Faith in Action Blog
Frater Jacob (Joseph Hsieh ’06, left) and Frater Simeon (Charles Goodwin ’10, second from right), joined by 12 of their Norbertine confreres, performed at Los Angeles’s Disney Concert Hall on May 4, where they assisted Grammy Award-winning organist Paul Jacobs in presenting Bach’s Clavier-Übung III.
Fraters Jacob and Simeon are seminarians with the Norbertine Canons in Silverado, Calif., where they sing in the Abbey Choir. Mr. Jacobs, chair of the organ department at the Juilliard School, invited the choir to sing the chorale melodies of the German Missa Brevis at his concert. According to an article on the Norbertines’ website, the organist “was particularly interested that music written originally for religious purposes should be sung by a schola of religious.” Jacobs and the Norbertines performed the two hour-long work from memory, without intermission, drawing “an instant standing ovation from the packed house afterward.”
On Easter Sunday, CBS Sunday Morning featured the above segment about the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, who have topped the Billboard Classical Music Chart with their albums of sacred music. Two of the nuns, Sr. Mary Josefa of the Eucharist, OSB (Kathleen Holcomb ’07), and Sr. Sophia Eid, OSB (’08), are alumnae of the College. Sr. Mary Josefa can be seen — front and center in — the video’s choir shots.
Last summer Sr. Mary Josefa sat for a rare interview with the Cardinal Newman Society, in which she discussed the role of liturgy, sacred music, and Catholic identity in higher education Among her notable responses, Sr. Josefa had these kinds words to say for her alma mater:
I chose to attend Thomas Aquinas College because it integrated classical and Catholic education; I was fascinated by the liberal arts program, with its consideration and discussion of original sources, introducing the student to the perennial questions with which mankind has always grappled, but I was further drawn by the Catholic identity of the school, which orders this program of studies in order to lead the student from the contemplation of created truth to the contemplation of God Himself. …
At TAC, I was blessed to be part of a community that was really unified and ordered by its Catholic identity. I attended daily Mass and Rosary with my teachers and fellow students; the chapel was the central point of the campus and teachers and students always would stop on the way to or from class for a visit; everyone acknowledged senior theology as the culminating point of the curriculum to which all the other classes were ordered; in these and countless other ways, I experienced a community that recognized that the invisible realities are more real, more important than the visible ones. Naturally, this greatly nourished the inclination that I had had to religious life since I was young. Many of my fellow students were also drawn to religious life as a result of the strong Catholic community and contemplative program of studies, and having peers considering a vocation really strengthened my own.
The full interview is available via Catholic Education Daily.
“Bl. John Paul II,” by James Langley (’85)“We are having an epic, all-day event for the canonization of Bl. John Paul II in Denver,” reports Andrew Whaley (’05).
Mr. Whaley is the owner of Calix Coffee, a consulting business, as well as the manager of the Tolle Lege Coffee Bar & Bookshop at the Augustine Institute in Greenwood Village, Colo. In that latter capacity he has organized a tribute to the late Holy Father that will begin at noon on April 26, and then continue into the early morning of April 27 for Bl. John Paul’s canonization.
According to the Denver Catholic Register, the celebration will begin with a group discussion of Pope John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists,” after which various local artists will display their works depicting His Holiness. That evening, Mr. Whaley will moderate a panel discussion about John Paul II’s life and legacy, followed by a musical performance featuring another Thomas Aquinas College graduate, Elizabeth Wood (’11). Then there will be readings from one of Karol Wotijyla’s plays, until around midnight,. “We’ll keep vigil and pray until the live feed starts,” says Mr. Whaley — at which point all eyes will turn to video of the canonization in Rome.
All are welcome. If you care to attend, please RSVP by e-mail or call 303-937-4420.
By God’s grace, on Saturday, May 10, the Most Rev. Gregory Parkes will ordain Deacon Matthew Busch (’04) into the priesthood of Jesus Christ for the Diocese of Pensacola–Tallahassee (Fla.). Deacon Busch will the College’s 60th alumnus priest. His ordination will take place at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Pensacola.
Just two weeks later, Joshua Mayer (’03) will be ordained to the transitional diaconate on Saturday, May 24, for the Diocese of Gallup (N.M.). Mr. Mayer is currently a second-year seminarian at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colo., where he studies under the direction of another Thomas Aquinas College alumnus, Rev. Gary Selin (’89), the school’s formation director.
Finally, Br. Andrew Marie Norton, O.S.B. (’06) will be ordained to the priesthood on Sunday, October 26. A Benedictine monk, Br. Andrew is one of 11 Thomas Aquinas College alumni at Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek Abbey in Hulbert, Okla. Like Mr. Mayer, he also benefits from the direction of a fellow alumnus, Rev. Mark Bachmann, O.S.B. (’82), the Abbey’s co-founder and subprior.
