Faith in Action Blog
A group of seminarians, including Michael Masteller (’13), middle row-left, with the Most Rev. José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles
There are 62 priests among the Thomas Aquinas College alumni, but none yet in the College’s own Archdiocese of Los Angeles. By God’s grace, that will soon change.
On August 8, Michael Masteller (’13) entered the Archdiocese’s St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. “From the seminary, I can still see Topatopa,” he says of the mountain range that rises above the College’s campus. “I love Thomas Aquinas College. I love California. I love the Church. And all these things meet here.”
Michael Masteller (’13) during his teaching days in Kenosha, WisconsinIt was during his time at the College that Mr. Masteller first began to discern seriously his vocation. “Obviously the great access we have to the Sacraments, daily Mass, and confession, as well as always having the Chapel available for prayer, was very helpful,” he says. “The biggest thing for me, though, was that in Bl. Serra Hall we had a group of guys who took our studies and growing in faith very seriously. Two guys were doing holy hours every morning at 6 a.m. in the Guadalupe Chapel, and they invited me to join them. At first I thought I was too busy and turned them down, but then I went once, and it was really good. So I started going every day.”
This daily prayer routine would soon bear good fruit. “That holy hour made me feel God’s love for me and gave me incredible peace. When you feel the love of God in a profound way, it flows out into your friendships with other people and the work that you do. Everything in your life becomes better,” he says. “That experience of being closer to God, of committing to Him, it changed my life. It made me a better person.”
Upon graduating, Mr. Masteller spent two years teaching at a Catholic high school in Wisconsin, during which time he decided to pursue a diocesan vocation. “I was working with these great kids who had lots of potential, but who never really had strong leaders in the Faith,” he recalls. “That experience of really teaching my students, growing with them, walking with them — seeing so many souls at a normal parish who need good guidance — that steered me away from a more contemplative religious community and toward diocesan work. I want to be on the front lines and help the lost sheep come back into the fold.”
He considered entering the seminary for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, but Providence ultimately led him back to Southern California instead. “There were a lot of good priests out there, and I met with Milwaukee’s vocations director,” Mr. Masteller says. “But when he handed me the application to their seminary, I just knew it wasn’t where I was supposed to be. With a little more prayer, I knew I wanted to come back and minister to the ‘home parish,’ where I grew up and spent most of my life. I want to give the rest of my life to God in the service of this archdiocese.”
Another influence in his return to Los Angeles was the work of his bishop, the Most Rev. José H. Gomez. “A few years ago a friend gave me a copy of the Archbishop’s book Men of Great Heart,” he recalls. “Then Fr. Buckley randomly walked up to me and gave me the same book. ‘OK,’ I thought, ‘people want me to become a priest.’ I put it in on the shelf and never really read it. But later, when I was in Wisconsin, I began to read it, and it gave me courage by showing me the example of other brave men and women who have gone before me and given their lives to Christ. That really helped me to finish my discernment and to enter the seminary. It also gave me a lot of confidence in our bishop, to see how he is both deeply intellectual and passionate about the Faith.”
By virtue of his studies at the College, Mr. Masteller has been exempted from first-year pre-theology classes and now enters the seminary as a second-year student. God willing, his ordination as the first alumnus priest in the archdiocese is just six years away.
Rev. Jacob (Joseph ’06) Hsieh, O.Praem., with his parents and the Most Rev. Kevin William Vann, Bishop of Orange
On Saturday, June 27, the Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Rev. Jacob (Joseph ’06) Hsieh, O.Praem., received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, becoming the Colleges’ 62nd alumnus priest. Fr. Jacob’s ordination came at the hands of the Most Rev. Kevin William Vann, Bishop of Orange and the College’s 2013 Convocation Speaker. It took place at the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, where many alumni and friends of the College were on hand to witness the occasion.
Two days later, Fr. Jacob offered his Mass of Thanksgiving on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. He now takes up his first assignment, teaching Gregorian chant to the novices in his community, the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. An accomplished musician, he has performed at Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and, this past Easter, he chanted the Exsultet at the papal Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. For the past year leading up to his ordination, he studied theology and chant at the Norbertine Generalte in Rome.
“One of my teachers at high school was a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College. He made me love the pursuit of truth and showed me how rich the Catholic faith is. This influenced me to go to Thomas Aquinas College,” Fr. Jacob reflects in the Norbertines’ electronic newsletter. “There, I met Fr. Michael Perea, a confrere at St. Michael’s who was one of the chaplains that year and who suggested I come to visit the abbey. I fell in love with the common life that was thriving there: the pursuit of holiness and truth in fraternal charity. I decided to join the abbey after my senior year.”
Fr. Jacob offers a blessing to Director of Gift Planning Tom SusankaAmong those who witnessed Fr. Jacob’s ordination were two members of the College’s faculty, Director of Development Robert Bagdazian and Director of Gift Planning Tom Susanka. On behalf of the College, they presented its newest alumnus priest with two gifts that, God willing, provide him with spiritual strength: Bl. John Henry Newman’s Parochial and Plain Sermons and one of the knotted Rosaries that a friend of Founding President Ronald P. McArthur has given the College’s graduates in each of the last two years.
“It was wonderful to get to see Fr. Jacob humbly and reverently answer God’s call to the holy priesthood,” says Mr. Bagdazian. “We pray for him in his new ministry, and we thank God for continuing to use the College to bless the world with more good and holy priests.”
