Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Paul McCown (’10)At its meeting on Monday, the City Council of Troy, Michigan, appointed a new member to its ranks — Paul McCown, a graduate of the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 2010.

A native of Troy (population: 83,000) with a longstanding interest in politics, Mr. McCown has served on the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals for the last three years. In 2015 he ran for the City Council in a competitive race, but came up short. A year later, however, a sitting member resigned, and the remaining members of the council undertook a comprehensive selection process to fill the vacancy. That process culminated in Mr. McCown’s coming before the Council for a public interview on September 19, which can be seen in the video below:

By meeting’s end, the Council voted to appoint Mr. McCown, who promptly took his oath and immediately began voting on city matters. His term will continue until next November, at which point he will be up for election.

Yet governance is only a part-time job for Mr. McCown, who, by day, is the CFO and executive vice president of Dataspeed, Inc., an engineering firm that specializes in the design and construction of autonomous cars and mobile robots. The 30-person firm has partnered with a wide range of clients including Ford, General Dynamics, and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center. “Our staff consists entirely of engineers except for a bookkeeper and then me,” he laughs. “So I have oversight and responsibility for finance, accounting, HR, marketing, pretty much all departments except for engineering.”

After graduating from the College in 2010, Mr. McCown earned a master’s degree in economics and American politics at Pepperdine University and then returned to Michigan, where he held several positions in the financial sector before joining Dataspeed. Yet it is not his advanced degree, but his liberal education, he says, that has most prepared him for a career in finance.

“The formulas that I write and the models that I build, all of them are underpinned by logical thinking. You have to understand which pieces of the puzzle need to go where, what comes first, what comes later, if/then statements, all that kind of thing,” he explains. “Practicing deductive reasoning, thinking it, breathing it, drinking it the way we do at Thomas Aquinas College — that was really a game-changer for me.”

In addition to his work as a public official and a corporate executive, Mr. McCown is, first and foremost, a husband and father, having wed classmate Jacinta (Alarcon ’10) in 2012. The couple has two sons, Paul Jr. (3) and James (1½), and due to arrive next February is the family’s first daughter, Rosie, named for the McCowns’ late classmate Rosie Grimm (’10).


Carl Anderson and Patrick Mason (’03) Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, and Patrick Mason (’03), state deputy of the Knight’s New Mexico state council

Nearly a decade ago, Patrick Mason (’03), then a freshly minted attorney in Gallup, New Mexico, joined his local council of the Knights of Columbus. Much to his surprise, he soon found himself elected chancellor, the council’s third-highest position. Then, when his council’s grand knight was tragically killed by a drunk driver, and its terminally ill deputy grand knight entered hospice care, Mr. Mason — a new Knight and still only in his 20s — became the council’s leader.

By God’s grace, the council thrived, attracting new, younger members, and earning the prestigious Star Council Award from the Knights’ Supreme Council. Mr. Mason began representing his council at regional and national conventions and, in short order, was elected state advocate for the Knights in New Mexico. He then proceeded to work his way through the state organization’s ranks, culminating in his election, in May, as state deputy — the highest state-level position within the Knights of Columbus.

There are only approximately 70 KofC state deputies, or their foreign equivalents, in the world, and among those, Mr. Mason — a husband and father of two sons, with a third child due in October — may well be the youngest. At 35 years of age, he is also the youngest man ever to hold the position in New Mexico. In June, he traveled to Connecticut for a leadership orientation, during which he met with the Knights’ national Board of Directors as well as Supreme Knight Carl Anderson.

“The way I look at it, throughout history — for example, after Pearl Harbor or even 9-11 — men stood up in defense of their country,” says Mr. Mason. “In a lot of ways, the Knights of Columbus provides a similar kind of opportunity for men to stand up in defense of the Church and families. It allows them to stand up and be, as Pope St. John Paul II said, ‘the strong right arm of the Catholic Church.’”

With 105 councils and 10,000 members, the Knights of Columbus is the largest Catholic lay organization in New Mexico. “As part of my duties, I have to meet with bishops, correspond with members of the Church hierarchy, and inspire and form our men in the Faith,” he says. “Being able to pull from my knowledge of the true, the good, and the beautiful, and being able to communicate the ideas that I developed and found at Thomas Aquinas College, has really helped me in all those regards. If it weren’t for the strength and faith that the College gave me, I don’t think I would be doing this.”


 Student and Alumnae at the GIVEN Forum Kathryn Claahsen (’12), Bridget Heffernan (’13), Clara Diodati (’17), Bridget Lynch (’12), Meghan Reichert (’18), Emily Sanchez (’17), and Emily (Barry ’11) Sullivan

The seven women pictured above, four alumnae and three current students at Thomas Aquinas College, all participated in the recently concluded GIVEN Catholic Young Women’s Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C.

Organized by the Council of  Major Superiors of Women Religious — whose former chair, Sr. Regina Marie Gorman, O.C.D., was the College’s 2015 Commencement Speaker — the forum included 300 Catholic lay women from across the United States, joined by 75 religious sisters. Its purpose was to provide faith formation to selected attendees, aiding them in their work within their parishes, communities, or dioceses. The weeklong forum included talks from prominent women leaders within the Church, such as Helen Alvaré and Sr. Mary Prudence Allen, R.S.M., as well as small mentoring groups.

