Faith in Action Blog
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.
A member of this past year’s graduating class, Sarah Dufresne (second from left, above) is serving as the College’s resident assistant this year. This past weekend, she hosted a pancake breakfast for the students, a slideshow of which is available via the College’s website.
“We have books and catechism classes to educate the mind, but the heart is captivated above all by the majesty and mystery of divine worship.”
So writes Dr. Peter Kwasniewski (’94) — a professor of theology and philosophy, an instructor of music, and the choirmaster at Wyoming Catholic College — at Corpus Christi Watershed, where he blogs regularly. As the above quote suggests, the liturgy, its music in particular, is near and dear to Dr. Kwasniewski’s heart — so much so that he has recently authored Sacred Choral Works, a book containing 20 years of his musical compositions for the sacred liturgy. Complementing the book are three CDs featuring recordings of nearly all the compositions, so as to facilitate their learning for choir directors and members alike:
“Without the Bread of Life, there is eternal death for us,” Dr. Kwasniewski continues. “That is why, as long as the New Evangelization means what it should ― the proclamation of the truth that Jesus is Lord and there is salvation in no one else, either for the individual or for society ― it will also always and everywhere begin and end in the sacraments, and in particular, the Most Blessed Sacrament, in which, says St. Thomas, the common good of the entire universe is found.”
The Cardinal Newman Society has issued its 2014 Catholic Education Honor Roll, recognizing 71 Schools of Excellence “marked by the integration of Catholic identity throughout all aspects of their programs and excellence in academics.” To make the list, the Society explains, schools must have “an institutional commitment to providing a truly integrated and faithful Catholic education across all disciplines and in all areas of student activities.”
Notably, four of the just 71 schools honored on this year’s list — less than 5 percent of the Catholic high schools in the United States — are headed by Thomas Aquinas College alumni:
- Marguerite (Ford ’79) Grimm is the headmaster of Saint Monica Academy in Pasadena, California.
- Luke Macik (’87) is headmaster of The Lyceum in South Euclid, Ohio
- Rev. Mark Moriarty (’95) is the superintendent of St. Agnes School in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the pastor of the parish.
- Michael Van Hecke (’86) is the headmaster of Saint Augustine Academy in Ventura, California.
“The Honor Roll schools are a reminder that Catholic education is getting better every day—not only academically, but in the renewal of Catholic identity,” says Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick J. Reilly. “We are delighted to see the increased level of competition among the schools that participated in the program this year.”
Congratulations to Mrs. Grimm, Mr. Macik, Fr. Moriarty, and Mr. Van Hecke!
“Seeking to pass on the wisdom of Western civilization, which was founded on Christian principles, a grassroots movement of parents, educators and others is reviving classical education in the Catholic tradition.”
So begins Classical Education Makes a Comeback, a story in the latest edition of the National Catholic Register that features two graduates of the College who are at the forefront of the classical-education revival: Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87) and Mr. Michael Van Hecke (’86).
A tutor at the College, Dr. Seeley is also the executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education in Ventura, California, which promotes authentic Catholic education and assists classical schools across the country. The goal of Catholic liberal education, he tells the Register, is “a Christ-illuminated understanding of what the human person is in all our capacities,” adding that “an encounter with Christ and Christian civilization fulfills and develops students.”
Mr. Van Hecke is the headmaster of St. Augustine Academy, a K-12 classical school with 150 students in Ventura, California, and president of the Catholic Schools Textbook Project. “We don’t want our children to aim for college and a career. We want them to aim for the good life,” he says. “Do you think our Founding Fathers (just) aimed for college and career? If they would have done that, we wouldn’t have America.”
The full story is available via the Register’s website.
Now featured on the College’s website is a profile of Elizabeth Trojack (’06), foundress and head of the Elizabeth Ann Seton Montessori School in St. Paul, Minnesota:
“When I was discerning what college to go to, I was young, and I had my own mindset,” says Miss Trojack. Perhaps because her older sister, Anne (Schniederjan ’04), was a student at Thomas Aquinas College, Elizabeth was inclined to blaze her own path and go someplace else. “But I believe God had a different plan for me,” she says. While praying at Adoration, she detected an unmistakable call to that Catholic, liberal arts college in California that she had initially forsworn.
