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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

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!


The Augustine Institute recently featured on its Facebook page an employee who is an alumna of both the Institute and Thomas Aquinas College: Constance Graves (’11). “A woman with a heart for catechesis,” the post begins, she “has committed herself to this work.”

Upon graduating from the College in 2011, Miss Graves earned a master’s degree in education at the University of St. Thomas in Texas, after which she moved to Colorado, where she earned a second master’s, this time in theology and theological studies at the Augustine Institute. Since completing her studies in 2017 she has stayed on at the Augustine Institute, where she works on curriculum development and media-asset management.

“I was concerned with the problem of effectively handing on the faith to the children when it was not practiced in the home,” says Miss Graves says in her profile. “It was around this time that I saw the catechetical films produced by the Augustine Institute Studios. The quality of the videos and the effectiveness of their catechetics impressed me, and I applied to the Augustine Institute Graduate School with the hope of finding answers to the questions I had encountered. I now work full time at the Augustine Institute, and this understanding is being put to use working on curriculum with the academic department.”

Miss Graves is not the first alumna to be featured in the Augustine Institute’s promotions. In September the school posted a testimonial from first-year students Elizabeth and Theresa Gallagher (’18).


Rev. Mike Perucho, associate vocations director for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, with the four Thomas Aquinas College alumni who are studying for the priesthood in the Archdiocese: Paul Collins (’14), Edward Seeley (’16), Michael Masteller (’13), and Jorge Moncada Hernandez (’18) Rev. Mike Perucho, associate vocations director for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, with the four Thomas Aquinas College alumni who are studying for the priesthood for the Archdiocese: Paul Collins (’14), Edward Seeley (’16), Michael Masteller (’13), and Jorge Moncada Hernandez (’18)

On Wednesday four alumni who are studying for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles returned to their alma mater to give a vocations talk to the College’s students. The late-afternoon session began and ended with some comments from Rev. Mike Perucho, the Archdiocese’ associate vocations director, in between which students heard personal talks from each of the alumni seminarians.

First among them was Jorge Moncada Hernandez (’18), a member of last year’s graduating class, who spoke of how he discerned his vocation, how his time at the College aided him in that process, and how he now longs to serve the people of Los Angeles as a priest. “This place definitely helped me in my vocation. It gave the foundation that we need to be good priests and also good men,” said Mr. Moncada. “And what we need right now in the Church are priests who are men really willing to understand their manhood and bring that to the people of God, and this place definitely helped me a lot in growing that.”

Next came Edward Seeley (’16), who described the spiritual and intellectual formation that the seminarians receive at the Archdiocesan seminary. “It’s a graduate-level program — so that’s a little easier than here,” he joked. “I find it’s very, very helpful to have had the formation here, because you’re able to see the unified picture more easily. You’re able to say, ‘Well, I can draw on St. Thomas or St. Augustine, and then look at what the more modern teachings of the Church are and how that fits in with them, how they integrate and connect.”

The next speaker, Paul Collins (’14) discussed his more particular vocation: Although studying for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, where he will begin and end his ministry, he will serve for as many as 20 years between those periods as a chaplain for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. “I felt a call to be a Navy chaplain because they have a real need right now,” said Mr. Collins. “There are less than 50 priests serving the entire Navy — that’s the least-served diocese in the whole world” — a deficiency he is working hard to ameliorate.

Finally Michael Masteller (’13) spoke about his experience as a seminarian, including learning Spanish and coming to know the wide range of cultures within the Archdiocese. He also described his discernment, how he deepened his prayer life while at the College, and how he became assured of God’s call while teaching high school in Wisconsin for two years after his graduation. “Working at a diocesan high school, seeing where our culture is at, the difficulties that a lot of youth are going through — that just really touched my heart,” he said. “Because there were a lot of good kids there, bright, and you could just see that they wanted more. I definitely felt called to be on the front lines with the people, wherever they are.”

The seminarians stayed on campus through dinner, where they met with students and visited with Chaplain Rev. Cornelius M. Buckley, S.J., whom Mr. Moncada later thanked on Facebook:


Weston Roseberry (’18) with fellow Thomas Aquinas College students at the 2015 Walk for Life West Coast Weston Roseberry (’18) with fellow Thomas Aquinas College students at the 2015 Walk for Life West CoastPlease pray for the repose of the soul of Weston Roseberry (’18), who died Friday as the result of an automobile accident in Longmont, Colorado. Please also pray for the consolation of Weston’s family, friends, and classmates.

