Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Dr. Pia de Solenni (’93) Dr. Pia de Solenni (’93)Last week the Most Rev. Kevin Vann, Bishop of Orange, California, created a new position in his diocese — Theological Consultant to the Office of the Bishop — to which he appointed, effective immediately, an alumna of the College, Dr. Pia de Solenni (’93).

In her new role, Dr. de Solenni “collaborates and advises key members of the Curia, including the Bishop, on pertinent matters of theology, doctrine, and Church history,” according to a diocesan press release. She will also continue in her responsibilities as the associate dean of the Augustine Institute’ new satellite campus at the Christ Cathedral in Orange.

“Pia is an inspirational and well-respected theologian and leader,” said Bishop Vann, who presided at the College’s Convocation ceremonies in 2013. “We are blessed as a Diocese to benefit from her expertise, passion, and faith. I look forward to the many gifts that she will bring to the people of Orange.”

An ethicist and theologian, Dr. de Solenni (’93) is an expert on life issues, issues relating to women’s health, the new feminism, and culture. After graduating from Thomas Aquinas College, she earned a Sacred Theology Baccalaureate from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) and a Sacred Theology Doctorate, summa cum laude, from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. In 2001 Pope St. John Paul II awarded her the Prize of the Pontifical Academies for her groundbreaking dissertation — an analysis of feminist theories in the light of St. Thomas Aquinas’ teachings. (Fellow graduate Dr. John R. Mortensen (’97) would become only the second North American to win this same prize in 2010.)

Dr. de Solenni has published articles in The Wall Street Journal Europe, The Washington Post, National Catholic Reporter, Our Sunday Visitor, and National Review Online. She has also appeared on MSNBC, Hardball with Chris Matthews, The O’Reilly Factor, CNN, and ABC News, among others. She also appears regularly on the Catholic Answers Live radio program.


Joshua Brittain (’15) Joshua Brittain (’15)The Arizona Republic last week published a compelling story and video about the Class of 2015 Commencement Speaker, Joshua Brittain (’15), who has succeeded his father, Tom (’96), as the Head Coach of the Tempe Preparatory Academy varsity football team, and who suffers from cerebral palsy. “At 26, he can’t ski or roller-blade, and he needs help if he wants to climb the stairs to get to the top of the gym,” notes author Scott Bordow. “And there’s his gait, awkward and pronounced, the bend of the right knee, the right foot dragging across the gravel.”

“Yet to focus on his walk is to miss the point — and miss the man,” Mr. Bordow continues. “Cerebral palsy doesn’t define him. It never has. He’s certain it never will.”

Indeed, Mr. Brittain dismisses his mild case of cerebral palsy as a “minor cross” that is, like all crosses, a gift from God. “I’m very thankful that I have it because the things that are the most important in my life, my gift of soul and the very few virtues I have are in large part because of this,” he says. “Life isn’t about what you can’t do,” he adds. “It’s about getting the most out of what you have.”

To that end, he is making the most of his opportunity, at the unusually young age of 26, to coach a major high school football program, as well as in his day job as a history teacher at Chandler Preparatory Academy. He and his wife, Kaitlyn (Carlson ’16) are currently expecting their first child.

The Arizona Republic story notes that, when meeting with his students’ parents, Mr. Brittain “makes it a point to ‘walk strong’” — calling to mind these words from the Commencement Address he delivered some 18 months ago:

So, I exhort the Class of 2015, when it leaves these hallowed halls for the last time, leave with hearts full of love. Then, whatever road Our Lord asks you to walk, walk with courage; walk with a humble heart that longs to serve God and His church; and know that you walk with the illuminating power of love in your heart. For it is love that you have fostered and it is love that stands as a lighthouse for your soul.


Alumnus Paul Lazenby (’10), director of the College’s Annual Fund, is, in his spare time, an amateur aerial photographer. Using his trusty drone, he recently produced the above video, which beautifully captures the academic quadrangle, the walkable Stations of the Cross, the lower campus, and Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. It also features music by the Thomas Aquinas College Choir. Enjoy!


Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, <em>The Return of the Prodigal Son<em>, 1667/1670 Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1667/1670

In the Year of Mercy and the Catechist, a lengthy, thoughtful talk that Martha (Schaeffer ’76) Long presented at the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia’s February conference for catechetical leaders, has recently been made available online. 

