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.

Br. Reginald (Ryan ’97) Wolford, O.P. Br. Reginald (Ryan ’97) Wolford, O.P.Please pray for Br. Reginald (Ryan ’97) Wolford, O.P., who, by God’s grace, will be ordained to the priesthood this weekend.

On Saturday — the Feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux —the Most Rev. Robert J. Hermann, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of St. Louis, Missouri, will ordain Br. Reginald in the city’s St. Dominic Priory. Fittingly, Br. Reginald will offer his first Mass the next morning in a church named for St. Thérèse, Little Flower in Richmond Heights. He will be the College’s 66th alumnus priest.

“I would just like to express my thanks to God for my Thomas Aquinas College experience,” said Br. Reginald at the time of his ordination to the transitional diaconate. “Four years’ studying Aristotle, and a good start in St. Thomas, have proven invaluable to my subsequent education; but most of all I am thankful that my time at the College led to my conversion to Catholicism and my eventual pursuit of the priesthood.”

Thanks be to God!

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).

06, 2016

It has been a big week for alumni Dominicans in the Order’s Western Province! First, on September 1, Br. John Winkowitsch (’04) and Br. Athanasius Thompson (’12), entered the novitiate, receiving the habit of the Order of Preachers, at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, San Francisco:

 First-year Western Dominican novices: Br. John Winkowitsch (’04), top-center, and Br. Athanasius Thompson (’12), bottom-left (photo: Western Dominican Novitiate) First-year Western Dominican novices: Br. John Winkowitsch (’04), top-center, and Br. Athanasius Thompson (’12), bottom-left (photo: Western Dominican Novitiate)

Br. Athanasius signs the Vestition book. (Photo: Western Dominican Novitiate) Br. Athanasius signs the Vestition book. (Photo: Western Dominican Novitiate)


Then, on September 3, five brothers professed first vows on Saturday, including Br. Patrick Rooney (’15):

Br. Patrick Rooney (’15) (Photo: Western Dominican Novitiate) Br. Patrick Rooney (’15) (Photo: Western Dominican Novitiate)


Below is a photo of all the Western Province’s first- and second-year novices with Novice Master Rev. Anthony Rosevear, O.P.

Western Dominican novices

There are currently eight alumni among the Western Province Dominicans: Rev. Augustine Hilander, O.P. (’99), Rev. Michael Hurley, O.P. (’99), Rev. John Tom Mellein, O.P. (’99), Rev. John Marie Bingham, O.P. (’00), Br. John Winkowitsch, O.P. (’04), Br. Richard Berquist, O.P. (’10), Br. Athanasius Thompson, O.P. (’12), Br. Patrick Rooney, O.P.  (’15).

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!

Members of the Life Legal Foundation, including Vice President for Legal Affairs Katie Short (’80, left) and President Paul Blewett (’85, right) Members of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, including Vice President for Legal Affairs Katie Short (’80, left) and President Paul Blewett (’85, right)

In a Riverside, California, courtroom last week, a legal team led by two Thomas Aquinas College graduates delivered a blow to the state’s new assisted-suicide law.

Attorneys from the Life Legal Defense Foundation — whose vice president for legal affairs is Katie Short (’80) and whose president is Paul Blewett (’85) — sought an injunction against California’s End of Life Option Act, which went into effect in June. The attorneys argued that granting doctors the power to help kill their patients deprives sick and vulnerable Californians of the constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.

Although Life Legal did not obtain its sought-after injunction, it achieved an important victory nonetheless. In his ruling, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia granted that the six physicians and the nationwide medical group that Life Legal represents have standing to challenge the law, and that their case is “ripe” — that is, the End of Life Option Act may cause actual (not just hypothetical) harm to those it affects. As a result, Judge Ottolia rejected the state’s attempt to block Life Legal’s lawsuit, thereby allowing the challenge of this unjust law to continue.

