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Faith in Action Blog

Emily (Barry ’11) Sullivan

Emily (Barry ’11) Sullivan — last seen in these parts leading a women’s retreat at her alma mater — recently appeared on the Pints with Aquinas podcast with popular Catholic speaker Matt Fradd. The podcast, timed for the Feast of Corpus Christi, focuses on the four hymns St. Thomas wrote for the feast — Lauda Sion, Pange Lingua Gloriosi, Verbum Supernum, Sacris Solemniis — and includes beautiful recordings of each. (Audio available in the player below.)

In the course of the interview, Mrs. Sullivan also discusses her love for St. Thomas, and the role the College played in nurturing it:

“I went to Thomas Aquinas College out in California, which is kind of an incredible great books curriculum, where you just tread through the greatest works of Western civilization and discuss these ideas in small seminar classes, and there’ s a special devotion to St. Thomas. So you’re studying Latin so you can read the Summa in the original language, and you’re doing a lot of the philosophy of Aristotle. Freshman Year you read through all of Sacred Scripture, so you’re really good with the Bible, and then Sophomore Year is a lot of the Church fathers, heavily on St. Augustine, all in preparation for Junior and Senior Years, being able to read St. Thomas Aquinas.

Until last year, Mrs. Sullivan, also known as the “Stay-at-Home Thomist” was the Northeast program manager for Endow, which publishes study guides for women about ecclesial documents and the writings of various saints. She has spoken at the University Notre Dame, Princeton University, various Catholic women’s conferences, and the 2015 World Meeting of Families. She frequently speaks on topics surrounding gender complementarity, the dignity of women, and the vocation of marriage and motherhood.

Mrs. Sullivan and her husband, Joe (‘09) live just outside of Philadelphia. They are the parents of three young girls, Brigid (4), Mary (2), and Annie (6 mos.)


Richena Curphey (’02)During the week, Richena Curphey (’02) serves as the College’s head librarian, but on the weekend she goes by another name — “Miss Richena” — and serves an altogether different role as a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) catechist at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Fillmore, California. There she maintains a CGS atrium, where the children in her class of 6-to-9 year-olds come to learn about the Faith through a hands-on curriculum based on Montessori principles.

Writing for Angelus, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, columnist Heather King tells the story of Miss Curphey’s catechetical work at St. Francis, and why she is so devoted to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. “It’s so much easier simply to buy a workbook,” Miss Curphey remarks. “But CGS has both an intellectual and a relational component. The child is building a relationship with Jesus Christ. That takes time, quiet, and someone who’s willing to be patient. But, oh, what great work it is. It is God’s work in the hearts of the children and in my soul.”

You can read the full story via The Angeleus website.

Emily (Barry ’11) Sullivan

Emily (Barry ’11) Sullivan returned to her alma mater last weekend to lead a retreat for the women of Thomas Aquinas College, “Fiat: On the Dignity and Vocation of Women.” Sponsored by Endow, a Catholic educational apostolate, the retreat included a series of talks on Pope Saint John Paul II’s encyclical Mulieris Dignitatem, as well the Stations of the Cross, the Liturgy of the Hours, a Rosary procession, Mass, and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Mrs. Sullivan speaks to students at Thomas Aquinas College

Until last year, Mrs. Sullivan was the Northeast program manager for Endow, which publishes study guides for women about ecclesial documents and the writings of various saints. She has spoken at the University Notre Dame, Princeton University, various Catholic women’s conferences, and the 2015 World Meeting of Families. She frequently speaks on topics surrounding gender complementarity, the dignity of women, and the vocation of marriage and motherhood.

Mrs. Sullivan and her husband, Joe (‘09) live just outside of Philadelphia. They are the parents of three young girls, Brigid (4), Mary (2), and Annie (4 mos.)

Mrs. Sullivan and Annie meet with students in the Doheny Hacienda. Mrs. Sullivan and Annie meet with students in the Doheny Hacienda.

 Mark Langley (’89) Mark Langley (’89)Next weekend, clergy, seminarians, scholars, musicians, and Catholic school teachers and administrators from across the United States will come to St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, New York, for the Gregorian Chant in Pastoral Ministry and Religious Education National Conference — a two-day event dedicated to considering “the place of Gregorian chant and excellent choral music in the life of the Catholic Church in America today.” Among the keynote speakers will be a Thomas Aquinas College graduate, Mark Langley (’89).

