Skip to Content
Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

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.”


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.


Blog Categories

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 was moved and edified by your remarkable fidelity to St. Thomas Aquinas. Your academic program proposes an original way of training men and women capable of reading, thinking and interpreting tradition correctly.”

– Marc Cardinal Ouellet

Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops