Skip to Content
Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Thomas Graf ('19)A member of the College’s most recent graduating class, Thomas Graf (’19) is featured in the latest edition of Catholic Answers magazine, owing to one of the more amusing aspects of his job at the San Diego-based apologetics apostolate. In the editorial, editor Tim Ryland discusses some of Thomas’ discoveries while checking over YouTube’s auto-generated captions for CAL videos. Apparently algorithms struggle with the jargon of the Faith, producing some hilarious mis-transcriptions, such as:

  • A mac to the Heart (Immaculate Heart)
  • Pop a rat singer (Papa Ratzinger)
  • Tow mystic (Thomistic)
  • Kappa Gas is Live (Catholic Answers Live)

Mr. Graf interned at Catholic Answers between his junior and senior years at the College, and is now a fulltime employee in its video, radio, and marketing departments. “Having a firm foundation in the philosophy and theology of the Catholic faith,” he said at graduation, “will help me to communicate these very difficult, higher concepts with the broader world” — starting with YouTube!


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.


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!


Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem., (’94) is a regular guest on Catholic Answers Live Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94), is a regular guest on Catholic Answers Live. Photo: @catholiccom

“You’ve been in Massachusetts because you’re a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College,” began host Cy Kellett on a recent episode of Catholic Answers Live.

“That’s right,” replied Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94), a professor of philosophy at St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado California. A regular guest on the apologetics radio program, Fr. Sebastian appeared on the November 5 episode to discuss religious freedom. But before getting to the topic of the day, Mr. Kellett wanted to know about the Norbertine priest’s alma mater. Among “all of us out here on the West Coast,” he said, “there’s a general amazement at the quality of students that are being turned out by Thomas Aquinas College.”

And so Fr. Sebastian described his recent trip to the Bay State, where he spoke on the College’s New England campus at a celebration of its recent approval from the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. “Thanks be to God, the College received the gift of a campus — with a number of buildings and so forth on a 100-acre property,” he said. “I was there to give a Mass and a little talk … and it was a very good, wonderful event.”

To which Mr. Kellett replied, “Congratulations to your alma mater embarking on this new endeavor. We can all pray that it’s successful!”

The entire interview — including Fr. Sebastian’s commentary about religious freedom — is available via the Catholic Answers website.


Photo of the Hilol Rojo program, taken by David Trull (’15) Photo of the Hilol Rojo program, taken by David Trull (’13)

 

David Trull (’15) David Trull (’13)Early this year David Trull (’13) took three months from his career as a financial-services professional to serve as a volunteer for Hilo Rojo, a Peruvian nonprofit that aids communities afflicted with extreme poverty. There he worked on the outskirts of the city of Trujillo, where, he says, “government services do not reach,” and many of the residents “do not possess official documentation of any kind … and thus find themselves perpetually locked out of productive activity and participation in the larger society.”

Although he was initially brought on to assist with fundraising and development, he quickly found himself “teaching both music and English in the elementary school,” he says. He also assisted physiotherapists in aiding the local disabled population, which ordinarily struggles to get by with little or no medical care.

“Though trying at times, the experience illustrated to me the importance of human connection, and of attempting to make this connection whenever and wherever we are able,” says Mr. Trull. “Though many of the sources of poverty in the Third World are structural, the examples of many other volunteers and those who run Hilo Rojo have convinced me of the power of simple love and friendship to effect change. Though my time there was short, I feel humbled to have been part of such a wonderful operation, and plan to participate again in the future.”

As a Christian and, particularly, as an alumnus, he considers such service to be something of a calling. “There are many people in the world who feel that they have been forgotten,” he says. “Those of us privileged with a formation from Thomas Aquinas College are in a perfect position to spread the message that that is not the case.”


Stephen Grimm (’75)Benefactors, friends, and the families of St. Monica Academy in Pasadena, California, recently hosted a “Gatsby Gala,” at which they honored the school’s longtime choir director, Stephen Grimm (’75). As part of the night’s festivities, the treasurer of the school’s Board of Directors, Khushro Ghandhi, presented Mr. Grimm with the Ostia Award — named for the Italian port town where St. Monica and her son, St. Augustine, shared a vision of heaven — in recognition of the work that Mr. Grimm has done for the school since its founding in 2001. “Stephen is an especially appropriate winner of this award,” reads the tribute that accompanied its presentation, as “he has often brought us to experience, from the mouths of our own children, heavenly beauty.”

The tribute continues:

The fifth of Bill and Irene Grimm’s 17 children, Stephen grew up immersed in classical music. At the age of 5, he started to compose his own tunes on the piano and when he was 8 he joined the St. Philip’s boys’ choir and began formal piano study. By high school, he was performing all over Southern California as the accompanist and sole baritone for the Grimm Family Singers. By the time he reached college, Stephen had internalized a large repertoire of music, was composing his own, and was an accomplished pianist and accompanist.

