Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

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.


Paul McCown (’10)At its meeting on Monday, the City Council of Troy, Michigan, appointed a new member to its ranks — Paul McCown, a graduate of the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 2010.

A native of Troy (population: 83,000) with a longstanding interest in politics, Mr. McCown has served on the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals for the last three years. In 2015 he ran for the City Council in a competitive race, but came up short. A year later, however, a sitting member resigned, and the remaining members of the council undertook a comprehensive selection process to fill the vacancy. That process culminated in Mr. McCown’s coming before the Council for a public interview on September 19, which can be seen in the video below:

By meeting’s end, the Council voted to appoint Mr. McCown, who promptly took his oath and immediately began voting on city matters. His term will continue until next November, at which point he will be up for election.

Yet governance is only a part-time job for Mr. McCown, who, by day, is the CFO and executive vice president of Dataspeed, Inc., an engineering firm that specializes in the design and construction of autonomous cars and mobile robots. The 30-person firm has partnered with a wide range of clients including Ford, General Dynamics, and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center. “Our staff consists entirely of engineers except for a bookkeeper and then me,” he laughs. “So I have oversight and responsibility for finance, accounting, HR, marketing, pretty much all departments except for engineering.”

After graduating from the College in 2010, Mr. McCown earned a master’s degree in economics and American politics at Pepperdine University and then returned to Michigan, where he held several positions in the financial sector before joining Dataspeed. Yet it is not his advanced degree, but his liberal education, he says, that has most prepared him for a career in finance.

“The formulas that I write and the models that I build, all of them are underpinned by logical thinking. You have to understand which pieces of the puzzle need to go where, what comes first, what comes later, if/then statements, all that kind of thing,” he explains. “Practicing deductive reasoning, thinking it, breathing it, drinking it the way we do at Thomas Aquinas College — that was really a game-changer for me.”

In addition to his work as a public official and a corporate executive, Mr. McCown is, first and foremost, a husband and father, having wed classmate Jacinta (Alarcon ’10) in 2012. The couple has two sons, Paul Jr. (3) and James (1½), and due to arrive next February is the family’s first daughter, Rosie, named for the McCowns’ late classmate Rosie Grimm (’10).


Carl Anderson and Patrick Mason (’03) Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, and Patrick Mason (’03), state deputy of the Knight’s New Mexico state council

Nearly a decade ago, Patrick Mason (’03), then a freshly minted attorney in Gallup, New Mexico, joined his local council of the Knights of Columbus. Much to his surprise, he soon found himself elected chancellor, the council’s third-highest position. Then, when his council’s grand knight was tragically killed by a drunk driver, and its terminally ill deputy grand knight entered hospice care, Mr. Mason — a new Knight and still only in his 20s — became the council’s leader.

By God’s grace, the council thrived, attracting new, younger members, and earning the prestigious Star Council Award from the Knights’ Supreme Council. Mr. Mason began representing his council at regional and national conventions and, in short order, was elected state advocate for the Knights in New Mexico. He then proceeded to work his way through the state organization’s ranks, culminating in his election, in May, as state deputy — the highest state-level position within the Knights of Columbus.

There are only approximately 70 KofC state deputies, or their foreign equivalents, in the world, and among those, Mr. Mason — a husband and father of two sons, with a third child due in October — may well be the youngest. At 35 years of age, he is also the youngest man ever to hold the position in New Mexico. In June, he traveled to Connecticut for a leadership orientation, during which he met with the Knights’ national Board of Directors as well as Supreme Knight Carl Anderson.

“The way I look at it, throughout history — for example, after Pearl Harbor or even 9-11 — men stood up in defense of their country,” says Mr. Mason. “In a lot of ways, the Knights of Columbus provides a similar kind of opportunity for men to stand up in defense of the Church and families. It allows them to stand up and be, as Pope St. John Paul II said, ‘the strong right arm of the Catholic Church.’”

With 105 councils and 10,000 members, the Knights of Columbus is the largest Catholic lay organization in New Mexico. “As part of my duties, I have to meet with bishops, correspond with members of the Church hierarchy, and inspire and form our men in the Faith,” he says. “Being able to pull from my knowledge of the true, the good, and the beautiful, and being able to communicate the ideas that I developed and found at Thomas Aquinas College, has really helped me in all those regards. If it weren’t for the strength and faith that the College gave me, I don’t think I would be doing this.”


 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.”


Officer Rex (’90) and Serena (Grimm ’87) Mohun Officer Rex (’90) and Serena (Grimm ’87) Mohun

A two-decade veteran of the California Highway Patrol, Officer Rex Mohun (’90) has received “Officer of the Year” honors from the Kiwanis Club of Ventura — for the third time.

At a ceremony at Oxnard’s Tower Club on May 22, the civic organization presented its annual award — given to one officer from each law-enforcement agency in the county — to Officer Mohun, who previously received the honor in 1998 and 2014. The California Highway Patrol chooses its honorees via a vote of fellow officers, meaning that Officer Mohun has earned the highest regard of his peers. Below are the words that his superior, CHP Captain Terry Roberts, offered in his support:

Throughout the years, Officer Mohun has earned the respect and admiration of his fellow officers and supervisors. Officer Mohun has consistently and without exception displayed sound judgment, leadership abilities, and a strong work ethic that is second to none.

