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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Still image from Cynthia (Deluca ’88) Montanaro’s interview on New York 1 Still image from Cynthia (Deluca ’88) Montanaro’s interview on New York 1

Among the many Thomas Aquinas College alumni who participated in last Friday’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., was Cynthia (Deluca ’88) Montanaro, who granted an interview to New York 1 News. “I think that people are seeing that the position that life begins at conception — and we don’t have the right to take that life, even when it’s terribly inconvenient that that life exists — is beginning to really grab hearts and minds everywhere,” she said.

If any other alumni have photos or video from the march, please send them our way!


Dr. Adam Seagrave ('05)Dr. Adam Seagrave ('05)Reflecting on the newly released Netflix documentary 13, which examines the legacy of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, alumnus Dr. Adam Seagrave (’05) has penned a thoughtful article for The Public Discourse about the broader question of how the U.S. lives up to its founding ideals, particularly with respect to African Americans. Just as the Declaration of Independence’s assertion that “all men are created equal” did not beget immediate racial equality in the newly formed Republic, the Thirteenth Amendment’s eradication of slavery, closely followed by the advent of Jim Crow, failed to usher in real freedom for those it liberated from bondage.

Yet we “shouldn’t blame the Thirteenth Amendment for persistent racial injustice, just as we shouldn’t blame the Constitution for slavery,” writes Dr. Seagrave, the Kinder Institute Associate Professor of Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri. “When it comes to nations, it is vastly better to be hypocritical than unabashedly immoral. The former possess a foundation for improvement in a way the latter do not, and this has been clearly evidenced in the real progress that has been made toward racial equality in the U.S.”

More such progress, Dr. Seagrave contends, can best be achieved by continued pursuit of the country’s founding ideals. “Opponents of ongoing racial injustices should build on the solid foundation provided by the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Civil War amendments rather than dismissing these documents and their authors as hypocrites,” he writes. Likewise, he continues, “Protesting American practice does not necessarily denigrate American promise … and the proper response to imperfect practice does not lie in the naïve indignation one hears so often on talk radio and other conservative media outlets, but in renewed attention to progressing ever more closely toward the American promise outlined in our founding (and re-founding) documents.”

A worthwhile read as the nation approaches Martin Luther King Day …

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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!


This past Wednesday, a recent Thomas Aquinas College graduate, Josh Altic (’12), appeared on the PBS News Hour to discuss some of the more notable ballot initiatives that voters — both in California and across the United States — will decide at the polls on Tuesday. Among the topics he discussed were marijuana legalization, healthcare, and gun control. See the video in the player above.

Mr. Altic is an associate project director at Ballotpedia, an online, nonpartisan encyclopedia of American politics that aims to provide accurate and neutral election information to the country’s voters. He first began working there in 2012 as an assistant staff writer, before being promoted to his current role, in which he covers local ballot measures, elections, and tax measures. At Ballotpedia he works with two fellow alumni, Colin O’Keefe (’12), the organization’s chief operating officer, and Elisabeth Moore (’14), a staff writer. Additionally he is working toward a doctorate at the Institute for Philosophic Studies at the University of Dallas.


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).


Members of the Life Legal Foundation, including Vice President for Legal Affairs Katie Short (’80, left) and President Paul Blewett (’85, right) Members of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, including Vice President for Legal Affairs Katie Short (’80, left) and President Paul Blewett (’85, right)

In a Riverside, California, courtroom last week, a legal team led by two Thomas Aquinas College graduates delivered a blow to the state’s new assisted-suicide law.

Attorneys from the Life Legal Defense Foundation — whose vice president for legal affairs is Katie Short (’80) and whose president is Paul Blewett (’85) — sought an injunction against California’s End of Life Option Act, which went into effect in June. The attorneys argued that granting doctors the power to help kill their patients deprives sick and vulnerable Californians of the constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.

Although Life Legal did not obtain its sought-after injunction, it achieved an important victory nonetheless. In his ruling, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia granted that the six physicians and the nationwide medical group that Life Legal represents have standing to challenge the law, and that their case is “ripe” — that is, the End of Life Option Act may cause actual (not just hypothetical) harm to those it affects. As a result, Judge Ottolia rejected the state’s attempt to block Life Legal’s lawsuit, thereby allowing the challenge of this unjust law to continue.

Please pray for Mrs. Short, Mr. Blewett, Life Legal, and their continued success!


Patrick Cross (’14), self-portrait Patrick Cross (’14), self-portrait

This blog recently featured an illustrated tribute to martyred French priest Rev. Jacques Hamel, penned by alumnus cartoonist Patrick Cross (’14). The work is one of several cartoons that Mr. Cross — who is, by day, a counselor in the College’s Admissions office — has drawn in recent months as he launches a career in editorial cartooning. Already, his efforts have borne some success: Mr. Cross produces cartoons weekly for CatholicVote.org, as well as occasionally for GlennBeck.com.

“I’ve always been interested in politics, and I’ve always been interested in art,” Mr. Cross reflects. “But it was my parents who first suggested that I combine the two loves together in editorial cartooning.”