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.


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.


Mary Bridget Neumayr (’86) Mary Bridget Neumayr (’86)
Photo credit: @ec_minister/Twitter
On January 2, in the final hours of the 115th Congress, the U.S. Senate easily approved the nomination of Thomas Aquinas College alumna Mary Bridget Neumayr (’86) as the new chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Widely considered the administration’s senior environmental official, the CEQ chairman coordinates the country’s environmental policy and oversees regulations across various federal agencies. Miss Neumayr has been effectively functioning as the council’s chairman since her appointment last year, one year after being named its chief of staff.

Prior to becoming the highest-ranking woman at CEQ, 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. In her spare time, she is a member of the College’s Washington, D.C., Board of Regents. 

In a letter of recommendation to the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, a bipartisan group of eight former general counsels at the Department of Energy and assistant attorneys general at the Department of Justice praised Miss Neumayr’s nomination. The group said, “Through her service on Capitol Hill, at the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Justice, and most recently as Chief of Staff at CEQ, she has developed and has exhibited the knowledge and skills to be a highly successful CEQ Chairman.” Moreover, the group of four Democrats and four Republicans continued, “She treats all people and all stakeholders with dignity and respect, and her integrity is absolutely above reproach.’’

At her confirmation hearings last summer, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan, indirectly referenced Miss Neumayr’s parents — Thomas Aquinas College co-founder John W. Neumayr and his wife, Bridget — as well as her alma mater. “The roots of her qualities reflect her loving and vibrant family,” he said, “and her faith and thoughtful education.”


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.”


The Ordination Mass of Rev. Derek Remus (’11) The Ordination Mass of Rev. Derek Remus (’11)

Upon receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders at the hands of the Most Rev. William McGrattan, Bishop of Calgary, on June 29, Rev. Derek Remus (’11) became Thomas Aquinas College’s 72nd alumnus priest — and the first ordained for a Canadian diocese.

“It’s a sign of hope,” the new priest proclaims, not only because ordinations are a reflection of God’s care for His people, but because, in recent times, they have been all too rare in Canada. Fr. Remus is the first new priest to be ordained in his home diocese in three years.

“The Church in Canada has been in crisis for a long time,” he says. “Every single day I am confronted with the reality of people who have not had good catechesis and formation in the Faith for years, declining numbers at Mass, people who are influenced by relativism — and these are the Catholics!” Add to the mix the latest revelations of scandal and cover-up in the Church, and a new priest could understandably get discouraged — but not Fr. Remus.

“It’s a lot of work,” he says of his vocation. “But there’s a lot of joy and satisfaction in carrying out that work. There’s a sense of peace that comes from knowing you’re doing the will of God.”

Words of Wisdom

“When I was 12, I was at a priestly ordination, and it was around then that the thought hit me,” Fr. Remus says. “‘This is what God wants me to do.’”

In his senior year of high school, he could not decide whether to enter the seminary right away, or if he should go to college first. A priest he knew proposed a compromise. “He advised me to go to college and get a degree in something that would be beneficial whether I went on to become a priest or not,” Fr. Remus recalls. That made the choice obvious: Thomas Aquinas College’s emphasis on philosophy and theology would be an excellent preparation for the seminary, but were he to choose another path, a liberal education would stand him in good stead professionally.

Looking back, Fr. Remus says, his time at the College was “the best four years of my life.” The reverent liturgies, the devout chaplains, and the like-minded, faithful friends all aided him in his discernment, as did the College’s classical curriculum. “Starting with the first semester of Freshman Year, reading and discussing Euclid, the Categories of Aristotle, and Sacred Scripture satisfied my natural desire to know,” he says. “And studying the highest truths — I think specifically of St. Thomas’ treatment of the priesthood of Christ — let me see what it means to be a priest.”

For the two years following his graduation, he worked as a tutor, paying off student loans, and then spent six months as a missionary in Peru. Around that time he also paid a visit to his alma mater for a conference on the social doctrine of the Church, where he received some encouraging words from his one-time tutor and mentor, the College’s founding president, Dr. Ronald P. McArthur.

“Dr. McArthur took me aside and said, ‘You can be a priest. You’ve got the qualities, and don’t let anybody stop you,’” recalls Fr. Remus. “His words remained with me throughout my time in the seminary. Whenever I was tempted to be discouraged or give up, they always came to mind.”