In order to attend the forum, participants had to complete a rigorous application that included three letters of recommendation and a detailed action plan for upcoming projects related to their work or apostolates. All expenses for the forum, including travel and accommodations at The Catholic University of America, were paid for through the generous support of the Hilton Foundation.


The video above is a message of welcome from the incoming headmaster of Holy Spirit Academy in Monticello, Minnesota — Andrew M. Lang (’06). A private high school that features a classical curriculum, Holy Spirit strives to offer a faithfully Catholic education in “an environment grounded in the Truth, which prepares students for a life at the service of others.”

Previously Mr. Lang, who studied at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California, served as a pastoral associate for a cluster of four parishes in Bellevue, Iowa. He officially assumes his new post at Holy Spirit Academy on July 1.

“Please join me in my prayers,” writes this husband and father of five, “for a peaceful and expedient transition for my family and for continued success under my leadership of this promising classical Catholic high school.”


Officer Rex (’90) and Serena (Grimm ’87) Mohun Officer Rex (’90) and Serena (Grimm ’87) Mohun

A two-decade veteran of the California Highway Patrol, Officer Rex Mohun (’90) has received “Officer of the Year” honors from the Kiwanis Club of Ventura — for the third time.

At a ceremony at Oxnard’s Tower Club on May 22, the civic organization presented its annual award — given to one officer from each law-enforcement agency in the county — to Officer Mohun, who previously received the honor in 1998 and 2014. The California Highway Patrol chooses its honorees via a vote of fellow officers, meaning that Officer Mohun has earned the highest regard of his peers. Below are the words that his superior, CHP Captain Terry Roberts, offered in his support:

Throughout the years, Officer Mohun has earned the respect and admiration of his fellow officers and supervisors. Officer Mohun has consistently and without exception displayed sound judgment, leadership abilities, and a strong work ethic that is second to none.

Officer Mohun has willingly taken on many responsibilities and collateral assignments within the Department. Officer Mohun is a dedicated Motorcycle Officer and serves as a vital member on the Coastal Division Protective Services Detail, which provides escorts and protection for visiting dignitaries. Officer Mohun has completed comprehensive training courses during his tenure and regularly serves in the capacity of Field Training Officer, Physical Methods of Arrest Instructor, Certified Motorcycle Training Officer, Range Master and Non-Lethal Training Ammunition Instructor, Special Response Team, Warrant Service Team, Taser Instructor, and Emergency Medical Response Instructor. To say that Officer Mohun’s contribution to each of these assignments is excellent would certainly be an understatement.

Officer Mohun lives in Santa Paula with his beautiful wife of 30 years, Serena (Grimm ’87). They are the proud parents of twelve children. Two years ago Officer Mohun had the honor of pinning the California Highway Patrol badge on his oldest son, Robert (’09), who is currently assigned to the Altadena Area Office.

Officer Mohun is a credit to the California Highway Patrol and the citizens of California. He is truly deserving of your recognition as the Kiwanis Club of Ventura Officer of the Year.


Dr. Adam Seagrave ('05)Dr. Adam Seagrave ('05)“Most of us have a profound appreciation for our mothers that transcends description,” begins Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05) in a new essay, timed for Mother’s Day, in The Public Discourse. An assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, Dr. Seagrave then proceeds to consider the current state of motherhood in terms of social and public policy.

Americans’ affection for their mothers, he observes, does not translate into an appreciation for motherhood itself, particularly the stay-at-home variety. “As long as full-time motherhood does not produce some immediate economic benefit, economic and social pressures will continue to effectively foreclose this choice for many women,” he writes. “If it matters that women have a genuine choice in their own pursuit of happiness, this is a serious problem. It becomes even more serious when we consider that fully 84 percent of women don’t think it’s best for their children for them to work full-time outside the home. Women have indeed been empowered to work outside the home, but in many cases and in many unforeseen ways, they also have been forced to do so against their wishes.”

So, as his Mother’s Day gift to moms elsewhere, Dr. Seagrave proposes “a significant tax deduction for households with a full-time parent … on the order of 150 percent of the mean individual income.” That may not seem as charming as a bouquet of roses or a box of chocolates, but, “such a deduction would provide women with a less constrained choice between being a full-time mother and pursuing work outside the home. It would also signal the value that society should place on the inestimable contribution of motherhood.”

And, on Mothers’ Day in particular, what could be more worthwhile than that? “Motherhood is a more important task for society than any other private occupation or public service,” Dr. Seagrave concludes. “No woman who would choose full-time motherhood should be unduly constrained by economic or social pressures to give up her all-important vocation.


Votive candle rack in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel

Please pray for Michelle (Firmin ’97) Halpin, who sends along the following request:

“I’d like to request continued prayers for my health and my family. That this cancer treatment may be effective on my Stage 4 cancer, for minimal side effects, and for my oldest child, who is discerning college plans during this difficult time for our family. We are asking for a miracle through the intercession of Fr. John Hardon, S.J., whose cause for canonization is being brought forward. We would appreciate prayers to Fr. Hardon from those who wish to join us in our prayers. Thanks!”


