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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

George Krestyn (’03)

George Krestyn (’03)

The inaugural year of Thomas Aquinas College, New England, will begin on Saturday morning when the Most Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski, Bishop of Springfield, offers the Convocation Mass of the Holy Spirit in Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel. The Mass and matriculation ceremony follow the culmination of years of effort on the part of many to launch the new campus — including one alumnus woodworker, who for months has labored to prepare the century-old chapel for Catholic worship: George Krestyn (’03).

“The biggest part of the project was to take the existing pews and modify them because there was no center aisle,” observes Mr. Krestyn, describing how a central walkway is required for Catholic liturgy, so as to accommodate processions. “Fortunately there were enough long pews that we could cut and modify, giving us two sections of pews with a center aisle.”

The work, however, didn’t end there. The pews had been covered in long-since dilapidated cushions, which, when removed, revealed the pews’ beautiful finish — but also left them two inches short. “We made and then installed ‘feet’ for all of the pews,” Mr. Krestyn explains, “and that raised them each a couple of inches.”

Then there was the floor. “The center section of pews originally had iron supports,” Mr. Krestyn notes. “But because the floor was not completely flat or even, the pews would rock. So the carpenters, when they installed the pews, embedded the iron supports into the wood floor. Now that we have a center aisle, these holes were visible. So the architects suggested putting an inlay in there. We cut away the spots where the holes were and put a new piece of wood in their place. Then we installed a new inlay close to flush, and sanded it down to make the floor level.”

The woodworker and his crew, including two of his uncles, have worked on the project since May, finishing in time for the kneelers to be installed prior to Saturday’s Convocation. But more projects lie ahead. “I will be helping with installing the Communion rail and the two confessionals,” he says. “Plus there may be a little work in the choir loft,” which requires some reconfiguration following the installation of a new organ.

Mr. Krestyn and his wife, Monique (Chartier), have lived in nearby Templeton, Massachusetts, ever since their  wedding, just months after their graduation from Thomas Aquinas College, California, in 2003. Sixteen years later, they are now expecting their ninth child.

Over the years Mr. Krestyn has held various positions in the remodeling and custom-furniture industries before going into business for himself in 2018. Although he has participated in similar projects, helping to prepare Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel, he finds, is different. “It’s exciting,” he says. “Working on a chapel, that’s wonderful. And working for my alma mater, that’s very special.”


Edward Froelich (’88) Edward Froelich (’88)

For the seventh consecutive year, Chambers USA has included Edward Froelich (’88) in its annual guide to the nation’s “top lawyers,” which it defines as those who “demonstrate sustained excellence.” The guide notes that Mr. Froelich “represents clients in a host of administrative tax controversy matters,” and that his peers report that “he is smart and works harder than anybody else.”

A husband, the father of two, and an attorney at the Washington, D.C., office of Morrison & Foerster LLP, Mr. Froelich specializes in federal tax litigation and administrative dispute resolution. After graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1988, he earned his law degree at the University of Virginia School of Law and a master’s of law in taxation at the Georgetown University Law Center. Previously he worked as a trial attorney of the Department of Justice Tax Division. In addition to his annual accolades from Chambers USA, he has also been featured by the The Legal 500 US in its “recommended” category.

For the most part, Mr. Froelich litigates cases and represents clients in administrative controversies at the audit and appeals level before the IRS. He also, however, does work both internationally and on a pro-bono basis. Notably, he assisted Caritas Bulgaria on two projects involving European Union laws relating to the allocation of resources to refugee families for basic living and educational needs.

“I am daily grateful for the education and intellectual training I received from the College,” says Mr. Froelich. “It has given me not only a thirst for the first principles in my discipline, but the means by which to make those known and applicable to the case at hand. It has also given me an unshakeable faith in He Who is all truth and goodness incarnate. “


Lieutenant Commander Josh Bergen (’05) Lieutenant Commander Josh Bergen (’05)

After 12 years as a Surface Warfare Officer for the United States Navy, Lieutenant Commander Josh Bergen (’05) recently transitioned to a Foreign Area Officer (FAO), becoming a Latin America regional specialist. His first FAO posting is to Madrid, Spain, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in defense and security studies at Escuela Superior de las Fuerzas Armadas. (ESFAS), the Spanish military’s staff college.

After graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 2005, Lt.-Cmdr. Bergen taught English in Peru before being commissioned in the Navy through Officer Candidate School. Over the course of a dozen years, he served on four ships with stations in Virginia, Argentina, and Rhode Island. He has led sailors as a division officer and department head, with responsibilities ranging from interior communications to anti-submarine warfare and air-defense systems. Over the course of four deployments to Europe and the Middle East, he qualified and stood watch as officer of the deck, surface warfare coordinator, and tactical action officer.

Lt.-Cmdr. Bergen will study at ESFAS through summer 2020 in preparation for further assignments in support of security cooperation with the nation’s partners throughout the Western Hemisphere. “Transitioning to Foreign Area Officer allows me to combine my Naval career with my passion for Latin America and the Spanish language,” he says. He and his wife, his “beautiful and long-suffering” classmate, Bernadette (Coughlin ‘05) Bergen, are the parents of five children.


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.


Susan and Michael Waldstein Drs. Susan (Burnham ’78) and Michael Waldstein (’77)
photo: Monica Torreblanca,
The Troubador

The Troubadour, the student newspaper of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, recently featured an endearing profile of two of the university’s newest theology professors, both graduates of Thomas Aquinas College: Drs. Susan (Burnham ’78) and Michael Waldstein (’77).

