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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Patricia Kessler (’87)Please pray for the repose of the soul of Patricia Kessler (’87). A senior attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, on assignment at the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania, she had taken a short vacation to do some scuba diving in the Red Sea. On November 1, when fire broke out on the boat, it appears that she helped other passengers to escape, but did not make it off herself. Her family presumes that she died in the ordeal.

After her graduation from the College in 1987, Patty earned her juris doctorate from the University of Notre Dame. She then joined the U.S. Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, where she served as senior defense counsel, department head, and advisor to the Judge Advocate General. For the next seven years she worked as an assistant U.S. attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, followed by eight years in private practice. She returned to the Justice Department in 2015 as a senior trial attorney in the Asset Forfeiture Section of the Criminal Division.

A lifelong friend has paid tribute to Patty saying,

I have poignant memories of long, philosophical conversations with Patty during college. She studied TRUTH. It gave her pleasure to examine: “What is Truth? How do we know the truth about anything? What does it mean to seek truth? Why should we seek truth? Should we seek truth for truth’s sake? What if the truth does not change the outcome of a situation?” She concluded that seeking the truth, speaking the truth and acting on the truth, and constantly wrestling with the truth is what we all must do to achieve a happy life, or our world will devolve into the Hobbesian description, which is “nasty, brutish and short.”

Please keep Patty in your prayers, and please pray for the consolation of her family, especially for her two daughters.

 

Eternal rest, grant unto her O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.


Major Tulsi L. Rogers (’98) Major Tulsi L. Rogers (’98)

The newspaper of the U.S. Armed Forces, Stars and Stripes, recently reported on a historic legal event that took place in the famed Courtroom 600 at the Justizpalast in Nuremberg, Germany. For the first time in more than 70 years, members of the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps were returning to practice law at the very site where they once tried war criminals of the Third Reich. Among the attorneys present was an alumnus of Thomas Aquinas College, Major Tulsi L. Rogers (’98).

As part of an exhibition designed to demonstrate the differences between the German and American legal systems, Major Rogers participated in a two-part mock trial. In the first trial, German attorneys prosecuted a defendant charged with assault and robbery. Then, Major Rogers and his colleagues conducted a similar trial — same facts and charges —under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

There was no jury in the German trial, and it was mostly the judge who examined the defendant and the witnesses; whereas in the American trial attorneys asked most of the questions. The outcomes, however, were similar. “We arrived at essentially the same verdict for the accused, although different punishments,” says Major Rogers. “The UCMJ gives a greater latitude to the panel in punishing the offender, from ‘no punishment’ to whatever the maximum is in the code.”

As the Officer in Charge at the Army’s 7th Army Training Command in Vilseck, Major Rogers manages a staff of some 20 lawyers and paralegals. “We provide legal advice and client services to eligible personnel and assist commanders with both administrative law issues and criminal prosecutions under the UCMJ,” he explains. “The legal center provides services to both the Army’s commanders and the soldiers, family members, and retirees that live in the community.” 

When he came to the College as a freshman in 1994, Major Rogers was already 22 years old and a member of the Army Reserve. (He served part time with a unit in Santa Barbara.) He earned his juris doctor at the Ave Maria School of Law in 2004 and went on active duty in 2007. Since last summer he has been on his second tour of duty in Germany, having served in Kaiserslautern from 2012 to 2015. Previously he also served in Korea and Iraq.  He now lives in Bavaria with his wife and classmate, Audrey (Keeler ’98), and their four children.


Lieutenant Commander Josh Bergen (’05) Lieutenant Commander Josh Bergen (’05)

After 12 years as a Surface Warfare Officer for the United States Navy, Lieutenant Commander Josh Bergen (’05) recently transitioned to a Foreign Area Officer (FAO), becoming a Latin America regional specialist. His first FAO posting is to Madrid, Spain, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in defense and security studies at Escuela Superior de las Fuerzas Armadas. (ESFAS), the Spanish military’s staff college.

After graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 2005, Lt.-Cmdr. Bergen taught English in Peru before being commissioned in the Navy through Officer Candidate School. Over the course of a dozen years, he served on four ships with stations in Virginia, Argentina, and Rhode Island. He has led sailors as a division officer and department head, with responsibilities ranging from interior communications to anti-submarine warfare and air-defense systems. Over the course of four deployments to Europe and the Middle East, he qualified and stood watch as officer of the deck, surface warfare coordinator, and tactical action officer.

Lt.-Cmdr. Bergen will study at ESFAS through summer 2020 in preparation for further assignments in support of security cooperation with the nation’s partners throughout the Western Hemisphere. “Transitioning to Foreign Area Officer allows me to combine my Naval career with my passion for Latin America and the Spanish language,” he says. He and his wife, his “beautiful and long-suffering” classmate, Bernadette (Coughlin ‘05) Bergen, are the parents of five children.


Thomas A. Alexander (’99) Thomas A. Alexander (’99)Earlier this month, this blog featured an update about Thomas A. Alexander (’99), who is currently serving as the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for counter narcotics and global threats. Since then, Mr. Alexander has written in with some kind words about his alma mater:

“I rely on the College’s training each and every day,” he says. “Foremost is the ability to quickly analyze and methodically resolve complex matters; then, to prioritize sound facts and morals in my decision making. I am never afraid to defend a position rooted in these fundamentals.”

And a postscript: The book from his liberal education that has made the most lasting impression? Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.


Thomas A. Alexander (’99)Back in June, the U.S Department of Defense announced that a graduate of the College, Thomas A. Alexander (’99), had been named the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counter Narcotics and Global Threats. In that capacity he is a member of the Senior Executive Service, overseeing a budget of $1.1 billion and leading the Pentagon’s global counterdrug, counter-transnational organized crime, and counter-threat finance policies.

Mr. Alexander holds a juris doctor from the Ave Maria School of Law. Prior to joining the Department of Defense, he served as chief counsel to the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the U.S. House of Representatives. As senior advisor to the chairman, he led the committee’s efforts to oversee programs and policies pertaining to a wide range of issues, including counterterrorism and foreign assistance, as carried out by various federal agencies, such as the State Department and USAID.

Mr. Alexander also served as National Security Subcommittee Staff Director for the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the U.S. House of Representatives. There, he formulated and led numerous hearings and investigations of programs administered by the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, and USAID. Topics ranged from reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq to combating trafficking and illicit cross-border networks into the United States.

Earlier in his career he worked in the Department of Defense as the Director of Congressional Investigations in OSD-Legislative Affairs and, prior to that, as Counsel to the Oversight Subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Please pray for his work in service of the country and the world!


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.”


Rev. Mr. Andrew De Silva (’03) Rev. Mr. Andrew De Silva (’03)“In spite of all this,” writes the Rev. Mr. Andrew De Silva (’03) of the Church’s ongoing abuse scandal,  “I still feel called by God. Am I naive?”

A seminarian and transitional deacon for the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, Deacon De Silva is a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves Chaplain Corps. By God’s grace, he will be ordained to the priesthood next spring. Like most Catholics, he is appalled and outraged by the daily revelations of filth and negligence in the Church, but his faith remains strong, as does his yearning to embrace his vocation. Why?

“I want to be a Catholic priest; because of all the incredible men who are good and holy priests and have helped and supported me in my own life,” he writes in CatholicPhilly.com. “Because of the much-needed ministry I have been privileged to provide already as a religious brother; doing Army chaplain ministry and as a seminarian. Because God has chosen to make Himself present in the Eucharist in the hands of a priest. Because we as Catholics believe that the priest, despite his own frailty, has the awesome power to forgive sins. But mostly, because God has called me in this incredible way, and I wish to answer that call.”

