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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Two alumnae have recently published thoughtful essays about last month’s tragic referendum in Ireland, in which voters embraced the culture of death by eliminating constitutional protections for the unborn. Both authors consider the cause of this devastating outcome, while offering some hope, born of faith, that this sorrowful chapter need not be the end of the story.

Emily Sullivan (’11) Emily Sullivan (’11)Writing on Mere Orthodox, Emily (Barry ’11) Sullivan, a proud Irish-American, mourns for her ancestral people, whom she long believed to be “rebellious in the face of evil authority and stubborn when it comes to what’s right.” The mother of three and the northeast program manager for ENDOW, Mrs. Sullivan writes:

What the British unsuccessfully tried to accomplish for centuries — the radical acceptance of the lie that the world will be a better place with fewer Irish, by blood shed if necessary — has now been voluntarily championed by a majority of free Irish citizens. How has the Irish’s generational memory become so short and impoverished? …

In my mind, this is nothing short of historical and ancestral patricide. The heritage and character and legacy which modern Irish citizens have as their birthright has been forsaken. Where once the Irish preserved the light, and shone as a beacon to nations consumed by darkness, they now clamor for and invite the darkness to engulf them as well.…

And yet, she refuses to despair:

The country that gave rise to countless unnamed Catholic martyrs and heroes of the Irish rebellion against a British dictatorship, may yet see a new generation of Irish men and women, who like their fathers and mothers before them, will persevere in standing up for the inherent dignity of their countrymen; who, like their prolife brothers and sisters in America, will never surrender and go on fighting for truth and goodness while the rest of the darkened world insists that murder of the unborn is an unequivocal good; who will be unrelenting in finding ways to love and encourage mothers in crisis pregnancies to choose life for their precious babies.

Suzie Andres (’87) Suzie Andres (’87)Meanwhile, writing on her personal blog, Miss Marcel’s Musings, Suzie Andres (’87) contemplates the spiritual dimension of the vote:

Can we really be surprised that after a series of bad decisions beginning shortly after our establishment in the Garden of Eden, we’ve flubbed it again?

I’ll admit it. I was surprised. I had hoped for better; I had hoped our prayers for life would be answered, but once again, God has this crazy idea that free will (and the suffering that often follows in its wake) is better than The Divine Puppet Show I envision …

The author of three books, an essayist, and the mother of two, Mrs. Andres reminds her readers of these consoling words of St. John of the Cross, “See that you are not suddenly saddened by the adversities of this world, for you do not know the good they bring, being ordained in the judgments of God for the everlasting joy of the elect.” Then, she adds:

“That puts our Irish disappointment into perspective, doesn’t it? Heaven isn’t letting our antics distract from the awesome reality of God’s eternal Providence: He has not forgotten us nor will He let us stray forever.”

Put your trust in God, and pray unceasingly.

St. Patrick, pray for us!

Br. Augustine, O.S.B. (Philip Wilmeth ’13) with brother John Parker (’15) and his fiancée Br. Augustine, O.S.B. (Philip Wilmeth ’13) with brother John Parker (’15) and his fiancée

Five years ago, just months after graduating from Thomas Aquinas College, Philip Wilmeth (’13) departed for Norcia, Italy, where he joined the Benedictine Order at the Monastery of San Benedetto. Two years later, he made his first vows and took the name of Br. Augustine, O.S.B. And one year after that, he was in Norcia — birthplace of Saints Benedict and Scholastica — when the city was devastated not once, but twice, by earthquake.

Now, as his monastery and region rebuilds, Br. Augustine has committed himself to serving both for the rest of his earthly life. On Friday, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, he made his final profession, taking the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and pledging himself to a life of prayer in this thriving community of Benedictine monks, where he works as the brewmaster for the order’s world-renowned beer.

Thanks be to God! Please pray for Br. Augustine and all of his confreres, especially fellow alumnus Br. Mary Evagrius Hayden, O.S.B. (’08).

Sr. Maria Battista of the Lamb of God (Maria Forshaw ’07) Sr. Maria Battista of the Lamb of God (Maria Forshaw ’07)Please pray for Sr. Maria Battista of the Lamb of God (Maria Forshaw ’07), who on Saturday will profess her final vows at the Carmel of St. Joseph in St. Louis, Missouri. 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. “Maria is so grateful to the College for its profound influence on her and her religious vocation,” reports her mother, Liza Forshaw.

Thanks be to God!

Stephen Grimm (’75)Benefactors, friends, and the families of St. Monica Academy in Pasadena, California, recently hosted a “Gatsby Gala,” at which they honored the school’s longtime choir director, Stephen Grimm (’75). As part of the night’s festivities, the treasurer of the school’s Board of Directors, Khushro Ghandhi, presented Mr. Grimm with the Ostia Award — named for the Italian port town where St. Monica and her son, St. Augustine, shared a vision of heaven — in recognition of the work that Mr. Grimm has done for the school since its founding in 2001. “Stephen is an especially appropriate winner of this award,” reads the tribute that accompanied its presentation, as “he has often brought us to experience, from the mouths of our own children, heavenly beauty.”

