Faith in Action Blog
Maureen Gahan (’76) with some of her Milestone clients at her retirement party in September
It is a “repeating story,” says Maureen Gahan (’76), one she heard thousands of times during her recently concluded tenure as the founding director of Milestones Clinical and Health Resources in Bloomington, Indiana. The story typically begins when a child first goes to school, and intellectual disabilities or mental-health problems start to surface — or become unmanageable. “Parents notice that one of their children may not be developing the same way their others did, or the child has trouble in school. Nobody knows what to do.”
For the last 15 years — the second act of a remarkable, three-decade career as a social-services executive — Miss Gahan worked to find answers for families struggling with mental-health disorders or intellectual disabilities. On September 30, that career came to an end, as Miss Gahan retired as the director of Milestones, a job that, at one time, she never would have imagined for herself, at an institution that would not have existed without her initiative, in a field that, though not her first choice, proved to be her calling.
On Sunday the College’s Office of Career Advisement hosted a Career Strategies Workshop about job discernment, networking, résumé- and cover-letter writing, and interview preparation. Leading the discussion were three graduates of the College who — having worked for several of the country’s most prominent corporations — were able to share their wisdom about how best to apply the benefits of a Catholic liberal education in the marketplace.Read more
“Consecrated virginity is lived in the world, which fits my desire to serve and to heal in corporal works of mercy,” says Cara Buskmiller (’11).
On June 20 Miss Buskmiller embraced that vocation by making perpetual vows as a diocesan consecrated virgin before the Most Rev. Doug Deshotel, Auxiliary Bishop of Dallas, at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Shortly thereafter, she began her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the St. Louis University School of Medicine.
“The residents together cover all the women’s services in the hospital, from cancer surgery to labor and delivery,” she writes. “Right now, I’m working nights, which means I’m on call every night for patients staying in the hospital, and covering our six-bed women’s ER.”
In a recent interview with Patheos.com, Miss Buskmiller explains that her calling to consecrated virginity was in keeping with her desire “to live radically, completely at the disposal of others, especially my family and patients.” Hers is “a bridal vocation, which fits my desire to be in love, to belong to Someone, and to be deeply known. At the same time, it is a quiet vocation: I will wear no habit except a ring. It is a maternal vocation, which fits my desire to carry souls, in imitation of Mary.”
As an aspiring obstetrician and gynecologist, Miss Buskmiller plans to serve the needs of women and children in accordance with Church teaching and in recognition of the innate dignity of all in her care. “Practically speaking, living faithfully as an OB/GYN means that I do not prescribe contraceptives, provide primary sterilization, or participate in abortions,” Miss Buskmiller says. “It further means that I get to offer women fertility awareness and natural family planning, which get more exciting with every paper that comes out about their good effects.”
Yet she is not concerned about the potential difficulties of maintaining a faithfully Catholic practice in a society that is often hostile to the culture of life. “Even in a largely pro-choice culture, integrating faith in my career is not the hardest struggle I have,” she notes. “That distinction goes to integrating faith with myself. … I want to be full of faith, hope, and courage to live as if God existed, as if sin was worse than death, and as if I was destined to be a great saint with an unrepeatable mission. If I can do that, integrating my faith and my career is no problem: I just drive to work.”
“I am not a great decision-maker,” admits Dr. Samuel Caughron (’96). “My approach to big life decisions is to pray a lot, to get as much information as I can, to wait until the last minute — and then to make a decision and go with it.”
It was during his Senior Year at the College that Sam first began to think seriously about what to do after graduation, and that decision did not come easily. He initially considered entering the seminary but, after much prayer, discerned that his vocation lay elsewhere. He then contemplated becoming an educator, but realized he did not have a teacher’s temperament. Finally he found himself torn between two competing desires — to follow in his father’s footsteps as a physician, or to tap into his entrepreneurial talents and enter the world of business. (While a student at the College, he ran a small software company.)
Ultimately he opted for both. As the president and managing partner of the MAWD Pathology Group in Kansas City, Missouri, Dr. Caughron is now a physician and a businessman, treating patients, managing the company’s operations, administering its medical laboratory, and overseeing a staff of over 50 employees.
Read the full profile.
The recent release of The Selected Sermons of Rev. Thomas A. McGovern, S.J., has stirred up some dear memories for Gregory A. Pesely (’77):
“I had the great honor of serving at the altar with Fr. McGovern. (I helped out in the sacristy to set out his vestments. And, as I helped out with facilities, I had a few opportunities to help him with his dwelling place at the old campus.) He once confided that it usually took him 8-10 hours to craft, perfect, and memorize every homily.