More than a decade later, she now understands the why behind that call. “I am so thankful that God led me to Thomas Aquinas College and to meet the people I met, to read the books I read, to learn from the tutors that I studied under,” she notes. “I absolutely wouldn’t be where I am today without the tools, the resources, and the critical-thinking skills that the College gave me.”
Follow the link to read the whole profile.
In July educators will gather in Emmitsburg, Maryland, for Love for Wisdom, Passion for Truth, the 2014 conference of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education. Among the speakers will be four graduates of the College:
- Laura (Steichen ’75) Berquist, the founder and director of Mother of Divine Grace School, a distance-learning program serving more than 4,000 students in the United States and abroad
- Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87), a tutor at Thomas Aquinas College and the executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education
- Jessie (Ellis ’86) Van Hecke, a kindergarten and first grade teacher at St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, California
- Michael Van Hecke (’86), Headmaster of St. Augustine Academy and the president of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education
The Conference will take place July 21-24 at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary. More information is available via the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education website.
Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05), an assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, has recently published a new book through the University of Chicago Press: The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law. The book, according to the publisher’s summary, attempts to answer the question, “Does the concept of natural rights have the natural law as its foundation or are the two ideas, as Leo Strauss argued, profoundly incompatible?”
Although Seagrave acknowledges that the notion of natural rights does not derive from traditional natural law, he argues that the two concepts are nonetheless compatible — when viewed through the lens of John Locke and St. Thomas Aquinas. After presenting a comprehensive philosophical explanation of natural morality, drawing heavily upon the authors and works studied in the College’s classical curriculum, he then turns to many contemporary issues of political import, from the preservation of marriage, to healthcare, to the death penalty.
The book has already earned several positive reviews, with one scholar hailing it as “one of the most important books on natural law and natural rights in a generation.” It is available for purchase via Amazon, and other of Dr. Seagraves’s writings can be found at The Public Discourse website. Notably, Dr. Seagrave has recently written three articles that touch upon themes contained in Foundations of Natural Morality:
- Aristotelian-Thomism in the Modern World (March 26)
- What Can a Modern Philosopher Teach Us About Natural Law? (March 27)
- Do Ideas Really Have Consequences? (May 9)
For administrators at St. Anthony Catholic School in Sterling, Colo., the situation was bleak. Facing financial peril, the elementary school considered shutting its doors earlier this year. Then, administrators decided to try something new — which, in fact, was really something quite old.
Like many Catholic schools across the country, St. Anthony’s is going back to its roots by embracing the Church’s patrimony of liberal education. “We’ve always distinguished ourselves by our faith, but also academically. We thought this was the best thing,” says Principal Joseph Skerjanec in a Catholic News Agency article. “The purpose of education ultimately is to get to heaven, and we feel this is the best route for us to do that.”
St. Anthony’s is gradually transitioning to a classical curriculum, one that utilizes the great books and which is aimed at teaching students how to think critically by way of the liberal arts. Perhaps not coincidentally, the pedagogical shift has accompanied a tremendous fundraising campaign — which set out to garner $600,000, but yielded $1.1 million — and the renewal of St. Anthony Catholic School.
Assisting St. Anthony’s in its tradition is an alumnus and tutor of Thomas Aquinas College, Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87), who also serves as the executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education. Dr. Seeley has prepared the school’s staff to teach from a classical curriculum.
Dr. Seeley is just one of many Thomas Aquinas College alumni who are playing an active role in the resurgence of classical education at Catholic elementary and high schools. To name just a few:
- Laura Berquist (’75) founded the international online distance-learning program Mother of Divine Grace School.
- Marguerite (Ford ’79) Grimm is the headmaster of Saint Monica Academy in Pasadena, Calif.
- Michael Van Hecke (’86) is the headmaster at St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, Calif.
- Luke Macik (’87) and Mark Langley (’89) are the headmaster and academic dean, respectively, of The Lyceum in Euclid, Ohio.
- Luke Culley (’94) and Sean Fitzpatrick (’02) have founded Gregory the Great Academy in Falls Church, Va.
- Rev. Mark Moriarty (’95) is the superintendent of St. Agnes School in St. Paul, Minn., and the pastor of the parish.
Many more alumni are also teaching at such schools. Eight members of last year’s Class of 2013, for example, accepted positions at schools with classical curricula. Six of those were at the Great Hearts Academies in Arizona, where some 17 alumni teach, and one graduate serves as an assistant headmaster. A restoration in classical liberal education is under way, and Thomas Aquinas College alumni are at its forefront.