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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

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.


The above video features Rev. Derek Remus (’11), the College’s newest — and 72nd! — alumnus priest. Fr. Remus was ordained to the sacred priesthood on June 29, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, by the Most Rev. William McGrattan, Bishop of Calgary, at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

“Today,” observes the Calgary Herald, he is “a rare breed: an Alberta-born young priest serving in his home province.” Indeed, Fr. Remus is the first priest to be ordained in Calgary in three years. In August he began service as an associate pastor at Holy Spirit Parish in southwest Calgary.

“I want to reach out to young people by showing them that the Faith is reasonable and it is only in God and in Christ they can be truly happy,” he says. “It is important these days to show the Faith is not opposed to reason and not opposed to science. I have a missionary mentality to go out and preach the truth to everybody.”

Thanks be to God!


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.


St. Ignatius of Loyola, by Peter Paul Rubens St. Ignatius of Loyola, by Peter Paul Rubens

 

Jessica Pipes (’16) Jessica Pipes (’16)

In honor of yesterday’s Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Jessica Pipes (’16) has written a wonderful tribute to the soldier-turned-priest — whom she dubs “a patron saint for difficult times” — in the National Catholic Register.

“Sometimes it’s all too easy to imagine that the saints’ paths to holiness were uncomplicated, that whatever they may have suffered from sickness or the temptations of Satan, they at least knew clearly what God’s will was for them,” writes Miss Pipes. “But for nearly 20 years after his conversion, Ignatius had very little idea what he was doing. He dealt with failure, disappointment, sickness, and severe spiritual darkness.”

Yet through his faithful perseverance, Miss Pipes observes, St. Ignatius found his path to sanctity. “His journey gives us a battle plan for navigating our own dead ends,” she continues. “Whether [we are] making hard choices, recovering from unexpected events, going through physical sickness or spiritual darkness, Ignatius of Loyola faced a similar situation.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!


James Layne (’08) James Layne (’08)Last month James Layne (’08) — a graduate of the University of Notre Dame Law School and an attorney in Washington, D.C. — began a new position as counsel for Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I and my colleagues on the committee staff are essentially the lawyers who represent and counsel our senators, especially on issues that fall under the committee’s jurisdiction,” he explains. “We study legislation that has been referred to the committee as well as analyze how this legislation would fit into the existing legal and policy framework, then recommend to the senator what action we advise him to take.” Counsel for the committee also aid senators in their oversight of the federal judiciary, vetting judicial nominees to the federal courts. Additionally, Mr. Layne assists the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, which Sen. Flake chairs. “Senators naturally desire to be informed on the role of technology and the privacy issues raised by the growth of new technologies,” he says. “I am excited and honored to work in this role, to help the committee consider these cutting-edge issues.”

For most of the five years since his graduation from law school, Mr. Layne has worked in private practice, but he does have some experience with the Judiciary Committee. “During my second year of law school, I was a law clerk for the committee, working for then-Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma,” he notes. “This past experience is very helpful, since I already know some of the people I’m working with and have a basic understanding of how the committee works.”

When asked in what ways his Thomas Aquinas College education helped prepared him for his new job, Mr. Layne offered a heartfelt, expansive response, which is posted, in its entirety, below:

 

Looking Back at My Time at Thomas Aquinas College

by James Layne (’08)

I have often said that, next to my decision to become a Catholic, no decision I have ever made has been more important and formational than my decision to attend Thomas Aquinas College.

I didn’t have the typical start at TAC. I’ll never forget how excited I was to get the call from Admissions Director Jon Daly, telling me that I was moved off the waiting list and given a spot in the Class of 2008. It was already almost two weeks into the school year, but a spot opened up. As I recall, it was on a Wednesday or Thursday, and Jon told me that the last possible day I could start classes was that Monday! I didn’t know how it was possible to get everything ready that quickly, pack up, get my plane ticket, and move across the country from Virginia to California. It was exhausting.

When I got to the College, I was the new guy showing up after everyone else had formed their new friendships and bonds with their classmates. I worried that maybe I would have a hard time making friends and fitting in with the class. Instead, classmates and tutors one by one approached me and introduced themselves, offering to help me get caught up in all the classes. I immediately formed new friendships.