The photo above comes from this Saturday’s ordination of Rev. Joshua Mayer (’03) at the hands of the Most Rev. James S. Wall, Bishop of Gallup. Numerous Thomas Aquinas College alumni and their families traveled to New Mexico for the occasion, marking the ordination of the College’s 61st alumnus priest. Deo gratias!
Below, Fr. Mayer offers a priestly blessing to the family Theresa (Smith) and John Minkel (both ’03):
The video above promotes the release of a new musical album, Benedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia, which features the voices of three alumni monks: Rev. Thomas Bolin, O.S.B. (’96), Br. Mary Evagrius Hayden, O.S.B. (’08), and Br. Philp Wilmeth (’13).
The three graduates are members of an 18-member Benedictine community at Monastero San Benedetto, a 1,000-year-old monastery in Norcia, Italy, birthplace of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica. Fr. Thomas serves as the community’s subprior; Br. Evagrius is currently pursuing graduate studies at the International Theological Institute in Trumau, Austria; and Br. Philip is set to make his simple vows on September 8, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The album, drawn from the monks’ daily life of prayer, features 33 tracks of Gregorian chant, including traditional Marian antiphons such as “Regina Caeli” and “Ave Regina Caelorum,” as well as previously unrecorded chant versions of responsories and an original composition, “Nos Qui Christi Iugum.” Benedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia is available for sale via amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and directly from the Monks of Norcia website.
The video above comes from this year’s Easter Vigil Mass, offered by His Holiness Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica. Chanting the Exsultet is a graduate of the College, Frater Jacob, O.Praem. (Joseph Hsieh ’06).
A Norbertine canon and a transitional deacon, Frater Jacob is currently studying theology and music at the Norbertine Generalte in Rome. He is due to return stateside in time for his ordination to the priesthood on June 27.
Exsúltet iam angélica turba cælórum:
Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
Alleluia, alleluia, He is risen!
In 2008 Dean Brian T. Kelly (’88) introduced Rev. Gerard George Steckler, S.J., at an Alumni Association dinner held in the former chaplain’s honor. In light of Fr. Steckler’s death last week, the College has published the text of Dr. Kelly’s remarks — a beautiful recollection of a good and holy priest.
Please continue to pray for Fr. Steckler and the repose of his soul.
It is fitting that during this, the Church’s Year of Consecrated Life, Thomas Aquinas College marks the 30th anniversary of one of its most beloved priests, Rev. Thomas A. McGovern, S.J., who died on February 19, 1985.
A graduate of the Université Laval in Quebec, Fr. McGovern previously taught at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., before coming to Thomas Aquinas College in early 1972. He served as a member of the faculty and, later, the Board of Governors until his death in 1985. The following year he posthumously received the College’s highest honor, the Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion.
Eleven alumni of the College have share some of their memories of the late tutor and Jesuit, which you can read here.
Rev. Christian Felkner, O.S.B. (’01) made a homecoming visit to his alma mater this week, and this morning he offered Mass in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. Photos from this morning’s Mass are available in the slideshow below:
Fr. Felkner is a monk at Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek Abbey in Hulbert, Oklahoma, where priests offer the Mass in the extraordinary form. He is among the College’s newest alumni priests, having been ordained — along with Rev. Andrew Norton, O.S.B. (’06) — on October 26, 2014.
The Most Rev. Gregory Parkes, Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee, confers the Sacrament of Holy Orders on Rev. Matthew Busch (’04) at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Pensacola, Florida, on May 10, 2014. Source: Knights of Columbus, Tallahassee
“Sixty,” reflects Rev. Matthew Busch (’04), upon learning that he is Thomas Aquinas College’s 60th alumnus priest. “That is a very divisible number.”
These wry words bespeak two notable characteristics about this newly ordained priest of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. First, Fr. Busch is a mathematical thinker, ruminating on the works of Galileo and Decartes and, in his spare time, devising patentable software algorithms. Second, he is personable, even gregarious — at ease in any crowd and quick with a joke or a witty rejoinder. These two qualities both played an important role in helping him to discern his vocation.Read more
Following the lead of Gregory A. Pesely (’77), Kelly Geier (’76) has offered some of his own memories of late tutor Rev. Thomas A. McGovern, S.J. Mr. Geier, a senior software engineer at Welch Allyn in San Diego, writes:
“I had the privilege on many occasions to play tennis with Dr. McArthur and Fr. McGovern. Fr. McGovern, when on the court, was a serious competitor.
“During meals at the TAC cafeteria, Fr. McGovern frequently joked that no one had eaten more ‘TAC food’ than he had. But, he said, ‘I feel fine,’ and he laughed.
“As a tutor, regardless of the subject matter, his enthusiasm was infectious to all of us.
“On a number of occasions, Fr. McGovern heard my confession. Despite my disappointment in myself, he was always kind, encouraging, and wise in his advice.
“When he delivered his homilies, he had a gift for inflaming the hearts of his listeners with the same love for God that he had.”
A collection of those inspiring homilies is now available for all to read and treasure. Copies of The Selected Sermons of Rev. Thomas A. McGovern, S.J., are available via the College’s online form.
As Mr. Geier notes, “We are truly blessed that Fr. McGovern was a part of the College.”