“I had always hoped that one day his homilies would be published. What a treasure that collection will be for both those who had the honor to study St. Thomas with him and those who just heard about him.
“I often sat with him at meals. He had an observant eye and a keen mind. For a few summers, his mom would come out and visit him. I was able to witness the most tender and devoted son a mother could ever hope for.
“One summer while teaching at the Archdiocesan Seminary in Camarillo, I did a foolish thing — I agreed to play a set of handball with him up in Ojai. I treated him to a few cold beers after he clobbered me.
“He loved music, and not only sacred music: Once we caught him singing, ‘I Am Getting Married in the Morning’ from My Fair Lady while finishing up his laundry in the old laundry room at Claretville.
“I then went up to Université Laval and served several times with his dear friend and fellow Jesuit, Rev. Pere E. Lacasse, S.J. (at days of recollection and during a weeklong Ignatian Retreat). Both were incredibly spiritual priests, but both were passionate Jesuits with great senses of humor and humility.
“I believe a lot of the early vocations were enkindled by those who were introduced to Fr. McGovern and his unmistakable, great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.”
Mr. Pesely is the mission integration manager for OSF Healthcare System in Peoria, Illinois — a Catholic health care system covering 11 different facilities, and the largest system in Illinois outside of Chicago. He advises the corporation on medical ethics policies and the training of some 15,000 associated personnel.
Copies of The Selected Sermons of Rev. Thomas A. McGovern, S.J., can still be ordered in time for Christmas via the online form.
“Don't like abortion? Don’t have one.” So read the pro-abortion bumper sticker of bygone days. There’s now an addendum: “But pay for mine.”
Thus begins an op-ed piece by Catherine Short (’80), who — as part of her 35-year effort in defense of the unborn — is taking on a new California policy that requires all insurance plans to provide abortion coverage. (Thomas Aquinas College is, mercifully, exempt from the mandate because it self-insures.)
As the legal director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which she helped to found, Mrs. Short recently sent a letter to the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC), decrying its shoddy legal pretext for the new policy:
The DMHC decision apparently rests on two untenable positions. The first is the self-evidently false proposition that all abortions, including elective abortions, are “medically necessary” and thus must be covered pursuant to the Knox-Keene Act. In the context of abortion, “medically necessary” and “elective” are antonyms. Second, the decision asserts that the California Constitution prohibits health plans from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy. The California Constitution, a s currently interpreted, prohibits the state from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy, by withholding funding for abortions. CDRR v. Myers , 29 Cal.3d 252 (1981). This decision does not prohibit private actors such as religious employers from deciding what services its employee health insurance policies will cover.
The letter additionally notes that the state’s policy is in plain violation of federal law. The 2004 Weldon Amendment prohibits states, such as California, that receive certain forms of federal funding from imposing abortion-coverage requirements without conscience exemptions. “California’s violation of federal law is clear,” writes Mrs. Short on aletia.com. “Equally clear is the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate to enforce that law. What remains to be seen is whether the Administration will follow through on President Obama’s personal pledge to ‘honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion.’”
In 1993, one year after one of its former medical students died of cancer, the University of Alaska Anchorage created an award in his honor. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the creation of that award, named for Jon B. Syren, a member of the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 1987.
The university website notes:
Jon Benedict Syren expected to graduate from the University of Washington School of Medicine in the Class of 1993. He began his medical training in Anchorage, Alaska, in the fall of 1989 as a member of the first class of WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho) students enrolled in the Biomedical Program at the University of Alaska Anchorage.…
Jon distinguished himself by earning honors in several categories of studies, both in Anchorage and Seattle. He is also remembered by those who knew him for his strong commitment to his family and his faith, and for his unflagging courage and equanimity in the face of personal adversity.
The Jon B. Syren Award recognizes a first-year medical student in the University of Alaska Anchorage WWAMI School of Medical Education who has demonstrated personal qualities of character, integrity, and compassion, combined with a commitment to and promise of community service in medicine.
Mr. Syren’s widow, Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly is a member of the College’s Board of Governors. She has spoken eloquently about the blessing that accompanied her first husband’s holy death for those around him:
When Jon died, it was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had. I saw the effect that our education at the College had had on him. It was absolutely beautiful. And there was a ripple effect on the entire medical community and all that knew him and watched him suffer — in a way so beautifully, not dismayed or broken by it. His suffering was so faith-filled that it was just triumphant.
Twenty-one years later, Jon Syren’s life and death continue to touch lives. May he rest in peace.
