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Crucifix in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel

Please pray for Dr. Phil Wilmeth, father of Br. Augustine (Philip ’13) and John Parker (’15). Dr. Wilmeth suffered a heart last week and died shortly thereafter. “He was a good man, and did a lot of good for a lot of people,” his sons wrote on Facebook. “He was an ophthalmologist and restored sight and, at times, life to countless patients. We are so grateful for everything he did for us, and we want to honor him as best we can in his death.”

They ask friends to pray for the repose of their father’s soul and for the consolation of their mother, Anne, Dr. Wilmeth’s loving wife of 35 years.

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 peace.


Marcus R. Berquist Marcus R. Berquist

 

Note: Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01), vice-president of education at The Claremont Institute and editor of The American Mind, recently re-published the following tribute to late Thomas Aquinas College founder Marcus R. Berquist on November 2, the eighth anniversary of Mr. Berquist’s death. Dr. Peterson originally published the article in 2010.

 

Thoughts on Marcus Berquist, May He Rest in Peace

by Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01)

Dr. Matthew J. Peterson Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01)

His family no doubt bears the weight of his absence, and our prayers and love are with them. The rest of us share in this loss in lesser degrees, as they shared him with us.

Our sorrow at the death of great men is our sorrow, not their own. Our sorrow arises in part from a recognition that such men are completely and utterly irreplaceable. They are absolutely unique and ultimately inimitable. They do not merely discharge their obligations; they fulfill them to the overflowing, stretching the scope of their duty to fit the extent of their talent. They do not pass on their fire to a few or one other, but they enkindle innumerable flames with the fire they first received. They do not just complete their race, they complete their race in a manner well adapted to their person and circumstance in a way that moves all those around them towards the finish line. Human life is a preparation for death, and their last gift is inevitably the example of their own death, bequeathed to us, the living. They leave this world victorious, leaving us to marvel at the consistent purpose which marked the particular way they walked upon the earth. Their leaving is sorrowful on account of the overwhelmingly awareness we have of the absence of their presence, which had previously existed in an accessible manner for us — even if only as some fixed, guiding star.

Mr. Berquist’s quiet manner was the surface of deep-seated humility and discipleship. The docility of his soul toward truth served as an unshakable foundation from which the strong and steady gait of his mind moved indomitably toward wisdom. He did not simply fulfill his vocation as teacher; he became a founder of a college, birthing and then shaping and guiding a community of friends united in pursuing that same truth, partaking in the same common goods. Others may have enkindled wonder and love of truth in us, but the very stance of his soul towards the universe taught generations of us what it meant to act upon a love of wisdom with the highest part of ourselves, and how this action might further enflame such love. He ordered his life such that he habitually contributed his talent and person toward the reestablishment of a tradition of thought revolutionary to the modern world. The founding of Thomas Aquinas College was a tremendous creative act: the bringing together of the study of the great books, the liberal arts, and the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas in a manner adapted to the needs of our era. His participation in this founding gave generations of students a beginning that made their own quest for wisdom and virtue possible, grafting them into the vines of the Western tradition of Christian thought.

These are the sort of gifts which, once given and received, are entrusted to us; they are not the sort of gifts which can be paid back. They are, rather, gifts we can only attempt to pay forward, and most likely not in kind. They are the sort of gifts which we must protect, treasure, and become good stewards of, adding to them in whatever small, complementary ways we can. Even should we give similarly priceless gifts to others, our gifts will never be the same ones he gave, which is partly why we feel sorrow at his absence.

***

In many ways, I am among the least of his students, and many, perhaps most, of the rest of our community knew him better than I. Yet despite an awful performance in his sophomore lab class, I learned as much listening to him in that class as I have in any other, and perhaps more. The power of his thought for those who listened and asked questions of him was such that he molded the way in which our souls receive what is. A friend and fellow student, Glen McCarthy, arranged for him to guide a small group of us through St. Thomas’ treatise on law the summer before my senior year. This too was formative in many ways that cannot be expressed, nor even sometimes remembered directly as time goes by, but it nonetheless profoundly shaped the thought of those present, both through what he taught and how he taught it.

