Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Officer Rex Mohun (’90)A recent NBC News report describes how a contingent of California Highway Patrolmen has traveled to Cleveland to help local authorities ensure safety at this week’s Republican National Convention. Among the special-response team members chosen for this operation is a graduate of the College, Officer Rex Mohun (’90), who was recently named Officer of the Year for Ventura County.

Due to security concerns, the CHP has disclosed neither the number of officers it has dispatched nor the nature of their assignment. Yet given political tensions surrounding the presidential campaign, the ongoing threat of terrorism, and the recent outburst of violence against police officers that has plagued the nation, the security risks are significant.

Officer Mohun’s wife, Serena (Gimm ’87) reports that his family is praying the Prayer to St. Michael for his safety. Let us all join them in this prayer, for Officer Mohun and for law-enforcement officials everywhere:

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.


Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, <em>The Return of the Prodigal Son<em>, 1667/1670 Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1667/1670

In the Year of Mercy and the Catechist, a lengthy, thoughtful talk that Martha (Schaeffer ’76) Long presented at the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia’s February conference for catechetical leaders, has recently been made available online. 

A lady of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, a master catechist, and an expert on catechesis and sacred art, Mrs. Long has been teaching religious education in Arlington for more than 20 years. Her talk, presented to parish catechetical directors and coordinators, is a wide-ranging examination of the origins and purpose of jubilee years, a thorough analysis of the role of mercy throughout the Old and New Testaments, a study of various artistic depictions of the parable of the Prodigal Son, and a practical account of how Catholics can avail themselves of the special graces that the Holy Father has made available in this extraordinary year.

It is also a testimonial about mercy in the life, and death, of the believer.

In a rather personal portion of the talk, Mrs. Long speaks candidly about her husband, Kevin Long (’77), who, after a decades-long struggle with severe bipolar disorder, took his life nearly two years ago. Since then, Mrs. Long has received countless spiritual consolations and numerous hints, some bordering on the miraculous, of Kevin’s eternal rest. “My constant prayer since August 19, 2014, has been for mercy. And I believe that Our Lord hears those prayers and will grant Kevin mercy, for as the psalmist says, ‘His mercy endures forever,’” she reflects.

Noting that “there are no limits to God’s mercy,” Mrs. Long remarks, “Divine Mercy is the form that God’s eternal love takes when He reaches out to us in the midst of our need and our brokenness. Whatever our misery might be — sin, guilt, suffering, or death — He is always ready to pour out his merciful, compassionate love for us, to help in time of need.”

The full address is available, in PDF format, via the Diocese of Arlington’s website.


Emily McBryan (’11), photo: The Catholic University of America Emily McBryan (’11), photo: The Catholic University of America

“Emily McBryan has always been intrigued by the ‘big questions.’”

So begins a profile of Miss McBryan, Class of 2011, on the website of The Catholic University of America, where she is now pursuing graduate studies in English literature. “During her undergraduate years,” the profile says, describing her time at Thomas Aquinas College, “she studied the heavyweights of philosophy and theology — Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, Kierkegaard — eager to know whether the things she had been taught in high school would withstand scrutiny.”

In philosophy and theology tutorials, she found the intellectual substantiation she sought, but it was in her seminar classes — reading great works of literature — that she discovered her passion. “I found that literature encompasses all of those things philosophy and theology are talking about,” Miss McBryan says. “Literature offers an account of the human experience, of man trying to make sense of his being in the world.”

After graduating from the College, she taught three years of middle and high school English, before enrolling at The Catholic University, where she is concentrating on literature of the American South. There, she is joined by Sophia (Mason ’09) Feingold, who is completing a doctorate, and she will soon be joined by Jane Forsyth (’11), who will enter the literature program in August.


Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly Back in December, the state of Washington’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) implemented a ruling on gender identity, making it permissible for the state’s residents to enter either men’s or women’s restrooms and locker rooms purely on the basis of “gender identification,” and irrespective of biology. Now an effort is under way to repeal that ruling and create safe restroom and changing areas for all Washingtonians. Leading that effort is a graduate and governor of Thomas Aquinas College, Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly.

In her capacity as the founding president of the Washington Women’s Network, Mrs. Connelly is working to collect the requisite 246,372 signatures to put state initiative I-1515 on the November ballot. If approved by the voters, I-1515 would allow for the restoration of sexually segregated bathrooms and locker rooms in public and private institutions, and require them in public schools. The measure would also ensure reasonable accommodations for public-school children who are not comfortable using the boys’ or girls’ facilities.