Officer Mohun has willingly taken on many responsibilities and collateral assignments within the Department. Officer Mohun is a dedicated Motorcycle Officer and serves as a vital member on the Coastal Division Protective Services Detail, which provides escorts and protection for visiting dignitaries. Officer Mohun has completed comprehensive training courses during his tenure and regularly serves in the capacity of Field Training Officer, Physical Methods of Arrest Instructor, Certified Motorcycle Training Officer, Range Master and Non-Lethal Training Ammunition Instructor, Special Response Team, Warrant Service Team, Taser Instructor, and Emergency Medical Response Instructor. To say that Officer Mohun’s contribution to each of these assignments is excellent would certainly be an understatement.

Officer Mohun lives in Santa Paula with his beautiful wife of 30 years, Serena (Grimm ’87). They are the proud parents of twelve children. Two years ago Officer Mohun had the honor of pinning the California Highway Patrol badge on his oldest son, Robert (’09), who is currently assigned to the Altadena Area Office.

Officer Mohun is a credit to the California Highway Patrol and the citizens of California. He is truly deserving of your recognition as the Kiwanis Club of Ventura Officer of the Year.


Dr. Adam Seagrave ('05)Dr. Adam Seagrave ('05)“Most of us have a profound appreciation for our mothers that transcends description,” begins Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05) in a new essay, timed for Mother’s Day, in The Public Discourse. An assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, Dr. Seagrave then proceeds to consider the current state of motherhood in terms of social and public policy.

Americans’ affection for their mothers, he observes, does not translate into an appreciation for motherhood itself, particularly the stay-at-home variety. “As long as full-time motherhood does not produce some immediate economic benefit, economic and social pressures will continue to effectively foreclose this choice for many women,” he writes. “If it matters that women have a genuine choice in their own pursuit of happiness, this is a serious problem. It becomes even more serious when we consider that fully 84 percent of women don’t think it’s best for their children for them to work full-time outside the home. Women have indeed been empowered to work outside the home, but in many cases and in many unforeseen ways, they also have been forced to do so against their wishes.”

So, as his Mother’s Day gift to moms elsewhere, Dr. Seagrave proposes “a significant tax deduction for households with a full-time parent … on the order of 150 percent of the mean individual income.” That may not seem as charming as a bouquet of roses or a box of chocolates, but, “such a deduction would provide women with a less constrained choice between being a full-time mother and pursuing work outside the home. It would also signal the value that society should place on the inestimable contribution of motherhood.”

And, on Mothers’ Day in particular, what could be more worthwhile than that? “Motherhood is a more important task for society than any other private occupation or public service,” Dr. Seagrave concludes. “No woman who would choose full-time motherhood should be unduly constrained by economic or social pressures to give up her all-important vocation.


Votive candle rack in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel

Please pray for Michelle (Firmin ’97) Halpin, who sends along the following request:

“I’d like to request continued prayers for my health and my family. That this cancer treatment may be effective on my Stage 4 cancer, for minimal side effects, and for my oldest child, who is discerning college plans during this difficult time for our family. We are asking for a miracle through the intercession of Fr. John Hardon, S.J., whose cause for canonization is being brought forward. We would appreciate prayers to Fr. Hardon from those who wish to join us in our prayers. Thanks!”


Sierra Silverstrings, featuring the children of Eve (Bouchey ’97) and Jeremy McNeil (’96) Sierra Silverstrings, featuring the children of Eve (Bouchey ’97) and Jeremy McNeil (’96)

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, KOLO 8, the ABC affiliate in Reno, Nevada, has put together the following segment about Sierra Silverstrings — a local Irish band whose members are the children of Eve (Bouchey ’97) and Jeremy McNeil (’96):

“When people say you play together, you stay together, it’s kind of true, because we were friends, but now we know each other better,” young Brigit McNeil tells KOLO News. “It’s hard to explain. It connects us. We play together, and when you play music, it’s such a joyful thing to create those sounds with each other.”

According to the Sierra Silverstrings website, the band is booked for three shows today, St. Patrick’s Day, and another two more on Saturday, the Feast of St. Joseph.


Loraine (Ivers ’81) HoonhoutPlease pray for the soul of Loraine (Ivers ’81) Hoonhout, who, following a years-long struggle with liver cancer, passed away peacefully in her sleep on the morning of Saturday, March 5.

Please also pray for the consolation of her family, including her beloved husband of 30 years, Ronald; their three children, Clare (’08), Peter, and Lisa Davis; her 3-month old grandson, Christopher Davis; her two brothers, Jim and Harry; and her four sisters, all of whom are graduates of the College: Maureen Coughlin (’79), Marian Hartzell (’82), Jessica Langley (’85), and Sr. Maria Basiléa (Margaretha ’88).

The Rosary and funeral Mass for Mrs. Hoonhout will take place this Saturday, March 12, at St. Louise de Marillac Parish in Covina, California. The Rosary will begin at 8:45 a.m., and the Mass at 9:30 a.m. Burial will follow at Holy Cross cemetery in Pomona, after which there will be a reception; details are forthcoming.

May her soul, and those of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.