The founder and the academic dean of The Lyceum, a classical school in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Langley has over 25 years of experience in Catholic education as a headmaster, dean, teacher, organist, and choral conductor. His keynote address at the conference, “Building a School of Singers: The Schola Cantorum as an Integral Part of the Catholic School,” will examine the role of music in Catholic education. “Instruction of students in sacred music is a task that uniquely belongs to the Catholic school,” reads the talk’s abstract. “It is not only consistent with the intellectual mission of the school but is also an integral part of the formation of the Catholic student, which instruction is ultimately ordered to the fitting worship of God.”

In addition to his work at the Lyceum, Mr. Langley is the director of music at his parish, Sacred Heart of Jesus, in South Euclid, Ohio. He and his wife, Stephanie (Schmitt ’89), have 12 children, including three Thomas Aquinas College graduates and two current students. (Indeed, Mr. Langley has recently written about the experience of having a large, happily “unplanned” family on his personal blog, the Lion & Ox.)

To learn more about the Gregorian Chant conference, see this recent story from the Cardinal Newman Society as well as the conference website.

More about Mark Langley:

Statue of Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, from Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, from Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel


Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87)Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87)While attending Christmas Mass, Thomas Aquinas College alumnus and tutor Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87) had a beautiful insight into the nature of the Blessed Mother’s docility to God’s will, and how it should guide him and his fellow educators in their work:

In the midst of this celebration, I was struck by how all of this, all of the Church’s wonderful history and traditions, the spiritual strength she has shown through the ages, began from one simple expression. “Fiat mihi, Let it be done to me.” This was how Mary, who was to become and now is Our Lady, responded to Gabriel’s message inviting her to become the Mother of Jesus. How simple! And I wondered whether this could be what we really want to embrace as teachers, and what we hope our students take away from their time in our Catholic schools.”

As executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education (ICLE), Dr. Seeley assists Catholic schools and teachers across the country, offering conferences, development programs, in-service training, and consultation to would-be classical educators. His reflection on Mary as a model for educators, published on the ICLE blog, draws on his experience as a member of the College’s teaching faculty:

Teachers share the gifts of knowledge that we have received with the students the Lord has given us as gifts. If this is not unbelievable (how can my daily work in the classroom be all that important?) , it can be scary (my daily work in the classroom is tremendously important!). Zechariah found God’s gift unbelievable, and lost his ability to speak. Our Lady believed, but “was greatly troubled” when Gabriel addressed her with such honor. But in the end, she said, “Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.” Let us ask her, who received her gift through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, to beg Him to infuse our spirits with humble obedience in His service and our teaching with His gifts, so that we might come to share in her Fiat, and ultimately, in her Magnificat.

May God bless Dr. Seeley and all Catholic educators!

Rose (Teichert) and Daniel J. Grimm (both ’76) with members of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, on a recent fundraising trip Rose (’76) and Daniel J. Grimm (both ’76) with members of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, on a recent fundraising trip

“Caring for the poor is not merely an option in Catholicism,” says Daniel J. Grimm (’76), the newly appointed director of Catholic Charities for the Santa Barbara pastoral region of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “Jesus spells it out as the nonnegotiable basis of morality when He describes the Last Judgment. And if you’re going to love the poor the way Christ did, you must love them with the humility and respect that is particularly Christian.”

In his new position, Mr. Grimm is responsible for the work of Catholic Charities in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, a region that covers nearly 6,000 square miles and a population of more than 1.25 million residents. He oversees a staff of roughly 40 employees who operate nine different service centers across the region, guided by a “Catholic charism,” as he describes it, that sets the organization apart from other social-service programs or relief organizations.

“Even though we do a lot of what social workers also do, the core of our mission is to follow Jesus’ command to ‘love one another as I have loved you,’” he says. That mission requires “having an eye, as we do, to the eternal salvation of all” — the needy as well as the wealthy. “The ministry of Catholic charities is every bit as much for people who have wealth as for people who don’t have wealth, because it’s vitally important for Christians who have wealth to deal properly with it with regard to caring for the poor,” he explains. “In a sense, the wealthy need the poor; they are a gift from God for their salvation.”

By virtue of his past professions, Mr. Grimm is uniquely well-suited for his dual roles as minister to both the penniless and the prosperous. Prior to joining Catholic Charities in September, he served as a marriage and family therapist, a job that prepared him well for the pastoral nature of his current work. He is also an experienced fundraiser, having once served as Thomas Aquinas College’s director of development. And, as a licensed attorney, he brings the legal acumen necessary for managing a complex organization.

Still, assuming his new responsibilities has had its challenges. “One of my colleagues in Santa Barbara said that starting this job is like trying to drink from a fire hose,” Mr. Grimm laughs. “There is an awful lot coming at you, and you can only absorb a tiny little bit!”