I have watched and interacted with many professors since, in my business and in the academy. Some were great speakers. Some have CVs 30 pages long filled with their accomplishments. Mr. Berquist never finished his Ph.D., and to my knowledge he never published so much as a book review in a scholarly journal. He did not have the polished or hyper-engaging rhetorical style that many other popular professors I’ve met do. He came across as shy at first. Yet no one I have ever met, nor do I think anyone I ever will meet in this life, could answer a question like he could. Once you approached him, it became clear that he wanted you to ask him questions, or at least he was always kind enough to give this impression. A friend and fellow student, James Chastek, pointed out what at the very first was not obvious to incoming students, and later became self-evident: He truly delighted in being asked questions, and answering them. He treated every question with respect, as if you were his equal. He listened intently to what you asked. And then, given an internalized mastery of his subject, he gave you an answer. He was so good at this that only years afterward, when you realized how young and ignorant you were, did you think about how patient he was. His response always accomplished more than pointing you directly to the truth of the matter. Inevitably, his answer taught you how to think about it. His answers revealed the path one needed to take to get to the truth of the matter. In short, he gave reasons.

There was a simple and direct earnestness about him, reflecting his humility, that is far more important than all else one could say in describing him, but for me this is not easily explained in words. Suffice it to say that, if you watched and listened, this facet of his character would bring you closer to God.

Senior year, under the growing realization that I was soon to leave the Thomas Aquinas College community, and grappling with the depth of the debt I owed to it, I happened to meet him coming down from the old tutor offices on the way to his car. I told him, in the emotion of the moment, the truth: Although I hadn’t been the best student in his class, he had taught me what it meant to be a philosopher. More particularly, a Catholic philosopher. I’m not sure what he made of that, given my own failings, but I am sure, as a community, that the students, faculty, alumni and administration of Thomas Aquinas College could say the same.

He was our teacher.

 


Jon B. Syren (’87) Jon B. Syren (’87)On her blog, Miss Marcel’s Musings, alumna author Suzie Andres (’87) describes the “inestimable grace” of having recently been with the family of her late classmate Jon B. Syren (’87) for the 26th anniversary of his death — “this 26th feast day,” she writes, “and it’s been a feast indeed.”

Shortly after graduating from the College, Mr. Syren began to “fulfill his dreams,” writes Mrs. Andres, when he married classmate Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly:

… on the Feast of Our Lady’s Coronation in 1987, and with the birth of their daughter and son (who would’ve been the first of many, and thanks to God's infinite love did become the first of many, though their 7 siblings came later, after Angela remarried a second saintly man, thankfully one who is still among us!). And finally, his dream of being a doctor began coming true with his attendance [at the University of Washington, with his first year of medical school in his home state of Alaska] …

Jon’s secret was in pursuing sanctity — the Kingdom of God, or by another name: Love — rather than worldwide fame and fortune, power, popularity, and all the other things that people often mean by “success.” Not surprisingly, according to the words of Our Lord, by pursuing first the Kingdom of Heaven, Jon was given “all other things besides.”

Mr. Syren’s widow, Angela, is today a member of the College’s Board of Governors, and their daughter, Catherine (Connelly ’11) O’Brien, is a young wife and mother who recently completed her master’s degree in theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

 Suzie Andres (’87)Suzie Andres (’87)“The Communion of Saints is one of my favorite mysteries, more and more visible to me as I realize how close Heaven is to earth,” writes Mrs. Andres. “With Jesus in the tabernacle and coming to us in Holy Communion, the Kingdom of God is absolutely among us. And then, as Angela and Jack and Jon demonstrate so very visibly, the work of the saints continues day in and day out, with fruit beyond counting, beyond measure.”

It should be noted that Mrs. Andres is today celebrating another notable anniversary: the 30th anniversary of her marriage to her husband, Dr. Anthony P. Andres, a tutor at the College. She also recently appeared on the Catholic Exchange podcast, speaking about one of her favorite members of the Communion of Saints, Marcel Van.


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.


Helmut KohlOver at First Things, Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist. (’06), has a thoughtful reflection about former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who died last week. “In order to understand Kohl’s characteristic blend of German patriotism and passionate support for European integration, it is important to note which German province he came from,” writes Pater Edmund, a Cistercian monk at Stift Heiligenkreuz in Vienna, Austria. Chancellor Kohl came from the left bank of the Rhine, notes Pater Edmund, which “unlike much of the right bank … remained Catholic after the Reformation.” Indeed, Pater Edmund concludes of Chancellor Kohl, “perhaps he was the last of those Rhenish-Catholic statesmen who still embodied something of the old spirit of Latin Christendom.”