Throughout his busy career as a professional vocalist, director, and accompanist, Stephen made time to teach voice, piano, and choir to countless students, mostly children, often pro bono. Few professionals have the patience to work with children, but Stephen Grimm has made it his life’s work. At one point, he was conducting five choirs driving hundreds of miles a week — Saints Felicitas and Perpetua Church, Thomas Aquinas College, Mayfield Senior School, St. Francis High School, and Christ the King Homeschool — mostly youth choirs, all successful choirs — either in festivals, recordings, or grateful parishioners.

In 2018 Stephen is still conducting — a grateful group of adults in Pasadena Pro Musica but also the St. Monica Academy Choir. That’s 107 teens! His choirs, even of children, are always notable for the beauty of their tone quality, even when, as at SMA, he teaches all students, without auditions. His philosophy is that “anyone can be taught to sing.” We believe him because we have seen him turn “tone deaf” kids into star performers! It can be done, but it takes heroic patience. There may be the occasional bursts of exasperation, but Stephen’s students are never fooled by his gruffness: When he is upset, they know it was because he cares about them and about the music, and that he expects excellence from them.

Stephen has been blessed in his life and career with the support of Laura, his beautiful wife of 40 years, who is also a talented musician. He is also the proud father of three children, Gabriel, Elizabeth, and Gregory, and the even prouder “Papa” to 15 grandchildren!

Part of the mission, the vision, of St. Monica Academy is to put students in possession of their cultural legacy. Thanks to Stephen Grimm, our students have an appreciation and love of their musical heritage, especially of the Church’s choral traditions. Our graduates have taken that love with them all over the world. Thank you, Mr. Grimm, for sharing so much heavenly beauty with us!


Christopher Zehnder (’87) was a recent guest on EWTN’s Journey Home, where he told the story of his conversion to the Catholic faith, and the invaluable role that a fellow alumnus, Kevin Long (’77), played in it.

The friendship began when Mr. Zehnder was a sophomore in high school, and Dr. Long was his Latin teacher. “He was a student at Claremont Graduate School in political science, and I found out he went to a rather strange college … called Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula,” Mr. Zehnder recalls. “After a while he and I began to have conversations.”

When Mr. Zehnder exhausted his high school’s Latin curriculum, Dr. Long offered to continue teaching him on the side. “He thought I might want to translate some medieval Latin, so he brought in the first question of the Summa Theologiae,” says Mr. Zehnder. “Our Latin classes became more than just Latin classes. They became philosophy and theology classes, and we began to discuss all sorts of things … all tending toward the Catholic faith.”

One evening, when Dr. Long and his wife, Martha (Schaeffer ’76), had Mr. Zehnder over for dinner, the teacher and the student got into a theological argument. “I was going to prove to him that Purgatory was contrary to Scripture,” says Mr. Zehnder. The conversation didn’t go as planned. “He presented me such arguments that Purgatory wasn’t contrary to Scripture; in fact, does it make any sense that a soul that is stained with sin would go into the next life, in the presence of God, stained with sin? There has to be some purification.”

At Dr. Long’s recommendation, and after attending another college first, Mr. Zehnder enrolled at the “rather strange” alma mater of his mentor. “When I went to TAC, it was as if it was in a different world,” he says, “and I also was received into the Church there.”

Since then, Mr. Zehnder has dedicated his professional life to Catholic education. He is the general editor of the Catholic Textbook Project, which aims to create a new generation of textbooks for parochial schools that accurately, beautifully, and engagingly reflect the Church’s contribution to human history. A high school teacher and former headmaster, he has authored three of the project’s books: From Sea to Shining Sea: The Story of AmericaLight to the Nations II: the Making of the Modern World; and Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. He has also recently begun a series of novels set during the Reformation, A Song for Else, the first two installments of which, The Vow and The Overthrow, are available from Amazon.com.

Thanks be to God!

In gratitude for Mr. Zehnder’s conversion, please say a prayer for Dr. Long, who passed away in 2014. May his soul and those of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Anne Forsyth speaks to students

Why is it the Christian’s responsibility to welcome strangers and to extend hospitality to them? How can we best make the stranger feel welcome in our home — or on our campus?

Women of Thomas Aquinas College considered these and related questions at the latest installment of the ongoing Dorm Talk series, “The Virtue and Practice of Hospitality,” presented by alumna Anne S. Forsyth (’81). For reasons both personal and professional, Mrs. Forsyth has had decades of experience in the art of hospitality — which she readily shared with her young audience.

