Faith in Action Blog
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.
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.”
Whenever the matter of mandatory priestly discipline arises, the arguments put forth in its defense are typically practical in nature, touching on matters pastoral or even financial, but seldom theological. Recognizing this shortcoming in the ongoing discussion, Rev. Gary B Selin, STD (’89) has authored a new scholarly work, Priestly Celibacy: Theological Foundations, which proposes a systematic theology of priestly celibacy, ordered around the Eucharist.
An assistant professor and the formation director at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Fr. Selin holds a doctorate in systematic theology from The Catholic University of America, which is the publisher of this, his first book. Priestly Celibacy, according to the publisher’s description, explores the “Christological, ecclesiological, and eschatological dimensions” of the Church’s ancient discipline:
“The volume begins with a summary of the biblical foundations of clerical continence and celibacy, and then reviews the development of the discipline in the Latin Church from the patristic era to the twentieth century, while also tracing the emerging theology that underlies the practice. The focus then switches to the teaching of Vatican II, Paul VI and subsequent magisterial texts, as elaborated through the threefold dimension of celibacy. The final two chapters consists of Selin’s original contribution to the discussion, particularly in the form of various proposals for a systematic theology of priestly celibacy.”
Released on April 14, Priestly Celibacy: Theological Foundations includes a foreword by His Eminence J. Francis Cardinal Stafford, Major Penitentiary Emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary and the former Archbishop of Denver. The book is available via Amazon.com.
In August this blog reported on an education success story in Montrose, California, where St. Monica Academy — a private, Catholic K-12 school run largely by Thomas Aquinas College alumni — was moving to a new, larger campus, due to the steady growth of its student body. Although the move took place over the summer, and St. Monica’s has been operating on its new campus since the fall, the relocation achieved its true consummation last week when the local bishop visited the campus to offer his blessing.
On April 5, the Most Rev. Joseph V. Brennan, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, walked through the campus, surrounded by 10 student acolytes, stopping to bless each classroom, the high school buildings, the athletic field, and the playground with holy water. “I felt the grace of God descend upon the school,” says Headmaster Marguerite (Ford ’79) Grimm, calling the event, “a historic day for St. Monica Academy.”
Founded with just 44 students in 2001, St. Monica’s has seen its enrollment swell to 242 this year. It is a mainstay on the Cardinal Newman Society’s list of “Schools of Excellence,” a ranking of the top Catholic schools across the United States, which also includes several others that are headed by Thomas Aquinas College alumni.
In addition to Mrs. Grimm, there are 11 other alumni on the St. Monica’s faculty: Mary Kate Zepeda (’89), Darren Bradley (’98), Alexandra Currie (’05), Genevieve Grimm (’05), Paula Grimm (’08), Daniel Selmeczy (’08), Marisela Miranda (’09), Jane Forsyth (’11), Colleen Smith (’11), Thomas Quackenbush (’14), and Thomas Trull (’15). Like the College, St. Monica’s employs a classical curriculum and stresses fidelity to the teaching Church.
In a thoughtful piece for Crisis timed for Holy Week, Don Quixote and the Via Dolorosa, Mr. Fitzgerald considers Miguel de Cervantes’ Adventures of Don Quixote as a fitting Lenten read:
“The adventures of Don Quixote are a Passion where the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. The novel takes up its cross, chapter after chapter, and follows after Christ. Chapter after chapter, the Knight of the Sorrowful Face falls, and, chapter after chapter, he gets up again and continues on. It is a book that plays out with all the pain and poignancy, all the humanity and humor, that composes the chivalric call of the Christian life. …
“[It] is the Lenten quest of every Christian soul: to bring harmony and order to times that are out of joint. What Don Quixote finds is that the world is sundered and senseless, and the work to rebuild among the ruins is treacherous. Though he is trampled and trounced time and again, Don Quixote resolutely rides on for the unity and wisdom of bygone days and is upheld by his vision as he battles through the divisions and disconnections of modernity.”
The headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Mr. Fitzpatrick writes frequently for Crisis. The complete article complete article is available via the magazine’s website.
Meghan Duke (’08) and Elizabeth (McPherson ’99) Claeys (Photos: Dana Rene Bowler)
Wednesday morning, while the United States Supreme Court held oral arguments in the case that the College and 34 co-plaintiffs have filed against the HHS Contraceptive Mandate, Women Speak for Themselves organized a rally outside the Court. Among the speakers at the rally were two alumnae of the College, Meghan Duke (’08) and Elizabeth (McPherson ’99) Claeys.
A former managing editor of First Things who is now a writer in The Catholic University of America’s Office of Marketing and Communications, Miss Duke spoke about her time volunteering for the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have become the focal point of the national debate on religious freedom. Mrs. Claeys, who is chairman of the Washington, D.C., Board of Regents, spoke about the importance of the Catholic faith to the College and pressed the key points in the College’s case. The full text of her remarks is available via the College’s website.