The most challenging thing for me was Euclid. I loved the material, but I didn’t love the idea of standing in front of the class and presenting a proposition, perhaps forgetting a step or forgetting the whole proposition entirely. The idea of messing up in front of a group was almost a phobia! I remembered how in high school I had dreaded public-speaking classes and how nervous I was speaking in front of a group. Imagine a shy lawyer!

James Layne (’08) gives a tour of the Capitol to his visiting classmate, Br. Mary Evagrius (Dominic ’08) Hayden, O.S.B. James Layne (’08) gives a tour of the Capitol to his visiting classmate, Br. Mary Evagrius (Dominic ’08) Hayden, O.S.B.Every member of my class, without exception, was an inspiration in how they welcomed me. I felt a bond at TAC that I never felt anywhere else. We weren’t just there to get our degrees. We were brothers and sisters pursuing the truth and exploring together the many tributaries and winding streams where the development of our understanding and culture had traveled into the ocean of Western civilization. Here I was, a poor boy from the Appalachians, reading Aristotle and St. Thomas, studying the great mathematicians, understanding ancient astronomical systems, and wondering about things I had always taken for granted: motion, number, knowledge, the soul.

This is what set TAC apart from anything else in my experience, and why it was so foundational for me. At TAC, I didn’t just come in and listen to a lecture about someone else’s conclusion. I came in as a participant in this vast intellectual tradition. The College challenged me to internalize the materials, since I had to be ready to talk about them and come to my own conclusions.

In law school, the Socratic Method is routine. You had better be ready to tear apart a text and not just regurgitate it, but be able to analyze it and think about how it fits in with other ideas as well. I can’t believe a better school could exist than Thomas Aquinas College in preparing one for these studies and for practically any career that requires critical thought. The great books are great for a reason. They ask the big questions. They cut through the mass of human experience and present ideas that at least attempt to harmonize or explain that experience.

When you read those materials day in and day out, it affects you in ways you may not realize. If you really wrestle with these ideas and critique them, you learn over time to ask big questions yourself, to cut through the mass of what’s before you, and to see the big ideas and outlines. That has been incredibly helpful to me at every step in my career, and those skills help me to be a better person and better citizen as well.

It isn’t enough, of course, to talk about  knowledge or method or skills. Thomas Aquinas College isn’t just about knowledge or even how to think. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God” is what the Scripture tells us. Thomas Aquinas College brought me closer to God, the Unum Necessarium.

I was amazed at how many liturgies the College had daily. Whether I was an early-morning person (which I am not) or an afternoon or evening person, liturgies and processions and Rosaries were happening all the time. Confessions were heard before and after Masses, and priests — very good and faithful priests, I might add — were part of our day-to-day lives. Having several priests for the student body was such a blessing. Whether it was going for a game or ice cream at Fr. Borden’s, chatting with Fr. Charles in Saints Peter and Paul Residence Hall, discussing the Dominican liturgy with Fr. Paul Raftery, serving Mass for Fr. Michael Perea, or listening to the mischievous jokes of Fr. Buckley, these are memories I treasure because these were great and faithful priests who were always there to show us friendship and offer us spiritual guidance.

I could thank so many people at Thomas Aquinas College for helping me get where I am, because they all had an impact on me, but I particularly want to thank Librarian Viltis Jatulis. I worked for her all four years in the gorgeous St. Bernardine of Siena Library. Briefly, the business office decided once to transfer me to the coffee shop, where I got about a week’s experience pulling espresso shots and making some of the strongest drip coffee in the College’s history before Viltis decided she wanted me back. And Viltis generally got what she wanted! She is a legend at TAC, and one of the most joyful and vibrant souls I have ever met. I learned valuable research skills while working there, and knowing one’s way around a library certainly is a good skill for a lawyer. So thank you, Viltis!

I also want to say thank you to the great people in the Development Department, whom I worked with for a couple of years after my graduation in 2008. I was there the day our beloved president, Tom Dillon, died in a car accident in Ireland. I rang the chapel bells and helped gather students to the new chapel Dr. Dillon had worked so hard to build, to hear the devastating news. Then I watched in the days and months ahead as, again, the TAC community came together and not only mourned, but lifted up Mrs. Dillon and Danny. I saw how the institution carried on, because as irreplaceable as Dr. Dillon was, the work was so important that it had to go on. I saw teamwork and perseverance in the midst of great personal sorrow and adversity, and you had better believe this has impacted me in my professional life.

Thomas Aquinas College has prepared me in so many ways that I don’t even have time or space, or adequacy of speech, to list them. It helped me to better know the good, the true, and the beautiful, and (which is perhaps even more important) helped me to desire these. TAC was a spiritual oasis for me. I think of it still as a part of home, since home is where the heart is. I think of its faculty and my classmates as family. I am extremely grateful to all of the friends, supporters, and benefactors of the College who made this possible for me. The gift you gave me is a light that I don’t intend to hide under a bushel.

I know that this light, to the extent it burns in such a one as me, is not mine and doesn’t come from anywhere inside me. It is God’s, and for His glory. It is an inheritance and gift. That light — and the pursuit of that light — burns brightly at Thomas Aquinas College. I pray so often that it will continue to burn brightly for generations of students, who will continue to better serve their communities, churches, and their country by forming themselves in the Catholic intellectual tradition.


Edward Seeley (’16) Edward Seeley (’16) | Photo credit: The Rome Experience

“Being in Rome has been awe-inspiring,” writes Edward Seeley (’16). “We are being formed as men preparing for the priesthood, in order to help save souls through a knowledge of the history of the Church, through the beauty she has produced, and the firmness and maternal affection with which she proclaims Christ the Truth.”

A seminarian for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Mr. Seeley is in the Eternal City as part of The Rome Experience, a summer program run under the auspices of the Bishops Advisory Board that allows seminarians from throughout the U.S. to “pray and study in the heart of the Catholic Church, beside the Chair of St. Peter, and at the tombs of the saints and martyrs.” The program includes pilgrimages to several holy and historically significant sites, the major basilicas of Rome, and the Catacombs, as well as a trip to the Shrine of St. John Vianney in Ars, France; .

In a Postcard from Rome, published on The Rome Experience website, Mr. Seeley recounts the group’s general audience with Pope Francis, dinners with Cardinal Burke and Cardinal Stafford, and a visit and tour of the Basilica of St. Mary Major. He also describes interactions with fellow tourists who “obviously aren’t used to seeing a group of young seminarians tromping through small side streets or the ruins of ancient Rome,” and who “engage us in dialogue, often about their difficulties with the Church and the problems they face in their lives.”

Providing these inquirers with pastoral advice can be challenging, the young seminarian admits, but “what gives me the strength and hope to continue is being able to ask the saints that we visit for their intercession and guidance.” Adds Mr. Seeley, “When you come to the tombs of great men like St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Philip Neri, or those of Catherine of Siena and Claire of Assisi, you realize that you are not alone but can rely for aid on those who have gone before us.”


Sr. Maria Battista of the Lamb of God (Maria Forshaw ’07)

Liza Forshaw reports the wonderful news that her daughter, Sr. Maria Battista of the Lamb of God (Maria Forshaw ’07), made her final vows at the Carmel of St. Joseph in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 9. “We are celebrating this morning a holy Mass that is a special occasion of joy and thanksgiving,” said Rev. Brian W. Harrison, O.S., who presided at the profession, “not just for Sr. Maria Battista, who has just now expressed publicly her answer to the call she has received from God; not just for her other sisters as well, here at St. Joseph’s Carmelite Monastery, not just for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, but also, I would venture to say, for the Universal Church.”

Sr. Maria Battista joined the Discalced Carmelites as a postulant in 2012, entered the novitiate in 2013, and made her first vows in 2015. As a member of this cloistered, contemplative community, she is dedicated to the prayerful service of the Church, and she is particularly involved in the musical life of her monastery.

“A young daughter of God is committing herself to a life which, in the greatest degree possible here on earth, anticipates the life of the Blessed in heaven,” continued Fr. Harrison. “And Sr. Maria Battista has answered this noble calling in the specifically Carmelite vocation — a way hallowed by some of the most outstanding and holy women in the history of the Church.”

Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Forshaw, Maria’s parents, have made a special gift to the College in honor of her solemn profession. Her mother, Liza, said, “Maria is so grateful to the College for its profound influence on her and her religious vocation.”

Deo gratias!

Sr. Maria Battista of the Lamb of God (Maria Forshaw ’07)


Derek Remus (’11) Derek Remus (’11)Please say a prayer for Deacon Derek Remus (’11), who, by God’s grace, will be ordained to the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ on June 29, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

Born and raised in Alberta, Canada, Deacon Remus discerned his vocation, in part, while a student at Thomas Aquinas College. “Coming to the College has helped me in my vocation discernment,” he remarked at the time of his 2011 graduation. “Studying St. Thomas, philosophy, and theology has increased my love of the intellectual life and has made me think more about a kind of teaching and preaching vocation in the priesthood.”

Three months after his graduation, he departed for six months of missionary work in Peru. After returning to Canada, he was accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Calgary and began studies at St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton, where he earned a Master of Divinity Degree. The Most Rev. William McGrattan, Bishop of Calgary,  ordained him to the diaconate last December and, on Friday, will ordain him to the priesthood at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

“We give thanks to God for the gift of Deacon Derek’s call to the priesthood,” announces the Diocese of Calgary’s website, “and we invite and encourage the faithful of the diocese to come and join in the celebration of the conferral of Holy Orders.”


Mary Bridget Neumayr (’86) Mary Bridget Neumayr (’86)
Photo credit: @ec_minister/Twitter
After serving for one year as the chief of staff at the federal Council on Environmental Quality, Mary Bridget Neumayr (’86) is poised to become its next chairwoman. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump appointed Miss Neumayr to the position, which coordinates the country’s environmental policy and oversees regulations across various federal agencies.

Prior to becoming the highest-ranking woman at CEQ last year, Miss Neumayr spent eight years working for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where she held several senior roles, including, most recently, deputy chief counsel for energy and environment. Previously she held positions in the Energy and Justice Departments of the George W. Bush Administration.

Although her new position will require Senate confirmation, early signs suggest a favorable outcome. “Throughout the entirety of the Trump Administration, there has yet to be a Senate-confirmed senior environmental official in the White House,” notes the Washington Post, adding, “that may soon change.” Citing former colleagues on the Hill who praise her for her professionalism and her ability to work well with political foes and allies alike, the Post concludes that she “appears far better positioned to win Senate approval” than did previous appointees.

“Mary Neumayr will make a strong leader at the Council on Environmental Quality,” says Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. “Her significant experience at the White House and on Capitol Hill will serve her well in this key environmental policy position.”


Nnadozie Onyekuru (’17) Nnadozie Onyekuru (’17)A member of last year’s graduating class who is now  a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs, Nnadozie Onyekuru (’17) has penned a brief essay about recent developments in his homeland. The post appears on Arc of the Universe, a blog edited by Notre Dame Professor of Political Science Daniel Philpott, and it is titled, Bending the Arc in Nigeria. Writes Mr. Onyekuru:

The recent posthumous conferment of Nigeria’s highest honors on Moshood Abiola and Gani Fawehinmi is a cheerful break for followers of events in Africa’s most populous country.  ….

Such unequivocal appreciation by the nation’s political class speaks a thousand words as does the jubilation surrounding the events of the past week. President Buhari’s decision to honor these late countrymen is a nod to the part of the Nigerian anthem that speaks of our heroes not laboring in vain …

A citizen of Nigeria, Mr. Onyekuru has an abiding interest in international relations, particularly the role of the Church and Church teaching in global affairs. While at Thomas Aquinas College, he and some friends launched Cor Unum, an annual event that celebrates both the Universal Church and the College’s international reach.

“As I prepare to conclude my studies,” he wrote shortly before graduating from Thomas Aquinas College last year, “I hope to be a leaven in society as Holy Mother Church dreams for her children.”


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Kathleen Murphy (’16) on integrated curriculum

“I think about the entire world differently since I have come here. I have learned certain truths, whether in the natural sciences or philosophy, that I never would have imagined I could know.”

– Kathleen Murphy (’16)

Cheshire, Connecticut

NEWS FROM THE COLLEGE

I am constantly convinced that what you are doing in Thomas Aquinas College is the answer for today’s ills.

– Rev. Wojciech Giertych, O.P.

Theologian of the Papal Household