Yet in his brief time at the helm, he has already formed a vision for how he seeks to expand the reach and work of Catholic Charities in the region. “I would like to start a specifically Catholic men’s counseling program, and I would like to see more marriage counseling offered,” he says. “Marital breakup is a huge cause of poverty in society, and while it’s great to provide people with the help that they need, one special part of our charism is offering help so people don’t need to get in that situation. The most important way is by strengthening marriage, strengthening families.”

As for his own family, Mr. Grimm and his wife, Rose (Teichert ’76), are the parents of seven children, all Thomas Aquinas College graduates, and the grandparents of 17 grandchildren. He is also the director of the Thomas Aquinas College Choir. Please keep him, his family, and his important work at Catholic Charities in your prayers!

Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87)Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87)A feature article in Catholic World Report tells the heartening story of Sacred Heart Academy in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a once-failing parochial school that is now thriving in every sense of the word. Enrollment, test scores, and fundraising are up. Parents have become more actively involved, and the spiritual life of the school is flourishing.  The reason? Three years ago, Sacred Heart switched to a classical Catholic liberal arts curriculum — and some Thomas Aquinas College alumni have played an instrumental role in that transition.

“The vision to restore the school to the classical Catholic liberal arts tradition has become a reality,” writes author Leslie Fain, in no small part because of “the guidance of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, an organization dedicated to the renewal of Catholic education.”

The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education (ICLE) exists specifically to aid schools like Sacred Heart and the teachers who work there, offering conferences, development programs, in-service training, and consultation to would-be classical educators. Its executive director is Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87), a graduate who is now a member of the Thomas Aquinas College teaching faculty, and Michael Van Hecke (’86), the headmaster of St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, California, and president of the Catholic Schools Textbook Project.

The turnaround at Sacred Heart Academy is not an isolated incident, according to Dr. Seeley. With ICLE’s support, Catholic schools across the country are increasingly returning to the Church’s liberal arts tradition, and to great effect. “Academic communities rejoicing in the truth,” Catholic World Report quotes him as saying, “that’s what I find everywhere I go — the joy the students and teachers have at the schools we work with.”

Read the full story.

Dr. Pia de Solenni (’93) Dr. Pia de Solenni (’93)Last week the Most Rev. Kevin Vann, Bishop of Orange, California, created a new position in his diocese — Theological Consultant to the Office of the Bishop — to which he appointed, effective immediately, an alumna of the College, Dr. Pia de Solenni (’93).

In her new role, Dr. de Solenni “collaborates and advises key members of the Curia, including the Bishop, on pertinent matters of theology, doctrine, and Church history,” according to a diocesan press release. She will also continue in her responsibilities as the associate dean of the Augustine Institute’s new satellite campus at the Christ Cathedral in Orange.

“Pia is an inspirational and well-respected theologian and leader,” said Bishop Vann, who presided at the College’s Convocation ceremonies in 2013. “We are blessed as a Diocese to benefit from her expertise, passion, and faith. I look forward to the many gifts that she will bring to the people of Orange.”

An ethicist and theologian, Dr. de Solenni (’93) is an expert on life issues, issues relating to women’s health, the new feminism, and culture. After graduating from Thomas Aquinas College, she earned a Sacred Theology Baccalaureate from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) and a Sacred Theology Doctorate, summa cum laude, from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. In 2001 Pope St. John Paul II awarded her the Prize of the Pontifical Academies for her groundbreaking dissertation — an analysis of feminist theories in the light of St. Thomas Aquinas’ teachings. (Fellow graduate Dr. John R. Mortensen (’97) would become only the second North American to win this same prize in 2010.)

Dr. de Solenni has published articles in The Wall Street Journal Europe, The Washington Post, National Catholic Reporter, Our Sunday Visitor, and National Review Online. She has also appeared on MSNBC, Hardball with Chris Matthews, The O’Reilly Factor, CNN, and ABC News, among others. She also appears regularly on the Catholic Answers Live radio program.

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 found and developed 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.

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Isaac Cross (’19) -- quote 2

“There’s a joy for life here you don’t get in most places, a sense of purpose, a sense of love and fellowship bound up in our common cause of seeking the truth.”

– Isaac Cross (’19)

Leominster, Massachusetts


“I am deeply touched by the quality of the intellectual and spiritual formation that you offer. The study of philosophy should lead to a conviction that truth can be known, articulated, and defended. Your college shows that this is possible, and on a high level!”

– Rev. Wojciech Giertych, O.P.

Theologian of the Papal Household