Dr. Adam Seagrave ('05)In honor of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Services, Dr. Adam Seagrave (’05) has penned a thoughtful piece for The Public Discourse about the role of the national parks — and Nature more broadly — in the American political tradition. “Over the past 400 years, we Americans have had a very different relationship with nature than the Europeans have,” writes Dr. Seagrave, “and this relationship has powerfully informed what is best in our political culture and public discourse.”
An assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, Dr. Seagrave is the author of The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law and editor of Liberty and Equality: The American Conversation. A regular contributor to The Public Discourse, Dr. Seagrave observes, “It was because of Americans’ early and unique experience with ‘Nature’ that they came to embrace Locke’s political philosophy in the eighteenth century, with its emphasis on the importance of natural rights and the natural law for politics.” Yet as the country became further removed “from this original experience of nature, through the passage of time and the development of artificial civilization and culture, the original meaning and political significance of nature progressively began to be forgotten. … By the early twentieth century, we were ready to ‘progress’ beyond the founders’ and Lincoln’s ideas, which now seemed naïve, about the political relevance of a grand and significant ‘Nature.’”
By restoring our awe, or reverence, for nature, Dr. Seagrave concludes, the National Parks play a vital role in helping Americans to “connect — or rather reconnect — with something important and distinctive about our national heritage.”
The full article I available via The Public Discourse.
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- Two Class of 2005 Authors in The Public Discourse (2013)
- What Pro-Lifers Can Learn from Frederick Douglass (2013)
- Recent Reads by Alumni Authors (2012)
Sierra Silverstrings, featuring the children of Eve (Bouchey ’97) and Jeremy McNeil (’96)
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, KOLO 8, the ABC affiliate in Reno, Nevada, has put together the following segment about Sierra Silverstrings — a local Irish band whose members are the children of Eve (Bouchey ’97) and Jeremy McNeil (’96):
“When people say you play together, you stay together, it’s kind of true, because we were friends, but now we know each other better,” young Brigit McNeil tells KOLO News. “It’s hard to explain. It connects us. We play together, and when you play music, it’s such a joyful thing to create those sounds with each other.”
According to the Sierra Silverstrings website, the band is booked for three shows today, St. Patrick’s Day, and another two more on Saturday, the Feast of St. Joseph.
Writing on his personal blog, Mark Langley (’89) reviews an off-Broadway performance of a new play — written and directed by a Tony and Pulitzer award-winning author — about two late members of the Thomas Aquinas College family, Louise and John Schmitt.
Louise and John SchmittThe Schmitts were the parents of seven Thomas Aquinas College alumni, including Mr. Langley’s wife, Stephanie (’89), and the grandparents of six graduates and six current students. Mr. Schmitt, moreover, joined the teaching faculty in 1974 and was instrumental in organizing the College’s first Commencement ceremony. He left in 1979 to found the Trivium School, a residential high school offering a classical curriculum in Lancaster, Massachusetts. Many Trivium graduates have gone on to attend the College, and several of the College’s alumni have gone on to teach at Trivium.
Yet the reason that Mr. and Mrs. Schmitt figure so prominently in John Patrick Shanley’s recently debuted Prodigal Son has to do with their work prior to their time at the College, specifically in the 1960s, when Mr. Schmitt was the founding headmaster of the St. Thomas More School in New Hampshire. One of his students was a talented but rebellious boy who found his time at the school to be transformative. That student was Mr. Shanley, who has gone on to great acclaim as the screenwriter of Moonstruck and Doubt.
Featuring music by none other than Paul Simon, Prodigal Son tells the story of Jim Quinn, a character based on the adolescent Shanley. The Schmitts show extraordinary patience and dedication to the young man, for reasons, the audience learns, having largely to do with their own great personal suffering. As Mr. Langley writes:
“Mr. and Mrs. Schmitt .. share a well concealed sorrow, a sorrow caused by the tragic death of their own son. This sorrow becomes the source of Quinn’s redemption. Their hearts softened by grief, and harrowed by suffering, impel them to see the good in Quinn, despite his many expellable indiscretions, and they are able to see him through to the end — drawing out his hidden talents and mercifully allowing him to graduate — thus providing him with a sense of self-worth and new opportunity. …
“The play revealed a hidden chapter in the lives of John and Louise Schmitt. The events occurred when my wife was only a year old. Perhaps strangely, yet somewhat typical of many in that generation, Stephanie’s parents did not air their personal lives. They never spoke about these events to me and rarely if ever to their own children. In point of fact, John and Louise Schmitt suffered through not just one, but the tragic deaths of two of their children.”
The founder and the academic dean of The Lyceum, a classical school in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Langley writes that Prodigal Son “is about the mysterious role that suffering plays in life — even the seemingly senseless suffering and heartbreaking pain that comes with the death of one’s own child, one’s own son.” His wife, and her siblings, he adds, are “grateful for the gift that Shanley had given them through this play,” as it has helped to give them “an answer about the mysterious workings of God’s grace in the deaths of their siblings … deaths whose explanations until now had been consigned to the inexplicable mysteries of God’s Divine plan.”