While many Catholics across the country, including numerous Thomas Aquinas College alumnae, have protested the Obama Administration’s HHS mandate by citing religious freedom, others are also challenging it on a more fundamental level. They are questioning not only the federal government’s power to force Catholic employers to provide contraceptives and abortifacients, but also its stated reasons for doing so. “Is it really,” they ask, “in the best interest of women, marriage and family, society, or the environment to promote the use of oral contraceptives and other such medications?”
No, says Dr. Pia de Solenni, an ethicist, theologian, member of the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 1993, and recipient of the 2001 Pontifical Prize of the Academies. Last Saturday Dr. de Solenni spoke at The Pill Kills 2012, a national symposium held in Washington, D.C., and sponsored by the American Life League and 30 other pro-life groups. Presenting the teachings of the Church, Dr. de Solenni drew on references ranging from popular culture to St. Thomas Aquinas, noting how modern conceptions of love and sexuality are inherently truncated and unfulfilling.
“All of our cultural references, and all of our examples of ‘chick lit’ — from Bridget Jones to Sex and the City to Bridesmaids — they’re all manifesting a deep dissatisfaction, a sense that you have to do things this way because that’s the way it’s done. And yet they’re all yearning for something more,” said Dr. de Solenni. “When the Church is looking at sexuality, there is a context here, and it is a context shaped by love. Contraception impedes the sexual act between spouses because it holds back fertility. It’s not a gift of self.”
Dr. de Solenni’s presentation is available in the above video, and the rest of the symposium can be found on the American Life League’s YouTube Channel.
Alumnus Greg Pfundstein (’05) has a new article in National Review Online about the alarmingly high incidence of abortion New York City. The column recounts a catalogue of horrors with its zip-code-by-zip-code breakdown of the city’s abortion rates. It also offers some salient insights pertaining to the current controversy over the HHS contraceptive-abortifacient-sterilization mandate, specifically:
“The abortion industry, most notably embodied by America’s largest abortion business, Planned Parenthood, contends that it has the solution to the problem it created in the form of ‘increased access’ to universally available contraception and wider distribution of its marginally effective radical sexual-education programs. Such a contention displays a startling lack of imagination. Note that New York City passed out 40 million free condoms in 2009, requires coverage of contraception by all insurance plans, and has had radical sex ed in the schools for some time (and now mandates it). Interested observers would do well to actually listen to the women who do not avail themselves of the ubiquitous and free contraception and try to understand what complex social dynamics are at work.”
Mr. Pfundstein is the Executive Director of the Chiaroscuro Foundation, non-profit philanthropy in New York. He holds a licentiate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America, and serves on both the Patient’s Rights Council and the Pro-Life Commission of the Archdiocese of New York.
While the battle to preserve Catholic values in American health care has reached fever pitch with the recent HHS contraceptive mandate, it has endured, often quietly, for years. Throughout that time, two alumni of the College — Katie Short (’80) and John Damiani (’84) — have been at the forefront of that fight.
Mrs. Short is a founder and the legal director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which provides legal aid to those who need help in their efforts to protect the unborn. Dr. Damiani is president of the Christus Medicus Foundation, which works to ensure the right of conscience for health-care workers, promote the Culture of Life in American health care, and assist in the establishment of Christ-centered health-care centers.
Now, through their respective organizations, Mrs. Short and Dr. Damiani are collaborating on a conference dedicated to defending life and religious liberty. “Make Straight the Pathway: An Integrated and Unified Solution for Catholic Healthcare Reform” will be held in San Francisco on March 29-31. Hosted by Life Legal Defense Foundation and Christus Medicus Foundation, the conference is sponsored by the Archdiocese of San Francisco; the Dioceses of Oakland, Santa Rosa, and Sacramento; and several other pro-life and medical organizations.
The conference follows a similar event that Dr. Damiani arranged last year in Detroit. That conference proved so successful that Medicus’ episcopal advisor, the Most Rev. Robert F. Vasa, Bishop of Santa Rosa, asked that one like it be held for the Western region of the country.
“The current trajectory of public health policy points to a future where the phrase ‘Catholic health care’ will be an oxymoron,” warns Mrs. Short. “This conference aims to equip medical professionals, policymakers, and others to help our country make a desperately needed course correction.”
Adds Dr. Damiani, “Our Holy Father, in his Ad Limina address to the bishops, warned of the rise of secular humanism. He reminded the bishops of their baptismal and consecrated vows to not let the gates of hell prevail against the spread of the Gospel to all. He pointed out that our founding principles enshrine that freedom. Therefore we must not let the state restrict or worse, define, what is the proper living out of our call to faith. The laity need to respond to the urging of the Holy Father and support the bishops in fulfilling their charge from the Holy See by educating themselves on these issues and organizing for action in the sphere of their own community.”
Information and registration forms for the conference are available online.