The tribute continues:

The fifth of Bill and Irene Grimm’s 17 children, Stephen grew up immersed in classical music. At the age of 5, he started to compose his own tunes on the piano and when he was 8 he joined the St. Philip’s boys’ choir and began formal piano study. By high school, he was performing all over Southern California as the accompanist and sole baritone for the Grimm Family Singers. By the time he reached college, Stephen had internalized a large repertoire of music, was composing his own, and was an accomplished pianist and accompanist.

Throughout his busy career as a professional vocalist, director, and accompanist, Stephen made time to teach voice, piano, and choir to countless students, mostly children, often pro bono. Few professionals have the patience to work with children, but Stephen Grimm has made it his life’s work. At one point, he was conducting five choirs driving hundreds of miles a week — Saints Felicitas and Perpetua Church, Thomas Aquinas College, Mayfield Senior School, St. Francis High School, and Christ the King Homeschool — mostly youth choirs, all successful choirs — either in festivals, recordings, or grateful parishioners.

In 2018 Stephen is still conducting — a grateful group of adults in Pasadena Pro Musica but also the St. Monica Academy Choir. That’s 107 teens! His choirs, even of children, are always notable for the beauty of their tone quality, even when, as at SMA, he teaches all students, without auditions. His philosophy is that “anyone can be taught to sing.” We believe him because we have seen him turn “tone deaf” kids into star performers! It can be done, but it takes heroic patience. There may be the occasional bursts of exasperation, but Stephen’s students are never fooled by his gruffness: When he is upset, they know it was because he cares about them and about the music, and that he expects excellence from them.

Stephen has been blessed in his life and career with the support of Laura, his beautiful wife of 40 years, who is also a talented musician. He is also the proud father of three children, Gabriel, Elizabeth, and Gregory, and the even prouder “Papa” to 15 grandchildren!

Part of the mission, the vision, of St. Monica Academy is to put students in possession of their cultural legacy. Thanks to Stephen Grimm, our students have an appreciation and love of their musical heritage, especially of the Church’s choral traditions. Our graduates have taken that love with them all over the world. Thank you, Mr. Grimm, for sharing so much heavenly beauty with us!

Katie Short (’80) and Stephanie Packer, whose insurance company denied her life-prolonging treatment while offering to pay for a lethal dose of barbiturates. Katie Short (’80) and Stephanie Packer, whose insurance company denied her life-prolonging treatment while offering to pay for a lethal dose of barbiturates.

When an alumni-led team of attorneys from the Life Legal Defense Foundation successfully overturned California’s assisted-suicide law on May 15, their victory was sweeping, but tenuous. Despite declaring the law unconstitutional, Judge Daniel Ottolia left it in effect for five days to allow the state attorney general time to obtain relief from a higher court. 

On May 23, however, the Fourth District of the Court of Appeals denied the attorney general’s motion for a stay pending appeal. And on that afternoon Judge Ottolia signed his order declaring the legislation unconstitutional and striking the “End of Life Option Act” from California law.

Attorneys from Life Legal — whose president is Paul Blewett (’85) and whose vice president for legal affairs is Katie Short (’80) — spearheaded the effort to defeat the law, which went into effect in June 2016. “Life Legal has always maintained that the End of Life Act violates the Constitution and California’s long-standing public policy protecting its citizens from being ‘helped’ to commit suicide,” says Alexandra Snyder, the foundation’s executive director. “We are pleased that the court’s ruling will restore the protection that the Act removed from the ill and vulnerable.”

Thanks be to God!

Alas, vigilance is still necessary: The state may decide to appeal the ruling to the court of appeal or California Supreme Court, and proponents will no doubt try again to enact similar legislation. Please continue to pray for the attorneys at Life Legal, and all those committed to protecting the dignity of human life in all stages.

Leprechaun baby holds sign proclaiming, "Save Little People - Protect the 8th"

With Ireland poised to eliminate constitutional and legal protections for the unborn, alumnus cartoonist Pat Cross (’14) has produced the above, whimsical yet poignant plea. Please pass it along, and please pray that the people of Ireland vote for life on Friday!

Chapel candle rack

Please pray for Nick Cammarota (’84), an alumnus and chairman of the College’s Sacramento Board of Regents, who is hospitalized due to a recent injury. Writes his wife, Antonia:

Nick fell Tuesday morning and sustained some serious injuries, including two fractures in his lower back, a skull fracture, and a bleed around his brain called a subarachnoid hemorrhage. He is being carefully monitored in the ICU for now. He is in a lot of pain, and healing will take some time. We have ruled out a number of significant causes for the fall, but we are otherwise unsure why it happened. We would be so grateful for your prayers.

May God please bless Nick and his family!