Please pray for Mrs. Short, Mr. Blewett, Life Legal, and their continued success!

August 24,

Monks of Norcia crestA powerful earthquake struck central Italy early this morning, just 6.5 miles southeast of Norcia, birthplace of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica, and home of the Benedictine community at Monastero San Benedetto, of which three Thomas Aquinas College alumni are members. The earthquake, which had a preliminary magnitude of 6.2, has been followed by some 200 aftershocks, including one with a 5.5-magnitude tremor. It has reportedly leveled homes, churches, and shops, killing at least 120 people.

The monks of Norcia report that they and their guests have experienced no serious injuries, but several of the buildings in their 1,000-year-old monastery have suffered significant damage. Rev. Benedict Nivakoff, O.S.B., told Catholic News Service that the Basilica of St. Benedict, which the monks serve, suffered “considerable structural damage” and that its façade “seems to have detached” from the rest of the building. As a precautionary measure, the brothers are temporarily relocating to the International Benedictine headquarters in Rome, although two monks will remain in Norcia to keep watch over the basilica and monitor the developing situation.

Please pray for the Monks of Norcia, for the people of central Italy, and, most especially, for the eternal rest of all those who have died.

Ryan Truss (’16) Ryan Truss (’16)From as far back as he can remember, Ryan Truss (’16) has sensed a vocation to the priesthood. “For a time I considered entering seminary right after high school, but I decided to come to the College first,” he recalls. “I thought the education offered here would be a really good grounding for a priest and also a good way to discern if that was what God was calling me to. I came here and met a lot of great friends who supported me in my discernment and showed me what it’s like to live a joyful, authentically Catholic life. And the chaplains were amazing examples of holiness.”

On August 15, the Feast of the Assumption, Mr. Truss will enter Kenrick-Glennon Seminary for his native Archdiocese of St. Louis. He is the Class of 2016’s second seminarian to date: On August 6, classmate Edward Seeley entered St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“Studying theology draws the students here into a closer friendship with God and helps us to prioritize what is important in life,” reflects Mr. Truss. As such, he adds, his time at the College “helped me to see the need for the priesthood, and how much priests are needed in the world to bring people the sacraments so that they can love God, grow closer to Him, and inherit eternal life.”

At Kendrick-Glennon, Mr. Truss hopes to study under a fellow alumnus, Dr. John Finley (’99), a professor of philosophy. By God’s grace, he will be ordained to the priesthood in 2021. Please keep him in your prayers!

Rev. Samuel Ward, Associate Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, joins Edward Seeley (’16) and his father, tutor Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87), at Commencement 2016 Rev. Samuel Ward, Associate Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, joins Edward Seeley (’16) and his father, tutor Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87), at Commencement 2016

On Saturday a member of the College’s most recent graduating class, Edward Seeley (’16), will enter St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, to study for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“I’ve been discerning a vocation since about age 9,” reflects Mr. Seeley, the third son of tutor and fellow alumnus Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87). “I’ve had a lot of priests who really inspired me, both in the parish and in my family. I’ve thought about it a lot, but at the College, I was able to discern better what sort of priest I wanted to be. I  considered the religious life, and then went to a few vocations talks. Then I talked a bit to (former chaplain) Fr. Illo, and he really inspired in me a love of the secular priesthood.”

Among the College’s 65 priestly alumni there are, as of yet, no Archdiocese of Los Angeles priests, but that is changing.  Mr. Seeley follows in the footsteps of Michael Masteller (’13), who entered St. John’s last year. By God’s grace, in six years, there will be two alumni priests in Los Angeles, with many more still to come.

“My time at the College, particularly reading St. Augustine, really enriched my spiritual life,” says Mr. Seeley. “Knowing that all of God’s graces are a free gift, and not something we merit, has changed the way I pray. And living in community together, seeing God’s face in the people around us, has been something I couldn’t get anywhere else.”

Please pray for Mr. Seeley and his vocation!