Faith in Action Blog
Sara Majkowski ('14), front right, and fellow members of Catholics in Action
Less than one year since her graduation, Sara Majkowski (’14) is living just outside of Phoenix, where she is an educator by day and — in her spare time — she is learning the ropes of film production and finance.
This entrée to the movie business comes as a surprise. Like several other recent graduates, Miss Majkowski went to Phoenix to teach in the city’s rapidly expanding consortium of Great Hearts charter academies, classical schools that are, as she puts it, “very academically rigorous, with high standards in terms of behavior and academics.” But upon settling into her new city, she found herself a church — St. Anne’s in Gilbert — with ties to an emerging lay apostolate, Catholics in Action.
Directed by the pastor of St. Anne’s, Rev. Sergio Muñoz Fita, Catholics in Action is an American offshoot of Catholic Action, an international apostolate of the Secular Institute Servi Trinitatis. CIA, as it is known, is “about lay people obtaining sanctity in their lives as lay people,” Miss Majkowski explains. “We pray together in adoration. We receive spiritual formation. We reach out to the community, the poor, and young people who need formation, everything Christ directs us to do.”
Although a new member, Miss Majkowski is already heavily involved in CIA and its good works. She is helping to organize a trip to the 2016 World Youth Day in Poland, and she is busily raising funds for an upcoming film, Footprints.
The genesis of Footprints came about last summer, when two groups from St. Anne’s — one men, one women — made 40-day pilgrimages along Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela. A camera crew accompanied the men’s group, obtaining footage for a film that aims, Miss Majkowski says, “to document their spiritual experience, undergoing psychological trials and harsh physical demands.” There will be a premier screening in June and a general release, they expect, within a year. “I’m working on raising funds to complete production through a Kickstarter campaign, selling merchandise, approaching businesses, and spreading the word,” she says.
Meanwhile, Miss Majkowski thrives at Arete Preparatory Academy in Gilbert, where she teaches history and Latin to elementary-school students. “There is so much that goes into teaching — finding ways to make the lessons ‘stick,’ holding students’ attention, being responsible with grading, working with parents, and planning events,” she says. “I like it. I like it a lot.”
Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01) and Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05)
The latest issue of the Claremont Review of Books features one Thomas Aquinas College alumnus writing about another: Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01), a visiting assistant professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, reviews The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law, by Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05), an assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University.
“I wanted to title my review ‘Natural Law Photobombs Locke-ish Selfie: What Happens Next Will Shock Your Political Philosophy,” jokes Mr. Peterson via Facebook. “But they went with Nature Trail. I guess I’ll keep my day job.”
Alas, sans the Gawker-worthy headline, the review begins:
“The debate over what we mean when we speak of rights, especially in the American context, often concerns what John Locke understood them to mean. Locke’s ambiguity is a gift that keeps on giving to scholarly presses. In The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law, S. Adam Seagrave, a self-identified Aristotelian-Thomist, mercifully refrains from attempting the definitive commentary on what he rightly calls Locke’s ‘problematically vague and incomplete’ account of the basis of rights. Instead, he makes not a wholly Lockean but, as he says, a ‘Locke-ish’ case for how natural rights arise from the very structure of human beings.”
After a thoughtful analysis of Dr. Seagrave’s book — mostly positive, albeit sprinkled with a few objections — Dr. Peterson concludes his review with praise:
“[Dr. Seagrave] has eschewed the imposing vagaries of modern scholarship in favor of actually engaging in the act of philosophy rather than mere commentary or critique. True philosophic exploration of difficult questions is much like the art of negotiating a fair deal: if one side walks away in smug satisfaction, you’re probably not doing it right. Everyone will disagree with some chunk of S. Adam Seagrave’s provocative work, but his effort is a brave breath of fresh air in the stagnant, painfully insecure, and often comically compartmentalized world of academic books.”
The full review is available via the Claremont Review of Books.
“I do not see a flickering candle at the end of this year’s Lenten journey,” writes alumnus Mark Langley (’89) on his blog, Lion & Ox. “No, I see a burst of glory and the veritable Super Nova, that is Christ’s Resurrection from the tomb, and what’s more, I also see over two cases of a very fine pale ale, some of which will enable me to celebrate that Resurrection with more propriety.”