Please pray for these faithful young men and their vocations!
The College has just received word of another alumni ordination, following the two reported here earlier this week. By God’s grace, on Saturday, May 10, the Most Rev. Gregory Parkes will ordain Deacon Matthew Busch (’04) into the priesthood of Jesus Christ for the Diocese of Pensacola–Tallahassee (Fla.). Deacon Busch will the College’s 60th alumnus priest. Please pray for him, and praise be to God for His gift of so many holy vocations!
By God’s grace, Joshua Mayer (’03) will be ordained to the transitional diaconate on Saturday, May 24, for the Diocese of Gallup (N.M.). Mr. Mayer is currently a second-year seminarian at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colo., where he studies under the direction of another Thomas Aquinas College alumnus, Rev. Gary Selin (’89), the school’s formation director.
A few months later, Br. Andrew Marie Norton, O.S.B. (’06) will be ordained to the priesthood on Sunday, October 26. A Benedictine monk, Br. Andrew is one of 11 Thomas Aquinas College alumni at Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek Abbey in Hulbert, Okla. Like Mr. Mayer, he also benefits from the direction of a fellow alumnus, Rev. Mark Bachmann, O.S.B. (’82), the Abbey’s co-founder and subprior.
Please pray for these faithful young men and their vocations!
At its 113th Anniversary Dinner in March, held in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of the Oranges named Michael D. Byrne (’04) its “Young Irishman of the Year.” The organization, which promotes Irish culture, education, and philanthropy, recognized Mr. Byrne for his longstanding service as chairman of New Jersey’s largest annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. “My work with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Newark,” he said in his acceptance speech, flows from his Irish heritage. “The two have been closely interwoven for over 30 years.”
The chairman of the College’s New York City Board of Regents, Mr. Byrne is president of Pilgrim Strategies, LLC, a government, media, and community-relations consulting firm. Active in civic and political life, he is currently managing the campaign of Col. Rob Maness (USAF, ret.), a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq who is running for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana. Mr. Byrne also managed the 2013 Senate campaign of Steve Lonegan in New Jersey, and he has worked for several conservative campaigns in Ohio, New Mexico, California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts.
Key to his running of modern political campaigns, notes Mr. Byrne, is the classical education he received at the College. “The chronological study of philosophy — especially political philosophy — is invaluable in the political world, ” he says, “particularly with respect to development of policy, communications, and coalitions building.”
Officers Rex Mohun (’90) and Robert Mohun (’09)
Five years after his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College, Robert Mohun (’09) has graduated once again. At a ceremony in Sacramento this past weekend, Officer Mohun graduated second in his class of 95 cadets at the California Highway Patrol Academy, drawn from a group that began the CHP’s rigorous training program with 143 applicants culled from an original pool of 22,000. In receiving his badge, Officer Mohun joins his fellow Thomas Aquinas College graduate and father, Officer Rex Mohun (’90).
Officer Mohun is married to one of his Thomas Aquinas College classmates, Kelly (Docherty ’09), who recently gave birth to the couple’s second child. As a husband and father, he is keenly aware of the risks inherent in his new job. “The danger aspect has always been in the forefront of my mind,” he told Sacramento’s CBS 13 (see video, below). Yet he is, by now, accustomed to danger in his professional life. Previously he served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps, during which he time he served his country in Afghanistan.
Following his graduation from the Academy, Officer Mohun will next spend 55 days training with a veteran officer in Los Angeles County.
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.
“Last night I dreamt that Mission Today took place at TAC,” writes Jillian Cooke (’04) on her Facebook page.
Mission Today is a conference sponsored by the Fr. Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata, a worldwide secular institute of pontifical right, of which Miss Cooke is a consecrated member. In 2010 she took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The purpose of her commitment, she explained in an article for the Thomas Aquinas College Alumni Newsletter, was, “living the intimacy of the cloister in the world of secular society.”
Four years later, Miss Cooke will be a featured speaker at the Missionaries’ conference on Saturday in West Covina, Calif. There she will speak alongside Rev. Edward Benihoff, whom Archbishop José Gomez recently appointed as Director of the Office for the New Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Her talk, “An Analysis of Mary’s Role in Evangelization,” is one of a series of presentations on the theme, “Dialogue and Inculturation: The Relationship Between Charism and Culture.”
“I turned into my 18-year-old self,” continues Miss Cooke’s Facebook post about her dream of returning to her alma mater. “It was hilarious, once I woke up.”
She then gets to the heart of the matter: “Why am I telling you this? BECAUSE THERE IS ONLY ONE DAY LEFT TO REGISTER, AND I KNOW THAT IF YOU COME YOU WILL LOVE IT. There are no chalkboards. THANK GOD.”
Indeed, Friday is the last day to register, so go sign up now — before it is too late!