A lady of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, a master catechist, and an expert on catechesis and sacred art, Mrs. Long has been teaching religious education in Arlington for more than 20 years. Her talk, presented to parish catechetical directors and coordinators, is a wide-ranging examination of the origins and purpose of jubilee years, a thorough analysis of the role of mercy throughout the Old and New Testaments, a study of various artistic depictions of the parable of the Prodigal Son, and a practical account of how Catholics can avail themselves of the special graces that the Holy Father has made available in this extraordinary year.

It is also a testimonial about mercy in the life, and death, of the believer.

In a rather personal portion of the talk, Mrs. Long speaks candidly about her husband, Kevin Long (’77), who, after a decades-long struggle with severe bipolar disorder, took his life nearly two years ago. Since then, Mrs. Long has received countless spiritual consolations and numerous hints, some bordering on the miraculous, of Kevin’s eternal rest. “My constant prayer since August 19, 2014, has been for mercy. And I believe that Our Lord hears those prayers and will grant Kevin mercy, for as the psalmist says, ‘His mercy endures forever,’” she reflects.

Noting that “there are no limits to God’s mercy,” Mrs. Long remarks, “Divine Mercy is the form that God’s eternal love takes when He reaches out to us in the midst of our need and our brokenness. Whatever our misery might be — sin, guilt, suffering, or death — He is always ready to pour out his merciful, compassionate love for us, to help in time of need.”

The full address is available, in PDF format, via the Diocese of Arlington’s website.


Emily McBryan (’11), photo: The Catholic University of America Emily McBryan (’11), photo: The Catholic University of America

“Emily McBryan has always been intrigued by the ‘big questions.’”

So begins a profile of Miss McBryan, Class of 2011, on the website of The Catholic University of America, where she is now pursuing graduate studies in English literature. “During her undergraduate years,” the profile says, describing her time at Thomas Aquinas College, “she studied the heavyweights of philosophy and theology — Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, Kierkegaard — eager to know whether the things she had been taught in high school would withstand scrutiny.”

In philosophy and theology tutorials, she found the intellectual substantiation she sought, but it was in her seminar classes — reading great works of literature — that she discovered her passion. “I found that literature encompasses all of those things philosophy and theology are talking about,” Miss McBryan says. “Literature offers an account of the human experience, of man trying to make sense of his being in the world.”

After graduating from the College, she taught three years of middle and high school English, before enrolling at The Catholic University, where she is concentrating on literature of the American South. There, she is joined by Sophia (Mason ’09) Feingold, who is completing a doctorate, and she will soon be joined by Jane Forsyth (’11), who will enter the literature program in August.


 Student and Alumnae at the GIVEN Forum Kathryn Claahsen (’12), Bridget Heffernan (’13), Clara Diodati (’17), Bridget Lynch (’12), Meghan Reichert (’18), Emily Sanchez (’17), and Emily (Barry ’11) Sullivan

The seven women pictured above, four alumnae and three current students at Thomas Aquinas College, all participated in the recently concluded GIVEN Catholic Young Women’s Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C.

Organized by the Council of  Major Superiors of Women Religious — whose former chair, Sr. Regina Marie Gorman, O.C.D., was the College’s 2015 Commencement Speaker — the forum included 300 Catholic lay women from across the United States, joined by 75 religious sisters. Its purpose was to provide faith formation to selected attendees, aiding them in their work within their parishes, communities, or dioceses. The weeklong forum included talks from prominent women leaders within the Church, such as Helen Alvaré and Sr. Mary Prudence Allen, R.S.M., as well as small mentoring groups.

In order to attend the forum, participants had to complete a rigorous application that included three letters of recommendation and a detailed action plan for upcoming projects related to their work or apostolates. All expenses for the forum, including travel and accommodations at The Catholic University of America, were paid for through the generous support of the Hilton Foundation.


The video above is a message of welcome from the incoming headmaster of Holy Spirit Academy in Monticello, Minnesota — Andrew M. Lang (’06). A private high school that features a classical curriculum, Holy Spirit strives to offer a faithfully Catholic education in “an environment grounded in the Truth, which prepares students for a life at the service of others.”

Previously Mr. Lang, who studied at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California, served as a pastoral associate for a cluster of four parishes in Bellevue, Iowa. He officially assumes his new post at Holy Spirit Academy on July 1.

“Please join me in my prayers,” writes this husband and father of five, “for a peaceful and expedient transition for my family and for continued success under my leadership of this promising classical Catholic high school.”


