perspective: Perhaps there is a middle ground; and perhaps the angst over the excesses of Facebook may just lead to a cultural shift toward moderation in our virtual lives.

“In the digital world, it’s not just data at risk, but the truth itself, in this era where rumors, attacks and ‘fake news’ spread so much more quickly at the swipe of a thumb across a screen,” writes Mr. Colombini. “With the impetus to always be sharing, we have lost the ability to read and reflect on the news of the day, on subjects of paramount importance for human dignity and world peace.”

Thus Mr. Colombini proposes a (partial) return to “analog” technologies, such as books, board games, and newspapers, which allow for a slower, more deliberate and deliberative pace of life than their digital replacements. Citing the 2016 book, The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter by David Sax, Mr. Colombini predicts that the cultural moment may be ripe for “a new realization of the unique value of the truly tangible in a world of touchscreens.”

A former journalist and political speechwriter who now works in corporate communications, Mr. Colombini writes periodically for Crisis, the National Catholic Register, and Homiletic and Pastoral Review. A father of five and grandfather of two, he lives with his wife, Elizabeth (Milligan ’86), in suburban St. Louis.

The full text of his latest article, Analog Technology Takes on the Digital Juggernaut, is available — alas, in digital version only — via Crisis.


Dan and Rose (Teichert) Grimm (both ’76) Dan and Rose (Teichert) Grimm (both ’76)

The family of Rose (Teichert ’76) Grimm reports that she has been diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer and will soon undergo aggressive treatment. Her daughter Wendy-Irene Zepeda (’99) requests friends pray “to two Blesseds specially dear to my mom: Bl. John Henry Newman and Bl. Solanus Casey,” and helpfully suggests the following two prayers:

Prayer through the intercession of Bl. Solanus Casey

O God, I adore You. I give myself to You. May I be the person You want me to be, and may Your will be done in my life today.

I thank You for the gifts You gave to Blessed Solanus. If it is Your will, grant the canonization of Blessed Solanus so that others may imitate and carry on his love for all the poor and suffering of our world.

As he joyfully accepted Your divine plans, I ask You, according to Your will, to hear my prayer for Our Lady’s intentions for Rose Grimm, especially that if it be Your will she be speedily, completely healed, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

“Blessed be God in all His designs.”

Amen.

 

Prayer through the intercession of Bl. John Henry Newman

O God our Father, You granted to Your servant Blessed John Henry Newman wonderful gifts of nature and of grace, that he should be a spiritual guide in the darkness of this world, an eloquent herald of the Gospel, and a devoted servant of the one church of Christ. For his insight into the mysteries of the Kingdom, his zealous defense of the teachings of the Church, and his priestly love for all your children, we pray that he may soon be numbered among the canonized saints, and that You grant, through his intercession, all Our Lady’s intentions for Rose Grimm, especially a speedy and complete cure, if that be Your holy will. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.


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Isabella Hsu (’18) on discussion method

“In our classroom discussions, we are responsible for our own education. We have to get our hands dirty, to figure out the material, to let it become part of us and make us better people. That is real learning.”

– Isabella Hsu (’18)

Redondo Beach, California

NEWS FROM THE COLLEGE

“I admire this college and your faithfulness to the Church’s mission for higher education and the New Evangelization.”

– The Most Rev. José H. Gomez

Archbishop of Los Angeles