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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Franz Wall ('16)

The local Fox affiliate in Fresno, California, has published an inspiring update on Franz Wall (’16), who remains hospitalized and paralyzed  from the chest down following a skiing accident in late November. The story quotes Franz’s mom, Christy (Tittmann ’89), who remains faithful as ever during this trying time, which she likens to “the most bizarre dance between heaven and hell, and absolute grief and amazing joy, because the highs and lows are crazy.”

In the story, Mrs. Wall recalls Franz’s first phone call to her after his injury. “I pick up the phone, ‘Mom, I’m paralyzed,’ and I just told him, I said, ‘Look, if you’re paralyzed, then that’s what you need for salvation, and I’m behind you 100 percent, whatever I can do to help you.” Grateful for the outpouring of support that her family has received, she “wants people to remember, ‘God is good and, even in terrible situations, He is bringing about a good.’”

Part of that good, no doubt, are the many prayers that have been offered by friends of Franz, as well as those who have never even met him, for his recovery and for his family’s well-being. To that end, fellow alumna Mary Massell (’15) has arranged a novena for Franz and the Wall family at St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Church, in Surprise, Arizona, which will be livestreamed over Facebook at 6:00 p.m. PST on Friday, December 18. “All are welcome and encouraged to participate virtually,” Miss Massell writes. “Please share with your prayer groups!”

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.”

Michelle (Firmin ’97) HalpinPlease pray for the repose of the soul of Michelle (Firmin ’97) Halpin, who, following a years-long battle with cancer, passed away on Saturday. Her husband, Phil (’97), writes:

Michelle died peacefully early this evening. Her dad and I were with her, holding each of her hands as she finally let go and stopped breathing. All of our children have been staying with us here at the house for several days and it has been a beautiful and holy experience for all of us. We're so glad that Michelle is now with Jesus, where she has always wanted to be. ‘O death, where is thy sting?’

She was very comfortable and peaceful for the last several days, in her own bed here at home. I can't imagine anyone being more prepared for death, both practically and spiritually. But that's not a surprise to any of us because well-prepared was how she lived her whole life. I and all of our children are at peace and are doing very well.

Please also pray for the consolation of Phil and the Halpin family. Funeral information will be made available on Michelle’s CaringBridge site as soon as it becomes available.

Eternal rest, grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.

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.

Dr. Lane (Smith ’04) Scott Dr. Lane (Smith ’04) Scott“Consuming politics in the same way we root for our favorite sports teams is comfortable,” writes Dr. Lane (Smith ’04) Scott in American Greatness, the political website for which she serves as an assistant editor. “We flatter ourselves that we are an informed, self-governing people because we keep track of politics with traditional media outlets. The past week has — or should have — removed this comfortable illusion.”

A scholar, a farmer, a writer, and a homeschooling mother of five, Dr. Scott takes to task fellow conservatives and Christians who grouse about last week’s election without taking stock of their own involvement in it, or lack thereof. “Real political action takes time and sacrifice. Self-rule — self-government — is much more difficult than spectator politics,” she contends. “We must show up at the polls — not just to vote, but also to work, observe, and oversee.”

Ultimately, Dr. Scott concludes, those who preach individual responsibility have little business pointing fingers over their political disappointments. “Shock and scandal at the impotence of our news channel, our political party is, in reality, disillusionment with ourselves,” she observes. “We are a self-governing people and we feel like we have no say in our government. Whose fault is that?”

The full article is available via American Greatness.

Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro

“The whole world knows and loves St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross,” begins the online description of Diary of a Country Carmelite: A Year in the Garden of Carmel — the latest offering from alumna author Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro. “But what about the dozens of other Carmelite saints?”

Diary of a Country Carmelite, by Cynthia (Six '77) MontanatoTo these lesser-known holy men and women Mrs. Montanaro dedicates her latest work, offering a heartfelt, extensive look into their lives. She “walks in the footsteps of those whose feasts brighten the Carmelites’ liturgical year,”  the book’s description continues, following “a pathway straight to the Heart of God.”

Throughout the work, Mrs. Montanaro also shares details of her own life as a Third Order Carmelite living in the Western Massachusetts countryside. “Inside the cover you will find a little glimpse of what it is like to live in the country, but more importantly, what it is like to pray in the country,” she says. “You could also learn to get to know many new friends, our Carmelite saints, who have lived in every corner of the world and in every period of history, many with difficult days similar to those we are living in now. Find some hope and peace and security in the pages.”

The of wife another alumnus, Andrew Montanaro (’78), a mother and grandmother, and a retired homeschooler and public librarian, Mrs. Montanaro has now published two diaries. In 2013, she released Diary of a Country Mother, which chronicled the life of her beloved son Tim, who died at the age of 15.

Mrs. Montanaro’s newest book has received the enthusiastic endorsement of a fellow alumna,  published author, and Carmelite secular: Suzie Andres (’87). “Diary of a Country Carmelite is a gift to the Carmelite Order and the whole Church,” writes Mrs. Andres. “Enough of short paragraphs that give us only a glimmer of the saints’ lives! Cynthia gives us whole lives, both her own and those of the Carmelite saints. These pages provide an invaluable resource for Discalced Carmelites, as well as a wonderful introduction to Carmel for the rest of the Church.”

 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

Fred Arthur (’96) Fred Arthur (’96)

Friends and loved ones gathered today at Santa Clara Church in Oxnard, California, for the funeral Mass of an alumnus of Thomas Aquinas College, Fred Arthur (’96). Serving as principal celebrant at the Mass was one of Mr. Arthur’s TAC classmates, Rev. Ramon Decaen (’96), a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska.  Audio of Fr. Decaen’s homily (recorded on a cell phone, thus the uneven quality) is available in the player at the bottom of this post.

Rev. Ramon Decaen (’96) Rev. Ramon Decaen (’96)“Today we pray in a special way for our brother Fred, whose gentle smile illuminated the campus at Thomas Aquinas College,” said Fr. Decaen in his homily.  “He had a great love for people, a great love for everyone. … He was always generous, very giving of himself.”

Fr. Decaen noted that he was “maybe the first person that Fred met at the College,” as they were freshman roommates.  The two became fast friends and, he added, “It’s when Christ unites us in friendship that we help each other on the road to heaven.”

The priest also joked about some cultural differences that the two had to work through — Fr. Decaen being a lifelong Californian, and Mr. Arthur a citizen of Ghana — mostly relating to the temperature of the room and who slept on which bunk. “We come from many different backgrounds, many different countries, many different beginnings, but we are all united together as one body, the Body of Christ,” Father said. “United in love, united in conviction, united in respect for the dignity of the human person, we are reminded that God is here with us.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only a limited number of friends were permitted in the church, but among them were several alumni of the College. Fr. Decaen urged all those gathered — and, by extension, Mr. Arthur’s friends everywhere — to pray for the repose of his soul and the consolation of his wife, Nana, and their four children. “That’s our goal today,” Father said. “We pray that he may go to the heavenly kingdom, and through the grace of this most powerful prayer that we celebrate today, we call upon God’s grace to give him rest in eternal life.”

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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Kathleen Murphy (’16) on integrated curriculum

“I think about the entire world differently since I have come here. I have learned certain truths, whether in the natural sciences or philosophy, that I never would have imagined I could know.”

– Kathleen Murphy (’16)

Cheshire, Connecticut


“Thomas Aquinas College is lending a helpful hand to the Church to fulfill her mission. There is no doubt that this Christian environment that is nurtured here is the main cause why there have been so many responses to the call of God to the priesthood and to the consecrated life in the female and male students of your College.”

– Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski

Prefect Emeritus

Congregation for Catholic Education