Book cover: Priestly CelibacyWhenever the matter of mandatory priestly discipline arises, the arguments put forth in its defense are typically practical in nature, touching on matters pastoral or even financial, but seldom theological. Recognizing this shortcoming in the ongoing discussion, Rev. Gary B Selin, STD (’89) has authored a new scholarly work, Priestly Celibacy: Theological Foundations, which proposes a systematic theology of priestly celibacy, ordered around the Eucharist.

An assistant professor and the formation director at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Fr. Selin holds a doctorate in systematic theology from The Catholic University of America, which is the publisher of this, his first book. Priestly Celibacy, according to the publisher’s description, explores the “Christological, ecclesiological, and eschatological dimensions” of the Church’s ancient discipline:

“The volume begins with a summary of the biblical foundations of clerical continence and celibacy, and then reviews the development of the discipline in the Latin Church from the patristic era to the twentieth century, while also tracing the emerging theology that underlies the practice. The focus then switches to the teaching of Vatican II, Paul VI and subsequent magisterial texts, as elaborated through the threefold dimension of celibacy. The final two chapters consists of Selin’s original contribution to the discussion, particularly in the form of various proposals for a systematic theology of priestly celibacy.”

Released on April 14, Priestly Celibacy: Theological Foundations includes a foreword by His Eminence J. Francis Cardinal Stafford, Major Penitentiary Emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary and the former Archbishop of Denver. The book is available via Amazon.com.


Bishop Brennan blesses St. Monica Academy

In August this blog reported on an education success story in Montrose, California, where St. Monica Academy — a private, Catholic K-12 school run largely by Thomas Aquinas College alumni — was moving to a new, larger campus, due to the steady growth of its student body. Although the move took place over the summer, and St. Monica’s has been operating on its new campus since the fall, the relocation achieved its true consummation last week when the local bishop visited the campus to offer his blessing.

On April 5, the Most Rev. Joseph V. Brennan, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, walked through the campus, surrounded by 10 student acolytes, stopping to bless each classroom, the high school buildings, the athletic field, and the playground with holy water. “I felt the grace of God descend upon the school,” says Headmaster Marguerite (Ford ’79) Grimm, calling the event, “a historic day for St. Monica Academy.”

Founded with just 44 students in 2001, St. Monica’s has seen its enrollment swell to 242 this year. It is a mainstay on the Cardinal Newman Society’s list of “Schools of Excellence,” a ranking of the top Catholic schools across the United States, which also includes several others that are headed by Thomas Aquinas College alumni. 

In addition to Mrs. Grimm, there are 11 other alumni on the St. Monica’s faculty: Mary Kate Zepeda (’89), Darren Bradley (’98), Alexandra Currie (’05), Genevieve Grimm (’05), Paula Grimm (’08), Daniel Selmeczy (’08), Marisela Miranda (’09), Jane Forsyth (’11), Colleen Smith (’11), Thomas Quackenbush (’14), and Thomas Trull (’15). Like the College, St. Monica’s employs a classical curriculum and stresses fidelity to the teaching Church.


Alumnus Author: Holy Week & Don Quixote

“There is a wisdom that belongs to idiots,” writes alumni author Sean Fitzpatrick (’02). “Don Quixote may be mad, but there are forms of madness that are divine.”

In a thoughtful piece for Crisis timed for Holy Week, Don Quixote and the Via Dolorosa, Mr. Fitzgerald considers Miguel de Cervantes’ Adventures of Don Quixote as a fitting Lenten read:

“The adventures of Don Quixote are a Passion where the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. The novel takes up its cross, chapter after chapter, and follows after Christ. Chapter after chapter, the Knight of the Sorrowful Face falls, and, chapter after chapter, he gets up again and continues on. It is a book that plays out with all the pain and poignancy, all the humanity and humor, that composes the chivalric call of the Christian life. …

“[It] is the Lenten quest of every Christian soul: to bring harmony and order to times that are out of joint. What Don Quixote finds is that the world is sundered and senseless, and the work to rebuild among the ruins is treacherous. Though he is trampled and trounced time and again, Don Quixote resolutely rides on for the unity and wisdom of bygone days and is upheld by his vision as he battles through the divisions and disconnections of modernity.”

The headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Mr. Fitzpatrick writes frequently for Crisis. The complete article complete article is available via the magazine’s website.