The education that Dr. McArthur and so many others had made possible likewise proved invaluable during Fr. Remus’ four years at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Edmonton. “I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t gone to Thomas Aquinas College,” he says. “The intellectual formation was critical; it allowed me to develop the ability to think logically, to follow through a logical argument, and thereby to make the most of my seminary education.”

The Good a Priest Can Do

His ordination this summer “was a time of great joy,” he says, but also “a humbling experience,” because “you sense the contrast between your own personal unworthiness and the dignity of the priestly office.” And just as his ordination was a “sign of hope” for the Church in a post-Christian culture, many more such signs have followed.

In his first assignment, Fr. Remus serves as the associate pastor at Holy Spirit Parish in Calgary. “Already, I have seen the good a priest can do,” he says. Among the faithful he has discovered a yearning for solid, even challenging, preaching. “One homily can do more good than one would think,” he observes, citing the testimonials of grateful parishioners.

Then there is the power of the sacraments in the lives of believers. “Saying Mass daily is something awesome — in the true sense of the word ‘awesome,’” says Fr. Remus. And the ability to absolve sins in the confessional is incomparable: “The reconciliation of even one sinner to God is of inestimable value, for, as St. Thomas said, the good of grace in one soul is greater than the good of nature in the whole universe.”


December
26, 2018

Members of the Morlino family in Rome for the October canonization of St. Katharina Kasper Members of the Morlino family in Rome for the October canonization of St. Katharina Kasper

In late October, alumna Genevieve Morlino (’17), along with her brother Dominic (’21) and their family, traveled to Rome for what she describes as “a rather momentous event” — the canonization of a family member.

St. Katharina Kasper St. Katharina Kasper“St. Katharina Kasper started the Congregation of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ in Germany in 1850, and her order has spread throughout the world,” writes Miss Morlino. “My mom and her sisters are some of her closest living relatives.” Miss Morlino’s late grandmother attended St. Katharina’s beatification in 1978. There she met His Holiness Paul VI, who presided over the beatification and whom, in God’s providence, His Holiness Pope Francis also canonized this October, alongside St. Katharina. “When we heard she was being canonized,” says Miss Morlino, “we all knew we had to go.”

A recent story in the National Catholic Register tells the history of St. Katharina, the miracle that led to her canonization, and the Morlinos’ decision to witness the solemn occasion. “Katharina Kasper was my grandmother’s great-great aunt,” the story quotes Miss Morlino’s mother, Fran, as saying. “We didn’t really think we would get [to Rome] this soon, but when we heard about the canonization we said, ‘Well, we’ll do what it takes to get there.’”

Spurred by her love of Jesus in the poor and the ill, St. Katharina established the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, along with four other women, in a small wooden house. Their mission is to minister to the sick and needy, especially children, and they are known for their love of simplicity. In the years since its founding, the community has spread from St. Katharina’s native Germany to Brazil, England, Germany, India, Kenya, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, and the United States.

Meanwhile Miss Morlino, like her great-grandmother’s great-great aunt, is serving the poor as a program development assistant at Catholic Charities of Ventura County.

St. Katharina Kasper, pray for us!


Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly“Who says Christmastime has to be perfect?” asks Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly, in a new column for the News Tribune of Tacoma, Washington.

An alumna, a member of the College’s Board of Governors, and a News Tribune reader-columnist, Mrs. Connolly offers a comical look back at the time she tried to get her nine children to stage a Nativity scene for the family Christmas card. “I managed to get in a couple of pictures before the branch holding James broke,” she writes. “My angel plummeted right into our makeshift manger, almost killing ‘baby Jesus.’”

Yet in what she calls “authentic chaos,” there is a certain beauty reflective of the real Nativity:

It is said, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” As a weathered mama, I disagree. Love means always saying you’re sorry and beginning anew — embracing each other’s wounded, rustic, imperfect hearts over and over again.

It’s like that very real Christmas, 2,000 years ago, the one that lived and breathed in Bethlehem.

No room in the inn. Really? Only a smelly barn? A homeless, teenage, pregnant girl riding on a donkey in labor? No beautiful layette and crib? Just old sheets and an animal trough? But in that rustic, imperfect, messy world, love, light and a true family were born.

Peace, says Mrs. Connelly,  can be found no matter how difficult the circumstance: “It’s buried under the stress and the mess, but it’s there, and it comes out in unexpected places.”


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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

“With an academic program as rigorous as Thomas Aquinas College’s, and with a long line of successful alumni, Thomas Aquinas College is essential to the health of our Church in the United States and beyond.”

– The Most Rev. Thomas Daly

Bishop of Spokane