Deacon De Silva has no illusions about the difficulty of ministering in a church whose own leaders have done so much to discredit it. “I know that when I am ordained a priest in May, much of the institutional goodwill for the Catholic priest will not exist as it used to,” he remarks. “I cannot change this. I can, however, take up the challenge to have greater faith in the God Who calls me. With His immeasurable help overcoming my own weakness, I can resolve to be ever more united to His Son the priest, and yes, the victim.”

Thanks be to God for Deacon De Silva’s faithful witness. Please pray for him as he approaches his ordination.



John Tuttle (’98), during his days a member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Source: U.S. Army

“I left the Army,” writes John Tuttle (’98), “but am still with the federal government.”

Having completed his service as a member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, Mr. Tuttle (’98) is now a law clerk in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals for the Honorable Daniel A. Manion, a Reagan appointee whose chambers are located in South Bend, Indiana. Mr. Tuttle follows in the footsteps of several other Thomas Aquinas College graduates whom Judge Manion has hired over the years. Previous clerks for the Seventh Circuit include Kurt Van Sciver (’02), Luke Reilander (’02), and Paul Alarcon (’07).



Officers Rex Mohun (’90) and Robert Mohun (’09)

Five years after his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College, Robert Mohun (’09) has graduated once again. At a ceremony in Sacramento this past weekend, Officer Mohun graduated second in his class of 95 cadets at the California Highway Patrol Academy, drawn from a group that began the CHP’s rigorous training program with 143 applicants culled from an original pool of 22,000. In receiving his badge, Officer Mohun joins his fellow Thomas Aquinas College graduate and father, Officer Rex Mohun (’90).

Officer Mohun is married to one of his Thomas Aquinas College classmates, Kelly (Docherty ’09), who recently gave birth to the couple’s second child. As a husband and father, he is keenly aware of the risks inherent in his new job. “The danger aspect has always been in the forefront of my mind,” he told Sacramento’s CBS 13 (see video, below). Yet he is, by now, accustomed to danger in his professional life. Previously he served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps, during which he time he served his country in Afghanistan.

Following his graduation from the Academy, Officer Mohun will next spend 55 days training with a veteran officer in Los Angeles County.


Rose Halpin (’06)

On weekdays, Rose Halpin (’06) serves as the head of technical services at Westchester Public Library in Chesterton, Ind., where she runs the cataloguing department for two branches and a museum. For one weekend a month and two weeks each summer, though, she assumes an entirely different role as an officer in the 470th Movement Control Battalion, U.S. Army Reserve.

In February, 2nd Lt. Halpin will take a four-month leave of absence from her library duties for Military Police training. That program follows three months of training last summer, when she completed Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Ga. As a reserve she will mostly fulfill her six-year commitment to the Army stateside unless, of course, she is deployed — a likely possibility.

Does she look forward to serving overseas? “No, we all want world peace,” 2nd Lt. Halpin told the Chesterton Tribune. “But that’s what I signed up for. I wanted to do something more significant in my life. Nobody’s going to live or die by the cataloging decisions I make. I saw this as an opportunity to broaden my horizons and give back. I’ll be changing myself as a person and be part of something that’s bigger than me, to help others.”

Upon graduating from OCS, 2nd Lt. Halpin reflected that the liberal education she received at the College had prepared her well. “I’ve been taught how to think about things and analyze things. It’s been a broadening experience,” she said. “When you’re leading people, and responsible for people, if you can’t look at the big picture and know where you’re going, you’re going to have a big problem.”


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Isabella Hsu (’18) on integrated curriculum

“It is amazing to read all the different works from a wide range of disciplines, and see the same truth popping up again and again — whether it’s in Euclid, or theology, or natural science. It all comes together to form a full picture.”

– Isabella Hsu (’18)

Redondo Beach, California

NEWS FROM THE COLLEGE

“I thank you so much for what you are doing at Thomas Aquinas College. I hope there will always be a Thomas Aquinas College. Your contributions to the Church and the world are marvelous to behold.”

– John Cardinal O’Connor (†)

Archbishop of New York