Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Rev. Sebastian Walsge, O.Praem. ('94)On the final day of the recently concluded Synod on the Family, the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published an essay about the Synod’s purpose — and its challenges — by Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94). A professor of philosophy at St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California, Fr. Sebastian argues that, “The stakes are high,” for the Synod. “For unless modern man can recapture the meaning which God has written into the natural human family, the result will be ignorance and error, indifference and animosity, toward the entire supernatural order.”

Fr. Sebastian continues:

Every artist has his favorite work of art, and God’s favorite is the human family. From all eternity, in fact, He understood himself as the Son of Mary, as a member of a human family. The reason for God’s predilection is that more than the other parts of His creation, the family reflected His own goodness and beauty. Hence, we cannot know God, we cannot love Him, without knowing and loving the natural human family. …

Consider how the modern distortions of the family can lead to distortions in faith. The indissolubility of marriage is intended to be a sign of God’s eternal and unique love for His Church. Is it any surprise then that religious pluralism and the denial that there is one Church is widespread in a society in which divorce and remarriage are widespread? The natural begetting of a child through the loving union of husband and wife is intended to be a sign that God creates each human soul immediately and with love. This reality is obscured in a society which accepts in vitro fertilization or other artificial means of procreation.… And in households where, by design, there is no father or there is no mother, how will the children come to understand God as Father or what it means for God to love us like a mother? … Examples could be multiplied but, suffice it to say, a lack of love and esteem for the goodness of the natural family entails a lack of love and esteem for God and the things of heaven.

The bishops, writes Fr. Sebastian, are “striving to interpret to the world the supernatural significance of the natural family” — a task that is treacherous, but essential.

The full article is available via the Vatican’s news website.


Maria Barrett (’14)The College has received word that on the Feast of All Saints, November 1, Maria Barrett (’14) will enter the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary. There, as a postulant, she will join the Dominican Nuns of Summit, New Jersey, in their life of perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and recitation of the Holy Rosary.

Despite sensing a vocation to the religious life for many years, Miss Barrett admits that, until recently, she never expected to become a Dominican. In an interview at the time of her graduation, she explained that she had not considered the Order of Preachers until her senior year, when she providentially stumbled upon a copy of One Mind and Heart in God: Dominican Monastic Life. “I put it on my shelf, and then only sometime later started reading it,” she said. “And it was kind of amazing, because it was exactly what I wanted.”

The serenity of life at the College, Miss Barrett said, gave her the peace of mind and contemplative setting that allowed her to discern God’s call more clearly. “Here, things are slower, so you are able to think more deeply and pray more.”

Please keep Miss Barrett and her vocation in your prayers.


Rev. Hildebrand Garceau (’78), O.Praem.


Rev. Hildebrand Garceau, O.Praem. (’78), now serving as the College’s head chaplain, recently gave a “tutor talk” entitled “The Sanctification of Time and the Liturgy of the Hours.” Text and audio are available via the College’s website.


Diaconal ordination of Frater Jacob (Joseph Hsieh ’06)

The photo above shows the Most Rev. Kevin William Vann, Bishop of Orange, at the ordination of Frater Jacob (Joseph Hsieh ’06, left), O.Praem., to the transitional diaconate. The ordination took place on June 21 at the Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Shortly thereafter Frater Jacob, a seminarian with the Norbertine Fathers at St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California, departed for the Eternal City. “I am at the Norbertine Generalte, the place where Norbertines from all over the world stay to study in Rome,” he writes. “I’m here to study theology and music for a year, then I will go back and teach chant at the Abbey.”

Yet that is not Frater Jacob’s biggest news. “My ordination to the priesthood will be, God willing, on June 27, 2015 — less than a year away!” he adds. “Pray for me!”


On August 12 Br. Richard Berquist (’10) entered the novitiate for the Dominican Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. Two weeks later, on the Feast of St. Augustine (August 27), he was vested and received the Dominican habit during compline.


Br. Richard (top row, second from left) with his fellow novices

Br. Richard is now undergoing the first year of Dominican formation at St. Dominic’s Church in San Francisco, where he assists the church’s pastor and fellow alumnus, Rev. Michael Hurley, O.P. (’99). Prior to joining the Dominicans, Br. Richard earned a master’s degree in philosophy at The Catholic University of America. Please pray for him and all his fellow novices as they discern their vocations!


Rev. Hildebrand Garceau (’78), O.Praem.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.”



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!


Justin Lefevre (’00)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.


Rev. Hildebrand Garceau, O.Praem.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!


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.