  • Patrick Cross Cartoons 2016
    Slideshow: Patrick Cross Cartoons
  • Patrick Cross Cartoons 2016
    Slideshow: Patrick Cross Cartoons
  • Patrick Cross Cartoons 2016
    Slideshow: Patrick Cross Cartoons
  • Patrick Cross Cartoons 2016
    Slideshow: Patrick Cross Cartoons
  • Patrick Cross Cartoons 2016
    Slideshow: Patrick Cross Cartoons
  • Patrick Cross Cartoons 2016
    Slideshow: Patrick Cross Cartoons
  • Patrick Cross Cartoons 2016
    Slideshow: Patrick Cross Cartoons

The idea began to take root during his Senior Year, when College Governor Berni Neal spoke at an on-campus career panel. Upon learning about Mr. Cross’ professional interests, Mrs. Neal revealed that she was friends with Michael Ramirez — the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, formerly of the Los Angeles Times — and offered to arrange a meeting. “Ramirez was my favorite cartoonist growing up,” recalls Mr. Cross. “I went down to see him at the end of my Senior Year. We talked for about an hour and a half. That really put a fire in my belly.”

Mr. Cross began publishing his cartoons on his website and a Facebook page in January, and soon his work began generating attention. His goal, he says, is to produce cartoons that succeed on a variety of levels. “There are many layers,” he says. “You can have something that is funny in a slapstick sort of way. But some readers are looking for more.” Here, he adds, one sees the value and versatility of a classical education. “If you have an education that shows you how to identify principles, causes, effects, and prior causes, then you can do much better work.”

Patriotism infuses Mr. Cross’ art — a patriotism, he says, that has been with him all his life, but which deepened during his time at the College. “I’ve always loved the American founding. I’ve always believed in the principles of the country. But what my education at TAC really did, especially Junior Year, is show me why I believed in those things. In reading the Federalist Papers, the founders, and Abraham Lincoln — all in the context Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics, which we were studying in philosophy — I was able to locate the American experiment, or the American founding, in the context of the Western tradition. I came to a better understanding of why self-governance is good, why a government that promotes political prudence is such a gift, and also how we must not take any of it for granted.”


Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly Back in December, the state of Washington’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) implemented a ruling on gender identity, making it permissible for the state’s residents to enter either men’s or women’s restrooms and locker rooms purely on the basis of “gender identification,” and irrespective of biology. Now an effort is under way to repeal that ruling and create safe restroom and changing areas for all Washingtonians. Leading that effort is a graduate and governor of Thomas Aquinas College, Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly.

In her capacity as the founding president of the Washington Women’s Network, Mrs. Connelly is working to collect the requisite 246,372 signatures to put state initiative I-1515 on the November ballot. If approved by the voters, I-1515 would allow for the restoration of sexually segregated bathrooms and locker rooms in public and private institutions, and require them in public schools. The measure would also ensure reasonable accommodations for public-school children who are not comfortable using the boys’ or girls’ facilities.

“There are schools opening up the bathrooms and the showers (to everyone), which is absolutely unacceptable,” Mrs. Connelly recently told Tacoma’s News-Tribune. “They’re all required to do it by the HRC mandate.” The campaign to overturn the mandate, she says, is about common-sense protection. “We want to protect transgender kids. … We want to protect boys. We want to protect girls. It feels like that overly broad HRC mandate does not do that.”

In support of the campaign, Mrs. Connelly recently appeared on the My Catholic Faith podcast with Dr. Thomas Curran, director of Trinity Formation Resources. “Inclusiveness means women and children, too,” she told Dr. Curran. “Women and children have a human right to be safe and to have privacy and to have dignity, just as every single person does.”

As of last week, the Yes on I-1515 campaign had collected 200,000 of the 246,372 signatures it needs to get the initiative on the ballot. The deadline is tomorrow, July 8. Please pray for Mrs. Connelly and her efforts!


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.


Meghan Duke (’08) and Elizabeth (McPherson ’99) Claeys (Photos: Dana Rene Bowler) Meghan Duke (’08) and Elizabeth (McPherson ’99) Claeys (Photos: Dana Rene Bowler)

Wednesday morning, while the United States Supreme Court held oral arguments in the case that the College and 34 co-plaintiffs have filed against the HHS Contraceptive Mandate, Women Speak for Themselves organized a rally outside the Court. Among the speakers at the rally were two alumnae of the College, Meghan Duke (’08) and Elizabeth (McPherson ’99) Claeys.

A former managing editor of First Things who is now a writer in The Catholic University of America’s Office of Marketing and Communications, Miss Duke spoke about her time volunteering for the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have become the focal point of the national debate on religious freedom. Mrs. Claeys, who is chairman of the Washington, D.C., Board of Regents, spoke about the importance of the Catholic faith to the College and pressed the key points in the College’s case. The full text of her remarks is available via the College’s website.

 


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“The Discussion Method gives you a sense of finding the truth for yourself, and thereby owning it, rather than being told what to think.”

– Isaac Cross (’19)

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