The story chronicles how the Waldsteins met on Susan’s first day at the College, which, she admits, she had been reluctant to attend, thinking she would prefer to pursue a degree in chemistry or biology. Yet once she began the College’s program of classical liberal education, her perspective changed. “I learned a different way of looking at nature by studying the natural philosophy of Aristotle,” she says. “I realized that looking at nature in that way contributed to theology and that there could be a theology of biology.”

The couple married just three days after her graduation. From there, says Susan, “We went around, and he got degrees and I had babies.”

Michael earned a master’s in philosophy from the University of Dallas, a licentiate in Scripture from the Pontificium Institutum Biblicum in Rome, and a doctorate in New Testament studies from Harvard Divinity School. Following eight years as a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame, he then declined an offer of tenure to become the founding president of the International Theological Institute (ITI) in Gaming, Austria. In 2008 he joined the theology faculty at Ave Maria University, and one year ago he came to Franciscan to launch a doctoral program in theology.

While homeschooling eight children — four of whom are now fellow Thomas Aquinas College alumni, and two of whom are current students — Susan went on to earn a master’s and a licentiate degree in theology at ITI. She wrote and defended her doctoral dissertation for the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, while homeschooling the couple’s youngest three children in Florida. She, too, now teaches theology at Franciscan. In addition, the couple serves on the Pontifical Council for the Family, appointed as members by Pope St. John Paul II. 

Through it all, they have maintained a beautiful witness, in both their personal and professional lives, to the goodness of marriage and family. “Their prime classroom was their home,” writes Troubadour editor-in-chief Allegra Thatcher, “where they raised a happy family in extraordinarily simple ways.”


David A. Shaneyfelt (’81)For the second year in a row, alumnus attorney David A. Shaneyfelt (’81) has been named one of Southern California’s Super Lawyers— an annual roster of top attorneys within various regions of the United States. “Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement,” the guide notes. Only 5 percent of lawyers are named to the list, following a rigorous nomination and peer-review process that considers such factors as verdicts, settlements, professional honors, experience, pro-bono work, and community service.

“Honestly, recognition like this makes me squirm,” says Mr. Shaneyfelt. “There are so very many TAC attorneys and they are all super in my mind. And because of our formation I think we all share the same passion and the same priorities — faith, family, work, and in that order. In the end, that’s what counts, and I’m sure none of us would be clear on the end if we hadn’t been formed by TAC in the beginning.”

A lawyer in Camarillo, California, Mr. Shaneyfelt has represented numerous private and public business entities in disputes against insurance companies and joint powers agencies — earning him the title of “Top Rated Insurance Coverage Attorney,” according to Super Lawyers. He practices with the Alvarez Firm, where he works alongside fellow alumnus Justin Alvarez (’97).


Dr. Samuel Caughron (’96) talks to TAC students

“It’s really strange to be back here giving a talk,” confessed Dr. Samuel Caughron (’96), who visited the College’s California campus last week to deliver a presentation for the Career Service Office, “So You Think You might Want to be a Doctor?” Yet the president and CEO of MAWD Pathology Group, which serves 18 hospitals in the greater Kansas City area, returned to his alma mater nonetheless, because, as he put it, “The world needs more TAC graduates in healthcare.”

Dr. Samuel Caughron (’96) Dr. Samuel Caughron (’96)Over the course of the 90-minute discussion, Dr. Caughron took students’ questions, described what the life of a physician entails, and offered advice on applying to medical school. He also spoke about how his Catholic liberal education informs his work. “I think that an education at Thomas Aquinas College is the best education you can have going into medicine,” he said. “All the technical science — you can get that later. What you are doing here for these four years is incredibly important to be the complete physician.”

Indeed, Dr. Caughron continued, the longer he works as a doctor, the more he appreciates that a medical education, while essential, is insufficient for the true practice of medicine. “As your career progresses, the importance of your TAC education magnifies,” he said. “Our understanding of politics, of human nature, the nature of man, the nature of the world, is tremendously valuable as you get further into practice and you are asked to be on hospital committees to sort out complex questions, you are asked to be involved in regulatory discussions. ‘What is the role of government in the life of man?’ Such questions come back and have an application of relevance which you, as a physician, are going to have the opportunity to shape in your community.”

Moreover, “on a practical level,” he continued “the discussion style of classroom learning that we have here actually is tremendously useful. I’ve ended up in numerous leadership positions because of my ability to sit with a group of peers in a community and assimilate and summarize the ideas being discussed.”

Dr. Caughron’s advice ranged from a discussion of how the College’s students can best complete their prerequisites for medical school to simple tips about how to make the busy, harrowing life of a medical student most palatable. (Hint: Take a gap year, and don’t “put life on hold” — that is, delay marriage and family — just to complete professional training.)

By sharing the lessons learned over the course of his career, Dr. Caughron explained, he hoped to facilitate the careers of future fellow alumni. “Getting into and through medical school is a complex path,” he said. “As with any road, knowing the journey ahead is helpful.”


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.”


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Caleb Skvaril (’19)

“Learning from the great books, you can see the questions that history’s greatest thinkers have asked and all the ways that they have tried to answer them. You’re able to see what’s right about what they’re saying, but also what’s wrong. The more your opinion is challenged, the more you have to refine it in order to get closer to the truth.”

– Caleb Skvaril (’19)

Asan, Guam

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“I am happy with the mission of Thomas Aquinas College and with the results spread through various countries in the world!”

– Most Rev. Lionginas Virbalas

Metropolitan Archbishop of Kaunas, Lithuania