By Laura Sherwood (’14)
Note: The following essay is adapted from comments made before the Thomas Aquinas College Board of Governors at its May 16, 2014, meeting.
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to be here today and, above all, I would like to thank you on behalf of all my fellow students for your efforts in support of the College as members of the Board of Governors. The education we have received here is truly invaluable, and it would not be possible without your support. We will always be praying for you and for all the benefactors of the College.
Before I came here, I knew no graduate or current student, I knew next to nothing about the program, and I could recognize St. Thomas on a holy card, but that was just about all I knew about him. My wonderful mother first heard about the College when I was in middle school and, by the grace of God, even then I was saying I wanted to attend Thomas Aquinas College. Throughout high school I always said the same. Then came the summer after my senior year, long after I had been accepted, long after I had put the deposit down to come here, when I realized that I had never thought about why I wanted to come.
Suddenly I was not pleased with myself for embarking on such a great California adventure, when I could have attended the local Catholic-but-not-really university and roomed with my best friend, going home whenever I wanted. In hindsight, I know that the Lord wanted me to receive this incredible education and therefore gave me the grace of almost perfect confidence throughout by the whole college decision-making process, and even long before — otherwise, I do not know that I would be here today.
My high school education was rigorous, and to this day I love my teachers. Still it was nothing but a preparation for good SAT scores, the Advanced Placement college tests, and getting good marks at the university of my choice. I had experienced nothing like a Thomas Aquinas College education, and because of this, my freshman year here was difficult. It took me quite a while to get used to the discussion method, to be able to understand the structure of arguments in the texts. Our readings in the Philosophy tutorial were so unintelligible to me that they might as well have been in a different language.
But I was changing. One of my favorite parts of my freshman year was coming to realize that the world was intelligible. It was so incredible for me to be able to see, over and over again in the Natural Science tutorial, how nature acts for an end. The exhaustive categorization of syllogistic forms for arguments and the beautiful progression in Euclidian geometry were truths that I just never would have expected. Growing up, I was immersed, without even knowing it, in our post-Cartesian, cultural idea that the outside world is unintelligible. The liberation from that was life-changing.
Here at Thomas Aquinas College, we receive the education of a free man, insofar as it helps him to achieve freedom. We do not pursue this education for the sake of rocketing ourselves into the job market. We pursue this education to learn about the truth that allows us to function according to the highest parts in our soul. Such studies not only liberate us from the falsehood that is so apparent in our culture today, but also from our own ignorance. As Christians we believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and so we know that our studies are ultimately focused on Him. The Gospel of John records Jesus saying, “I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” Here we have the privilege of becoming free by finding, or in many cases being found by, the truth and abiding in it.
Here at the College I have been found by the Truth, and now it is my duty to take it into the world. We as Christians are called to form a city on a hill, and to be a light of the world. But for us graduates of Thomas Aquinas College, the rules by which we are this light and by which we will evangelize our culture have been defined by our education here. Next year I will be teaching geometry at St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix, Arizona. By the grace of God, there will be three other ladies from my class teaching there with me, and many more of my friends will be teaching within the Great Hearts Charter School system also in Phoenix. This coming December, I am marrying one of my classmates here in our beautiful chapel. We cannot begin to thank you for making all this possible.
The Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, Mr. Cain, often speaks of the Latin word munus. It is translated primarily as “duty,” but also can be translated as “gift.” As members of the Thomas Aquinas College community, we have a duty to fight for the College, but this duty is also our unique gift from God. Thank you so much for everything you do for the College. Let us carry out our sacred duty and bring the light of Christ to the world by doing everything we can to support the College. I am confident that this duty is a gift that will bring us life more abundantly. Thank you so much.
Miss Sherwood is from Richland, Washington.
“The culture at the College, the community was very formative for me. I saw joyful people living their Catholic faith, doing it to the best of their ability, and not being ashamed of it.”
– Rev. John Marie Bingham, O.P. (’00)
Parochial Vicar, Saint Dominic’s Parish, Benicia, Calif
“On behalf of the Church in Phoenix, I want to express my appreciation of the witness to Christ offered by the faculty, staff, and students of this exceptional institution, and to thank you for your love of learning and your desire to offer fitting worship to the Blessed Trinity.”
– Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted
Bishop of Phoenix