The founder and the academic dean of The Lyceum, a classical school in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Langley is also a husband, a father of 12, and an amateur brewer. In this last capacity, he has detected a relationship between his faith and his hobby. “Lent was specifically designed for brewing beer,” Mr. Langley writes. “The reason for this is obvious. Beer takes exactly 40 days (more or less) to ferment and grow from a weak sweet slop of ‘wort’ into a fine, noble, life-giving, heart-cheering, spiritually-enhancing liquid — whose foam raises itself in the glass as does incense in the chapel.”
And so, at the start of Lent, Mr. Langley began a new batch of English pale ale that will be ready precisely on Easter Sunday. “Of course we fast and pray for forty days first primarily in imitation of our Lord,” he observes. “But the same period of time is also roughly speaking an ideal space for brewing beer, and therefore I think it is obvious that this is a fitting thing for Christians to do in the first week of Lent.”
To read more of Mr. Langley’s musings on Lenten brewing, read the full post on his blog.
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.
Dr. Christopher A. Decaen (’93) now a tutor at the College, recently presented a Tutor Talk entitled, “Why the Burning Bush?” Audio of the talk is available via the player below, or by following this link.
Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87)In response to a rising demand for classical liberal education in Catholic schools, some Thomas Aquinas College graduates are working to prepare the next generation of Catholic school administrators. Under the auspices of their Institute for Catholic Education (ICLE), Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87) and Michael Van Hecke (’86) are hosting a webinar for Catholic teachers who are interested in becoming headmasters and headmistresses.
“The word is getting out that a rising number of Catholic schools are flourishing!” declares an ad for the webinar. “Their secret? A renewed commitment to the traditions of Catholic education — serious grounding in the classical liberal arts, immersion in Catholic history and culture, attention to developing virtue — resulting in communities that rejoice in the truth. Catholic schools are in growing need of leaders who can turn these ideals into living realities. Appeals for qualified and committed educators are constant. Searches are no longer merely regional, but national in scope.”
Dr. Seeley is a tutor at the College and ICLE’s executive director. Mr. Van Hecke, the Institute’s president and founder, is the headmaster of St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, California. Among the educators who will be leading the seminar is another graduate of the College, Luke Macik (’87), headmaster of the Lyceum, a classical liberal-arts high school in Cleveland, Ohio.
The three-hour online discussion, Answering the Call — An Introduction to Catholic School Leadership, will include Catholic educators from around the country. The webinar will take place on Saturday, February 21, at 10 a.m. Registration is $25.
As a demonstration “that commemorates those lives snuffed out before seeing the light of day,” the annual March for life, writes Sean Fitzpatrick (’02), “is, perhaps first and foremost, a funeral march.” The headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Mr. Fitzpatrick has penned a poignant and thoughtful reflection about today’s march for Crisis magazine, where he is a regular contributor. He observes:
“The March for Life is a witness to the Gospel of Life, demonstrating by the thousands that though abortion is common practice it is not common sense. The March is a positive outcry against the government’s failure to defend the defenseless and to protect women against the tortures of conscience. Abortion is not simply a failure of justice, but a failure of government itself. President Washington wrote in 1789, ‘The administration of justice is the firmest pillar of government.’ When that pillar is compromised, the structure fails and falls. It is not out of the question to ask, ‘Who will be the next to lose their unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?’ In a statement given one year ago on this day to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Obama said, ‘this is a country where everyone deserves the same freedom and opportunities to fulfill their dreams.’ But at what point, at what precise point, does everyone become someone? Whenever it is, it is no longer self-evident.
“It is not enough to demand justice. Justice, as Our Lord taught, is to be hungered and thirsted after as a means of wellbeing. Just as hunger and thirst can never be forever satisfied in this life, neither can the requirement for the divine gift of justice. This is the truth that beats out the march of Christian soldiers. Though they mourn on this day as they march on the National Mall, they do it in the happiness and blessedness that is their claim, in honor of the dead.”
The full article is available via Crisis.com.
Luke Macik (’87), headmaster of The Lyceum in South Euclid, Ohio, recently appeared on the From the Median program on the Salem Radio Network’s WHK in Cleveland. There he discussed the school he leads, its commitment to Catholic liberal education, and the tremendous success it is enjoying. His appearance was part of an ongoing series titled, “The Importance of Teaching Our Students to Think Critically in a World Filled with Sound Bites,” which in December included an interview with Thomas Aquinas College President Michael F. McLean.
“Your school is just like the city on the hill,” host Molly Smith told Mr. Macik, who replied that the Lyceum adheres to a simple but proven educational philosophy: “Have students read really good texts, that is, original works. Have them study Latin and Greek. Don’t dumb things down for them, and get to the real business of education.”