Sierra Silverstrings, featuring the children of Eve (Bouchey ’97) and Jeremy McNeil (’96) Sierra Silverstrings, featuring the children of Eve (Bouchey ’97) and Jeremy McNeil (’96)

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, KOLO 8, the ABC affiliate in Reno, Nevada, has put together the following segment about Sierra Silverstrings — a local Irish band whose members are the children of Eve (Bouchey ’97) and Jeremy McNeil (’96):

“When people say you play together, you stay together, it’s kind of true, because we were friends, but now we know each other better,” young Brigit McNeil tells KOLO News. “It’s hard to explain. It connects us. We play together, and when you play music, it’s such a joyful thing to create those sounds with each other.”

According to the Sierra Silverstrings website, the band is booked for three shows today, St. Patrick’s Day, and another two more on Saturday, the Feast of St. Joseph.


Loraine (Ivers ’81) HoonhoutPlease pray for the soul of Loraine (Ivers ’81) Hoonhout, who, following a years-long struggle with liver cancer, passed away peacefully in her sleep on the morning of Saturday, March 5.

Please also pray for the consolation of her family, including her beloved husband of 30 years, Ronald; their three children, Clare (’08), Peter, and Lisa Davis; her 3-month old grandson, Christopher Davis; her two brothers, Jim and Harry; and her four sisters, all of whom are graduates of the College: Maureen Coughlin (’79), Marian Hartzell (’82), Jessica Langley (’85), and Sr. Maria Basiléa (Margaretha ’88).

The Rosary and funeral Mass for Mrs. Hoonhout will take place this Saturday, March 12, at St. Louise de Marillac Parish in Covina, California. The Rosary will begin at 8:45 a.m., and the Mass at 9:30 a.m. Burial will follow at Holy Cross cemetery in Pomona, after which there will be a reception; details are forthcoming.

May her soul, and those of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


"Prodigal Son" - photo credit: Joan Marcus/©2016 Joan Marcus Prodigal Son - photo credit: Joan Marcus/©2016 Joan Marcus

Writing on his personal blog, Mark Langley (’89) reviews an off-Broadway performance of a new play — written and directed by a Tony and Pulitzer award-winning author — about two late members of the Thomas Aquinas College family, Louise and John Schmitt.

Louise and John SchmittLouise and John SchmittThe Schmitts were the parents of seven Thomas Aquinas College alumni, including Mr. Langley’s wife, Stephanie (’89), and the grandparents of six graduates and six current students. Mr. Schmitt, moreover, joined the teaching faculty in 1974 and was instrumental in organizing the College’s first Commencement ceremony. He left in 1979 to found the Trivium School, a residential high school offering a classical curriculum in Lancaster, Massachusetts. Many Trivium graduates have gone on to attend the College, and several of the College’s alumni have gone on to teach at Trivium.

Yet the reason that Mr. and Mrs. Schmitt figure so prominently in John Patrick Shanley’s recently debuted Prodigal Son has to do with their work prior to their time at the College, specifically in the 1960s, when Mr. Schmitt was the founding headmaster of the St. Thomas More School in New Hampshire. One of his students was a talented but rebellious boy who found his time at the school to be transformative. That student was Mr. Shanley, who has gone on to great acclaim as the screenwriter of Moonstruck and Doubt.

Featuring music by none other than Paul Simon, Prodigal Son tells the story of Jim Quinn, a character based on the adolescent Shanley. The Schmitts show extraordinary patience and dedication to the young man, for reasons, the audience learns, having largely to do with their own great personal suffering. As Mr. Langley writes:

“Mr. and Mrs. Schmitt .. share a well concealed sorrow, a sorrow caused by the tragic death of their own son. This sorrow becomes the source of Quinn’s redemption. Their hearts softened by grief, and harrowed by suffering, impel them to see the good in Quinn, despite his many expellable indiscretions, and they are able to see him through to the end — drawing out his hidden talents and mercifully allowing him to graduate — thus providing him with a sense of self-worth and new opportunity. …

“The play revealed a hidden chapter in the lives of John and Louise Schmitt. The events occurred when my wife was only a year old. Perhaps strangely, yet somewhat typical of many in that generation, Stephanie’s parents did not air their personal lives. They never spoke about these events to me and rarely if ever to their own children. In point of fact, John and Louise Schmitt suffered through not just one, but the tragic deaths of two of their children.”

The founder and the academic dean of The Lyceum, a classical school in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Langley writes that Prodigal Son “is about the mysterious role that suffering plays in life — even the seemingly senseless suffering and heartbreaking pain that comes with the death of one’s own child, one’s own son.” His wife, and her siblings, he adds, are “grateful for the gift that Shanley had given them through this play,” as it has helped to give them “an answer about the mysterious workings of God’s grace in the deaths of their siblings … deaths whose explanations until now had been consigned to the inexplicable mysteries of God’s Divine plan.”