The full story, The Left Bank of the Rhine, is available via First Things.


Crucifix in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel

Serena (Grimm ’87) Mohun sends along the sad news of the passing of Pat Gallaher (’89).

Pat Gallaher died last night after a fairly prolonged battle with cancer. He had been living in Alaska for many years, but has recently been back down in Bakersfield, California, to be cared for by his sister. Many will remember Pat as a kind, gentle outdoorsman. He is the one who stocked the down-below ponds with trout and crayfish, which lasted many years past his one-year stint as a freshman. I will always remember him teaching me, and others on the Kaiser desert trip, to shoot his .44 Magnum!! May he rest in the peace of Christ.

Mr. Gallaher’s funeral will take plane at St. Albert’s Church in San Jose, California, on Saturday, June 17, at 9:00 a.m. Please pray for the repose of his soul.


Angela Baird (’00)

To commemorate this, the 20th year since the death of Thomas Aquinas College student Angela Baird (’00), the National Catholic Register has published an interview with Admissions Director Jon Daly — a classmate of Angela’s who was with her on the evening that she died in a tragic hiking accident.

“When it became clear to us that she might be dying, I asked her what she wanted to pray for,” Mr. Daly recalls. “She mentioned two things. The first, and these were her exact words, was ‘for the aborted babies.’ The other was for her father, who had recently been diagnosed with diabetes. She came from a family of 10 children that was very close. She was very close to her dad.”

Memorial cross erected near the spot where Angela Baird (’00) died in 1997 Memorial cross erected near the spot where Angela Baird (’00) died in 1997While at the College, Angela was the founder and leader of a student pro-life group that regularly prayed outside a local abortion clinic. On the sixth anniversary of her death, when students visited the clinic for their regular prayer vigil, they were delighted to learn that that the clinic was shutting down. Providence, no doubt, was at work.

“I’ve often thought about how she spent her last hours on Earth,” says Mr. Daly. “It was striking. It was a sign of a deep grace and peace in her soul. She didn’t complain or cry out. She lived her life in those last hours for everyone but herself.”

Read the full interview via the National Catholic Register website.


Joseph Peterson

Please say a pray for the family of Mary (Gisla) and Matthew Peterson (both ’01), whose five-week-old baby, Joseph, died suddenly last Friday, September 30. “We are overwhelmed not only with grief,” Mr. and Mrs. Peterson write, “but also by the outpouring of love and grace we have received over the last few days.”

There will be a viewing and Rosary at noon on Friday, October 7, followed by a funeral Mass at 1:00 p.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Escondido, California. There is also an online donations page for those who would like to assist the Petersons with their medical and funeral expenses.

“Thank you so much for your prayers,” the couple writes. “We are doing our best to offer up the suffering of this cross for our family and our friends. Sustained by our faith, we are blessed to be part of such a community of friends.”


A tribute to Rev. Jacques Hamel, who was martyred today in Normandy, by alumnus cartoonist Patrick Cross (’14):

 


Zach Cheeley ('08)

Please pray for the eternal repose of Zach Cheeley (’08), who passed away suddenly yesterday. Below is a message, received via one of Zach's classmates, from his parents:

“Today our beloved Zach was taken from this life to the next. After experiencing cardiac arrest early Thursday a.m., Zach was without oxygen for an unknown period of time: no pulse, no breathing. He experienced severe & irreparable brain damage as a result. 911 responded & he was revived after 20 minutes of CPR, so we're thankful for their efforts. We held out hope that things might turn around until the EEG revealed Saturday a.m. that there was no cortex brain activity at all & only minimal brain stem activity. So we removed the ventilator today after the organ transplant team was in place to take what Zach had signed on to donate, all this with unanimous family support. He passed peacefully at 12:35 p.m. today surrounded by his family that he loved so much. Zach was a rare breed & definitely a person who marched to his own drum.

“I can't begin to describe the sadness that I feel ... for losing him so young ... But, I trust an omniscient, omnipotent, sovereign Lord who loves Zach even more than I do.”

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 peace.


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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

“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