Faith in Action Blog
“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.
Please pray for the repose of the soul of Kevin Long (’77), as well as the consolation of his beloved wife, Martha (Schaeffer ’76), and their family. After struggling for many years with multiple illnesses, Mr. Long died on August 19 at his home in Arlington, Virginia.
Mr. Long was born August 2, 1955, the only son of James and Esther Long. He is survived by his wife, Martha; his mother-in-law, Jane D. Schaeffer; sisters-in-law, Anne Forsyth (’81), Mary Richard (’82), Joan Waxtein (’85), and Laura Langley (’89); and 22 nieces and nephews: Jane (’11) and Michael Forsyth (’14); John (’13), Carmel (’15), Jeannette (’17), Robert (’13), Thomas, Dominic, and Paul Richard; Bernardo, Gabrielle, and Joseph Waxtein; and David (’15), Aaron (’16), Clare, Margaret, Kathleen, Gianna, Emma, Laura, Marie, and Celine Langley. He was preceded in death by his devoted brother-in-law, George Forsyth, his beloved father-in-law, John E. Schaeffer (a founding member of the College’s Board of Governors), and his mother, Esther Long.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Thomas Aquinas College, 10,000 Ojai Road, Santa Paula, CA 93060. May his soul, and those of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.
An alumnus of the College, Rev. Hildebrand Garceau, O.Praem. (’78), has agreed to become its next head chaplain. At the start of the upcoming academic year, Fr. Hildebrand will be taking over for the departing Rev. Joseph Illo.
Fr. Hildebrand first came to the College as a student in 1974. After graduating in 1978, he attended Mt. Angel Seminary in Oregon, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1984. A member of the Norbertine Fathers at St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange, California, he served as pastor of the 3,000-family St. John the Baptist Church in Costa Mesa before returning to the College as a chaplain in 2011.
“The love of Christ and His church has gathered us together here at Thomas Aquinas College,” says Fr. Hildebrand. “By study, reflection, and discussion we come to know God; by prayer and contemplation we come to love Him. The chaplains help to facilitate that love by ministering the Sacraments and providing spiritual direction so that the students may thrive humanly and spiritually.”
While making a summer pilgrimage along Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela, Rev. Ramon Decaen (’96) encountered a familiar face — that of College tutor Dr. Carol A. Day. Writes Fr. Decaen:
“I was at about kilometer marker 40 when our group of four went on a 4 km side tour of a 12th century convent. We had a tour with four other pilgrims. I was shocked to turn and find Dr. Carol Day was one of those pilgrims! She was my college astronomy professor. Small world!”
Like Fr. Decaen, Dr. Day is hiking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, joined by another graduate of the College, Wendy-Marie Teichert (’81). Fr. Decaen is a priest in the Diocese of Lincoln (Nebraska), where he is the pastor of the Parish of Cristo Rey, the city’s largest Spanish-language church. He is also the diocesan director of Hispanic ministry, which serves some 148,000 Lincoln residents. Please pray that he, Dr. Day, and Miss Teichert will continue to be blessed along The Way!
Now featured on the College’s website is an interview with the Very Rev. John M. Berg, F.S.S.P. (’93), Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter:
I have heard it said that in the early days of the College, Founding President Ron McArthur would get offers from people saying, “If you only did this, or if you only started doing that, then we would really get on board with this project, or it could really be a success.” That happens to a religious order, too. A bishop may say, “Oh, you could come to this diocese if you would just start doing this or that.” You have to have the courage or the foresight to say, “No, if we do that, we will lose the identity of what we really are.”
I try to model my leadership of the Fraternity after Dr. McArthur’s leadership of the College, and that means being able to say, “No, we do one thing here and we do it really, really, well. I am sure that other colleges do great things, too, and some kids should go there, but we are not meant to do that. It’s just not what we do.”
Follow the link to read the whole interview.
Srs. Mary Thomas and Mary Andre
Thomas Aquinas College Senior Rachel Bright reports the following wonderful news from Tehachapi, California, where her sister and another alumna have made their first professions with the Norbertine Canonesses of the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph:
Two alumnae religious, Sr. Mary Thomas, O.Praem. (Alison Bright ’09), and Sr. Mary Andre, O.Praem. (Annie Huguelet ’11), recently made their first profession of vows as cloistered Norbertine Canonesses and received their black veils. The Rite of First Profession took place during Mass on the morning of June 6, the Feast of St. Norbert, in the monastery’s chapel. The Very Rev. Alphonsus Mary Hermes, O.Praem., provost of the priory, offered the Mass. Earlier that morning, the canonesses had been vested and received their religious names.
The families of Sr. Mary Thomas, Sr. Mary Andre, and the three other canonesses who also made their first vows were able to witness the professions from the small lay portion of the chapel. Each sister had previously handwritten her profession and read the following text:
“I renounce the world and I promise a conversion of my ways and life in community, especially in poverty, consecrated chastity, and obedience, according to the Rule of St. Augustine and the Constitutions of the Canonesses Regular of the Order of Premontre, to you Mother Prioress and to the sisters for three years.”
After Mass, the families visited with the newly professed and vested, as well as many of the other sisters, who remained behind the grille of the visiting parlor. It was a very joyful time. The Norbertine Canonry in Tehachapi, now home to 29 sisters, continues to growing rapidly, with two young women set to enter this summer.
Thanks be to God!
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.
By God’s grace, the College has been blessed with 60 alumni priests to date, and more are still on the way. The latest young graduate to answer God’s call is Justin Lefevre (’00), who this month is entering the Sacred Heart of Jesus Monastery in Portland, Oregon — the first Maronite monastery in the Western United States. He will be a postulant with the Monks of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and he will soon begin preparing for the priesthood. “The College and its intentions will be in the monastery’s prayers continually,” he writes. And may he be in all of our prayers as he continues to discern his vocation.
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.
Please say a prayer for Rev. Hildebrand Garceau, O.Praem. (’78), a graduate of the College and one of its four chaplains, who today celebrates the 30th anniversary of his ordination.
Fr. Hildebrand is one of three priests from the Class of 1978, having received the Sacrament of Holy Orders at the hands of Timothy Cardinal Manning, then the Archbishop of Los Angeles, on June 16, 1984. He was one of the College’s first alumni priests, who now number 60, with another ordination set for this fall.
Over the last three decades, Fr. Hildebrand has served at various churches in Los Angeles and Orange counties, including seven years as the pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Costa Mesa. He returned to his alma mater as a chaplain in 2011.
Thanks be to God for this good and faithful priest!