“In the word of the Old Testament and among the ancient Greeks, hospitality was enjoined, on the one hand, by God, and the other, by the culture, in large measure for protection against the evils that the stranger was subject to,” said Mrs. Forsyth. “In the order of grace, Our Lord gives us an additional and higher reason to be hospitable — namely that the stranger and the guest bear the image of God and should be received and cared for accordingly. The Christian virtue of hospitality then demands that we care for our guests as a way of expressing our love for Christ Who is present in them.”

As the director of college relations since 2004, Mrs. Forsyth has long been responsible for welcoming friends, both old and new, to Thomas Aquinas College. Yet her work, or service, in hospitality goes back much further. Her parents, Jane and John Schaeffer, were deeply involved in the founding of the College, and as such frequently welcomed the founders to their home in San Francisco, where Mrs. Forsyth learned to be a hostess from her gracious mother. She later married George Forsyth, a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, and their family spent considerable time living overseas, hosting and entertaining foreign officials and diplomats.

“If your guests are staying overnight, organize your shopping, table settings, and room preparations so you get them done well in advance,” Mrs. Forsyth advised her audience. “Choose a menu that allows you to do a good deal of the prep work ahead of time, and a minimal amount of work once guest arrive.” Every act of service, she observed, is an opportunity to honor one’s guests. “We can even elevate our simple acts of care and hospitality,” she said, “by being mindful of the image of God in our other family members whom we prepare a meal for, or the baby we give a drink of water to, or the elderly grandfather who must now be spoon-fed.”

Now in its fourth year, the Dorm Talks typically consist of a 45-minute presentation, refreshments, and a question-and-answer session that has, on occasion, run well into the night. “These informal talks provide spiritual and moral guidance to the female students to complement the rigorous intellectual studies we have here, and help foster relationships between the girls and the female tutors, tutor wives, and other female role models in the College community,” says Resident Assistant Jeannette Richard (’17), who organizes the events along with Student Activities Director Kayla Grimm (’20). “I am so grateful to Anne and to all the wonderful women who have come to share their wisdom and spend an evening with the girls. They are all such lovely examples of Catholic womanhood!”


Rev. Jerome Augustine Zeiler, O.P. (’00)“How do you confront the Culture of Death — a materialistic, secular, godless culture — when you’re immersed in it?” asks Rev. Jerome Zeiler, O.P. (’00), parochial vicar of St. Patrick’s Church in Columbus, Ohio. “You have to do more than go to Mass on Sunday. You need a Catholic culture that is more powerful for you than the worldly culture that surrounds you.”

To help provide young Catholics with that powerful, supportive culture, Fr. Zeiler serves as chaplain for the Columbus Frassati Society, according to a recent story on the Dominican Friars Foundation website. Named for Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, a Third Order Dominican who, through his great love, drew many of his peers to Christ, the Society offers regular spiritual, social, and service opportunities for as many as 20-50 young adults.

The experience that Fr. Zeiler seeks to create for the young adults in Columbus is, in key respects, similar to his own experience of living among fellow young Catholics as a student at Thomas Aquinas College. “The friendships I developed, real authentic friendships, were just an incredible support to my whole Catholic life,” he observed in a 2013 interview. “That was one of the most joyful aspects — being with likeminded men and women who were filled with God’s grace and who wanted to grow in His grace, and who were there to help me grow in His grace. It was just an incredible joy.”

May God bless the efforts of Fr. Zeiler and the Columbus Frassati Society!


Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly Angela (Andersen ’87) ConnellyThe News Tribune of Tacoma, Washington, recently named its list of six reader-columnists who will grace its pages for the upcoming year. Among those so honored is Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly, an alumna of the College, a member of its Board of Governors, and the president of the Washington Women’s Network. “The list of criteria we provide to aspiring columnists is long and includes words like engaging, thought-provoking, inspirational, poignant, and most of all, local,” writes the News Tribune editorial board. “The goal is to identify creative people who love the South Sound as much as we do.”

After noting that Mrs. Connolly “is on a crusade to combat teen homelessness in Tacoma” and “serves on numerous community boards,” the editorial asks: “Did we mention she’s mother to nine kids?” This is good news, as far as the board is concerned: “Suffice it to say, the North End resident will not run out of material.”

The first of Mrs. Connolly’s regular columns, which appears in today’s edition of the News Tribune, deals with her aforementioned anti-homelessness crusade. “As a mom,” she writes, “I am begging everyone — every leader, non-profit, church, business, concerned citizen — to come sit at the table and wrap these kids and our community in love, support, and shelter.”


Blog Categories

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

NEWS FROM THE COLLEGE

“The Catholic Church may be justly proud of this unique college of Saint Thomas Aquinas on account of the high quality of its professors and its cultural contribution through philosophy and theology.”

– Giovanni Cardinal Lajolo

President Emeritus of the Governatorate

Vatican City State