In just its 11th year, the Lyceum has become one of the top Catholic high schools in the nation. It earned a spot on The Cardinal Newman Society’s 2014 Catholic Education Honor Roll of schools “marked by the integration of Catholic identity throughout all aspects of their programs and excellence in academics.” A quarter of the Lyceum’s graduates are National Merit Scholars, Finalists, and Commended Students, having scored in the top 1 percent to 5 percent on the PSAT, and the school’s average SAT score is in the top 14 percent of the nation.
During the interview Mr. Macik cited his own education at Thomas Aquinas College as evidence of the great versatility of a classical education, particularly his work as an attorney prior to become a full-time educator:
“I had this kind of education in college. I studied the liberal arts, studied the great books … then found myself going to law school and then — of all places in the world — I had an opportunity to practice law among the Navajo Indians.… I’m probably one of very few people who can qualify as an expert in Navajo court in their own law system, but it just shows you the applicability of the liberal arts. I did that for 15 years. I was their insurance defense counsel.… The real training I had for the practice of law in Navajo court was not what I did in law school — I had no courses on Navajo law — it was what I did in my undergraduate work.”
Streaming and downloadable audio of the complete interview are available courtesy of From the Median:
“Here at the College we’re studying the age-old questions of man. We talk about justice. We talk about the way in which human nature is set in place by God Himself. We talk about some of the most ancient questions that man has had for all times.”
So began Sarah Dufresne (’14) in an interview with host Coleen Kelly Mast on a recent episode of the Mast Appeal program on Ave Maria Radio. The College’s resident assistant and a member of its most recent graduating class, Miss Dufresne called in to the show as part of a series of interviews with young adults. Over the course of the 15-minute conversation, she discussed the College’s curriculum, its pedagogy, and its strong Catholic character.
“We have, in a way, some of the best Catholic ‘peer pressure’ here, in that your friends around you — your peers — are going to Mass, they’re going to confession,” she said. “You have peers who are actively trying to seek the Faith and learn and grow intellectually in what the Faith means and what the Faith calls us to do. It is an encouragement.”
In addition to helping students grow both intellectually and spiritually, the College, Miss Dufresne noted, prepares them well for whatever careers they may pursue after graduation. “People want to hire employees who have critical-thinking skills, who have strong relational abilities, the ability to relate and to hear and to dignify another person in conversation. I think those are qualities that Thomas Aquinas College really instills in its graduates,” she said.
“When you receive the truth, you want to proceed as humbly as possible,” Miss Dufresne continued. “But when you do have the truth, it gives you a certain form of confidence. I think graduates have confidence in what they know, and that’s attractive to people who are hiring young minds.”
After serving for three years as the parochial vicar at Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish in Topeka, Kansas, Rev. Nicholas Blaha (’02) has moved on to a new assignment. The young priest is now the head of campus ministry at Emporia State University, a 6,000-student, public university some 100 miles southwest of Kansas City.
It is a position for which he is well suited. Prior to entering the seminary in 2006, Fr. Blaha spent three years as a missionary on secular campuses for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. That experience, he says, gave him a glimpse of what it would mean, as a priest, to serve as an alter Christus. “I saw God working in people’s lives, bringing about conversions,” he notes. “It wasn’t me doing it, but in some sense, it wouldn’t have happened had I not been there. That was a mark of the call of God; God is going to do this, but he won’t do it without me.”
Writing on Kansas City’s archdiocesan blog, Evangelized Kansas, Fr. Blaha adds that his time as a campus missionary gave him, “a front row seat to the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of young men and women” and “a sense that I could do this sort of thing for the rest of my life.” Providentially, he is now doing “this sort of thing” again as an ordained priest of Jesus Christ.
In that same blog post, Fr. Blaha also reflects on his four years at Thomas Aquinas College:
“I truly loved what I studied there, especially the theological works of our patron, St. Thomas Aquinas. The founders of the College emphasized that his work was the greatest synthesis of faith and reason our Church has ever seen — and that if there was any hope for a growth in understanding in our own age, it would have to take into account and build upon Thomas’s insights. Furthermore, the College was saturated with a Catholic culture, and the friendships I made there continue to sustain me to the present day, though we are separated often by thousands of miles.”
Please pray for Fr. Blaha, the souls in his care, and his work at Emporia State.