Dean of the University of Notre Dame Graduate School, Dr. Laura Carlson, presents the Shaheen Award in Humanities to Thomas Aquinas College tutor Dr. Joshua Noble (’10) Dean of the University of Notre Dame Graduate School, Dr. Laura Carlson, presents the Shaheen Award in Humanities to Thomas Aquinas College tutor Dr. Joshua Noble (Photo by Peter Ringenberg/University of Notre Dame)

At its commencement ceremonies this past weekend, the University of Notre Dame honored a member of the Thomas Aquinas College teaching faculty, Dr. Joshua Noble.

A 2010 graduate of the College, Dr. Noble earned a master’s degree in early Christian Studies at Notre Dame in 2012. He then stayed on to pursue a doctorate in Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity, which he completed, save for the dissertation, in 2017. He became a tutor at the College last fall, and in April he returned to South Bend to successfully defend his dissertation, “Common Property, the Golden Age, and Empire in Acts 2:42–47 and 4:32–35.”

Over the weekend Dr. Noble was at Notre Dame once more, where he formally received his doctoral degree as well as the University’s Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Graduate School Award, which recognizes the top graduate students in engineering, the humanities, social sciences, and science. “A specialist of Christianity and Judaism in antiquity and gifted linguist,” Notre Dame News reports, Dr. Noble “is recognized for his exceptional scholarship, which argues for the reliance of the Acts of the Apostles on the Greco-Roman Golden Age myth.”

“My dissertation explores the symbolism of the practice of common property in light of Virgil’s pronouncement of a returning Golden Age under Augustus,” says Dr. Noble, who will soon enter his second year as tutor at the College. “I’m quite happy with the dissertation, but I’m even happier to be done with it and able to concentrate fully on teaching!”

Life Legal attorneys, including Katie Short (’80, third from right), with the family of Stephanie Packer, whose insurance company said it would pay for “aid-in-dying” drugs, but not the chemotherapy she needed. Life Legal attorneys, including Katie Short (’80, third from right), with the family of Stephanie Packer, whose insurance company said it would pay for “aid-in-dying” drugs, but not the chemotherapy she needed.

After two years of vigorous legal battle, an alumni-led legal team has succeeded in overturning California’s assisted-suicide law. On Tuesday, Riverside Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia blocked the 2015 legislation, ruling that that it was passed unconstitutionally.

Attorneys from the Life Legal Defense Foundation — whose president is Paul Blewett (’85) and whose vice president for legal affairs is Katie Short (’80) — spearheaded the effort to defeat the law, which went into effect in June 2016. “This is huge!” says Mr. Blewett. “The Superior Court in Riverside granted Life Legal’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and set aside the California assisted-suicide law based on the way in which it was passed. The state has five days to file an emergency writ, but as of now, the law is invalid.”

When the legislation originated in the California legislature, its pro-life opponents successfully blocked it at the committee level. Thus Gov. Jerry Brown and other euthanasia enthusiasts attempted to bypass the normal legislative process by ramming through the bill at a special session that was called, in the Governor’s own proclamation, “to consider and act upon legislation necessary to enact permanent and sustainable funding from a new managed care organization tax and/or alternative fund sources.”

In other words, the purpose of the special session had nothing to do with assisted suicide. And, as such, Judge Ottolia has now confirmed, the law is invalid.

“This ruling affirms that assisted suicide advocates circumvented the legislative process,” another graduate of the College, Matthew Valliere (’05), executive director of the Patients Rights Action Fund, told the Los Angeles Times. “It represents a tremendous blow to the assisted suicide legalization movement and puts state legislatures on notice regarding the political trickery of groups like Compassion and Choices.”

The battle, however, is not yet over. Judge Ottolia has given the state attorney general five days to appeal his ruling, and even if that effort fails, assisted-suicide proponents will no doubt propose new legislation. Please continue to keep the attorneys at Life Legal, and all those committed to protecting the dignity of human life in all stages, in your prayers!

Sr. Mary Margaret O’Brien, O.P. (’00) Sr. Mary Margaret O’Brien, O.P. (’00)The Facebook page of St. Agnes School in St. Paul, Minnesota, recently announced the newest member of its faculty: Sr. Mary Margaret O’Brien, O.P. (’00), who will be teaching at the elementary level.

A member of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Sr. Mary Margaret holds a post-baccalaureate teaching certificate from Eastern Michigan University and two master’s degrees: the first, in elementary education, from the University of Southern Mississippi, and the second, in theology, from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.

At St. Agnes Sr. Mary Margaret will be joining two fellow graduates: Eileen (Keating ’93) Douglass, who teaches upper-level English, and Rev. Mark Moriarty (’95), the school’s superintendent. St. Agnes School is a perennial honoree on the Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Education Honor Roll, which recognizes schools marked by “the integration of Catholic identity throughout all aspects of their programs,” “excellence in academics,” and “an institutional commitment to providing a truly integrated and faithful Catholic education.”

“I have taught elementary school for nine years in Colorado, Michigan, Florida, and California,” writes Sr. Mary Margaret. “I love to tell stories and help students fall in love with Our Lord!”

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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


“I admire this college and your faithfulness to the Church’s mission for higher education and the New Evangelization.”

– The Most Rev. José H. Gomez

Archbishop of Los Angeles