“There are schools opening up the bathrooms and the showers (to everyone), which is absolutely unacceptable,” Mrs. Connelly recently told Tacoma’s News-Tribune. “They’re all required to do it by the HRC mandate.” The campaign to overturn the mandate, she says, is about common-sense protection. “We want to protect transgender kids. … We want to protect boys. We want to protect girls. It feels like that overly broad HRC mandate does not do that.”

In support of the campaign, Mrs. Connelly recently appeared on the My Catholic Faith podcast with Dr. Thomas Curran, director of Trinity Formation Resources. “Inclusiveness means women and children, too,” she told Dr. Curran. “Women and children have a human right to be safe and to have privacy and to have dignity, just as every single person does.”

As of last week, the Yes on I-1515 campaign had collected 200,000 of the 246,372 signatures it needs to get the initiative on the ballot. The deadline is tomorrow, July 8. Please pray for Mrs. Connelly and her efforts!


Under the Rule of St. Benedict, the community must be self-sufficient, and the brothers have taken up a successful brewing business to help pay the bills. For several years they have marketed their Birra Nursia in Italy, and in April they began — with Br. Augustine (Philip Wilmeth ’13) as their brewmaster — selling in the United States, too. Birra Nursia’s two beers, a blond ale and a Belgian strong ale, are now both available for purchase throughout the U.S. via the monastery’s website.

In an interview with Rev. Dwight Longenecker, Br. Augustine explains that, for the monks, brewing is part of their life of prayer. “The goal of our life is to pray always, whether brewing, cooking, or walking down the corridor,” he said. “Continual prayer; it may happen when we are brewing or bottling or drinking or while we are praying.”

Thomas Aquinas College Governor Bernarda Neal helped coordinate the U.S. launch of Birra Nursia, which has attracted considerable media attention. In addition to the segment on Fox News, the monks have enjoyed coverage in Aleteia and the Los Angeles Times, which proclaimed, “If holy contact is paramount, Birra Nursia delivers the most monk for your buck. From the hilltop monastery in central Italy, there are no laymen involved in the production or packaging of the beer, and no retailers or bartenders between you and this Benedectine brew.”


Rev. Mr. Miguel Gaspar Batres, O.Praem (’08) talks to students at St. Michael's Abbey Preparatory School Rev. Mr. Miguel Gaspar Batres, O.Praem (’08) talks to students at St. Michael's Abbey Preparatory School The College just learned of another alumnus who was ordained to the transitional diaconate over the past weekend: Rev. Mr. Miguel Gaspar Batres, O.Praem (’08). The Most Rev. Kevin William Vann, J.C.D., Bishop of Orange, ordained Frater Miguel, a Norbertine monk at St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California, on Saturday, June 25, at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Costa Mesa.

Following the ordinations of Rev. Messrs. Jeffrey Hanley (’13) and Maximilian Nightingale (’13) on Saturday, plus Rev. Mr. Deneys Williamson (’10) on May 26, that makes four new deacons in the last month — and, by God’s grace, four new priests within the next year.

Thanks be to God!


Jeffrey Hanley (’13) and Maximilian Nightingale (’13)
Jeffrey Hanley (’13) and Maximilian Nightingale (’13)

This coming Saturday, the Most Rev. Paul J. Bradley, Bishop of Kalamazoo, Michigan, will ordain two members of the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 2013 to the transitional diaconate: Jeffrey Hanley and Maximilian Nightingale. Kalamazoo natives, Messrs. Hanley and Nightingale both entered the seminary shortly after their graduation and have studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. By God’s grace, these classmates will be ordained to the priesthood in 2017.

Please pray for these two young, courageous servants of God!


 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.


Sr. Mary Josefa of the Eucharist (’07) and her fellow Benedictine, Sr. Judith Marie of Jesus, upon making their solemn vows Sr. Mary Josefa of the Eucharist (left) and her fellow Benedictine, Sr. Judith Marie of Jesus, upon making their solemn vows The College has just received the joyful news that on April 9, Sr. Mary Josefa of the Eucharist, OSB (Kathleen Holcomb ’07), made her Solemn Profession of Vows as a member of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. The vows took place during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at St. James Catholic Church in St. Joseph, Missouri, with  the Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, the Most Rev. James Vann Johnston, Jr., presiding.

There are now 41 professed religious among the College’s alumni, and 65 ordained priests.

Deo gratias! 


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.”