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Hundreds Attend <br>Thomas Aquinas College Reception in New England

Hundreds Attend
Thomas Aquinas College Reception in New England

Posted: July 6, 2017

Friends from all points along the Eastern seaboard — from Quebec to Florida — gathered last Saturday on Thomas Aquinas College’s newly acquired property in Northfield, Massachusetts, for a chance to learn about the College’s unique program of Catholic liberal education and to meet members of the faculty.

  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.
  • Northfield Reception August 2017
    Slideshow: Thomas Aquinas College Reception in Northfield, Mass.

“When we set up this reception not more than three weeks ago, we expected that 100-150 people might come, and we would have been quite happy with that number,” says Director of Admissions Jon Daly. “With less than a week to go before the event, our numbers topped 300 — and from all over! We had folks representing 21 states and 2 Canadian provinces.”

In May the National Christian Foundation gifted the College with the onetime campus of a preparatory school in Northfield. By God’s grace, and contingent upon the approval of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, the College hopes to establish a New England branch campus on the site, welcoming its first class of freshmen in the fall of 2018. Saturday’s reception offered a chance for members of the local community, interested families, alumni of the College, and benefactors, both old and new, to get a glimpse of what the future may hold for the campus; to tour the grounds; to meet with tutors; and to ask questions.

“For the Greater Glory of God”

The day began with registration outside the Merrill-Keep residence hall, followed by an introductory assembly in the Moody Auditorium. There Dean John Goyette welcomed guests and gave an overview of the College’s academic program, focusing on five distinctive features — the core curriculum, the great books, the Discussion Method, the importance of math and science, and the program’s orientation toward theology as the highest science. “This property is an ideal setting for a possible second campus of Thomas Aquinas College,” said Dr. Goyette. “We look forward with great hope to working with our new neighbors.”

Following Dr. Goyette, the College’s vice president for development, Paul J. O’Reilly, addressed the audience, singling out two attendees, Lucia and David Powell. Mr. Powell is a grandson of D.L. Moody, the 19th century Protestant evangelist who founded the school that originally occupied the Northfield campus. “On behalf of Thomas Aquinas College, I would like to tell you,” Dr. O’Reilly assured the couple, “we aspire to follow D.L. Moody’s example,” particularly in two key manners: “We strive to be fully devoted to Jesus Christ, so that everything we may do here will be for the greater glory of God,” and “we hope to offer an education to those who are willing and able to do our educational program regardless of their financial circumstances.”

From there, the group set out to see the grounds, with Dr. O’Reilly warning guests that “when we tour the buildings, you will see that some are in need of repair and renovation.” Yet, “we should not be intimidated,” he added, noting that, “this will be a journey of faith,” and inviting guests to support the College’s eastward expansion with their prayers and, if possible, financially. “If God has blessed you with abundance, please think about joining us as partners in this movement of grace.”

Restoration

The larger group then divided into six smaller sections to facilitate the tour, which included stops at Olivia Music Hall, Meany Gymnasium, Sage Chapel, and Palmer Science Hall, where tutors presented demonstrations and answered questions about the College’s academic program. In one room, Dr. Thomas Kaiser and Dr. Michael Augros spoke about the role of mathematics, natural science, and music in the curriculum; while in another, Dr. Patrick Gardner and Dr. Phillip Wodzinski discussed the role of literature and language, and the preeminence of philosophy and theology. Both classrooms were set up with a large, central table, so as to illustrate the College’s use of the Discussion Method in its classes, and displayed many of the great books that make up its classical curriculum.

The tour concluded in the Moody Auditorium, where Dr. Goyette introduced prospective faculty members of the proposed New England branch campus as well as members of the College’s Admissions staff. College officials then answered questions, which ranged from matters of financial aid and admissions standards to faculty training and possible campus development. The audience was additionally treated to the testimonial of David Dowdy — the father of a TAC graduate and a teacher at Northfield Mountain Hermon School, which previously occupied the Northfield campus — who spoke of his unique relationship to both the College and the region. Mr. Dowdy shared stories of his own hope and prayers, as well as those of the many other people who have prayed that the Northfield campus would become, once more, a place of Christian learning.

“We know that people with various connections to this beautiful campus have been praying that it serve the purpose for which it was created, the education of young men and women who have a desire for the pursuit of wisdom under the light of faith,” remarked Dr. Thomas Kaiser, who is scheduled to head the initial New England team as associate dean. “We humbly and gratefully accept that responsibility. I know that these tutors and the administrators of the College will devote all of their energy to making this a success.”

Giving Thanks and Praise

The culmination of the day, however, came at the conclusion of the assembly, when guests made their way across campus to Sage Chapel for the first public Mass to be offered there since the College acquired the property. The building will require significant renovations before it is fit for regular Catholic worship, but the congregation did not mind: A temporary altar was erected in what, God willing, will one day be the chapel’s sanctuary, and those attending knelt directly on the floor, since the pews do not yet have kneelers. 

An alumnus — Rev. Michael Goyette (’94), a priest in the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, and Dr. Goyette’s brother — served as the principal celebrant and homilist, assisted at the altar by Rev. Charles Di Mascola, former pastor of Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in nearby Turners Falls, Massachusetts. Alumni and students formed an impromptu choir, singing hymns from the Sage Chapel loft. “It was the high point of the day,” says Dr. Wodzinski. “It was profoundly moving and transcendent.”

The reception concluded with a barbeque dinner in the Hibbard and Wilson residence halls, with guests spreading out across the lawn separating the two buildings. The weather — which had threatened rain all day — held out until the very end, with a storm arriving just as the last cars were departing campus, leaving College officials to happily clean up in the ensuing downpour. “It was an effort-filled endeavor,” one remarked, “and a joyous one.”

Caleb Skvaril (’19)

“Learning from the great books, you can see the questions that history’s greatest thinkers have asked and all the ways that they have tried to answer them. You’re able to see what’s right about what they’re saying, but also what’s wrong. The more your opinion is challenged, the more you have to refine it in order to get closer to the truth.”

– Caleb Skvaril (’19)

Asan, Guam

“I was moved and edified by your remarkable fidelity to St. Thomas Aquinas. Your academic program proposes an original way of training men and women capable of reading, thinking and interpreting tradition correctly.”

– Marc Cardinal Ouellet

Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops