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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

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.”

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!

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Patrick Nazeck (’19) -- quote 2

“Here I am surrounded by other people my age who share my interests, who value their education as much as I do, and whom I can have fun with while still learning about big ideas. It is an awesome experience that I have never found anywhere else.”

– Patrick Nazeck (’19)

Ridgecrest, California


“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