Faith in Action Blog
The photo above comes from one of the College’s earliest graduates, Sr. Mary Catherine Blanding, IHM (’76). A nun with the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Wichita, Kansas, Sr. Mary Catherine is shown here teaching a group of novices “the perennial wisdom of St. Thomas,” she writes.
In addition to working with her community’s newest members, Sr. Mary Catherine instructs religious-education teachers at the Diocese of Wichita’s Regan Catechetical Institute, assists parishes with their religious-education programs, and offers spiritual formation for college students at the diocesan parish that serves Wichita State University.
In this Year of Consecrated Life, please pray for Sister, her catechetical endeavors, and all of the College’s religious alumnae!
This November, the Vatican will host the World Congress on Catholic Education, at which educational experts from across the globe will meet to discuss “the challenges that the ‘educational emergency’ unavoidably provokes for our societies, educational systems, and the Church.” Among those experts invited to participate will be one of the preeminent advocates for Catholic liberal education in the United States, Michael Van Hecke (’86).
“The aim of this Congress echoes everything I’ve strived for in my work,” says Mr. Van Hecke. “The issues of this congress are the same issues I’ve been discussing with colleagues, superintendents, and bishops for … years.”
Mr. Van Hecke is the headmaster of St. Augustine Academy, a K-12 classical school in Ventura, California, that is consistently ranked among the best Catholic schools in the United States. He is also the president of the Catholic Schools Textbook Project and the president and founder of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education (ICLE).
“People are desperate to know how to revitalize Catholic schools,” Mr. Van Hecke observes, and “the Catholic Textbook Project and the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education have become the organizations to go to for help.” Catholic schools in more than 50 dioceses in North America and overseas and now using Catholic Textbook Project textbooks, and the ICLE has been active in helping Catholic schools across the country to adopt classical, authentically Catholic curricula.
The Congregation for Catholic Education is hosting the World Congress, which will take place in Vatican City, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s declaration Gravissimum Educationis and the 25th anniversary of the Pope St. John Paul’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae. “I am grateful for the Vatican invitation and look forward to the November Congress and its international discussion,” says Mr. Van Hecke. “I hope that others might benefit from the experience we have gained from our work with Catholic schools here in North America.”
Over the weekend the Ventura County Star published a lengthy feature about the latest assault on human life in California — physician-assisted suicide, now euphemistically dubbed “aid in dying.” The story includes quotations from both prominent supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 128, which would permit doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients. Among those opposed to the measure is an alumnus and tutor of the College, Dr. John. J. Goyette (’90).
“The very idea of physician-assisted suicide is an implicit judgment that a life that involves suffering is not really worth living,” Dr. Goyette tells the Star. “It’s seeing human beings as disposable.” Framing the controversy not so much as one of religion but of human dignity, he adds, “Natural law forbids taking innocent human life,” a prohibition of which “faith reminds us.”
Dr. Goyette continues by observing that assisted suicide’s supporters have a grimly utilitarian view of the end of human life. “The underlying assumption is that a death with pain and suffering is somehow meaningless or undignified — that doesn’t really fit with our experience,” he says. “Suffering is an opportunity for people to show care and compassion. A death that’s filled with compassion, that’s not a meaningless or undignified death.”
The full story is available on the Ventura Star website.
Sara Majkowski ('14), front right, and fellow members of Catholics in Action
Less than one year since her graduation, Sara Majkowski (’14) is living just outside of Phoenix, where she is an educator by day and — in her spare time — she is learning the ropes of film production and finance.
This entrée to the movie business comes as a surprise. Like several other recent graduates, Miss Majkowski went to Phoenix to teach in the city’s rapidly expanding consortium of Great Hearts charter academies, classical schools that are, as she puts it, “very academically rigorous, with high standards in terms of behavior and academics.” But upon settling into her new city, she found herself a church — St. Anne’s in Gilbert — with ties to an emerging lay apostolate, Catholics in Action.
Directed by the pastor of St. Anne’s, Rev. Sergio Muñoz Fita, Catholics in Action is an American offshoot of Catholic Action, an international apostolate of the Secular Institute Servi Trinitatis. CIA, as it is known, is “about lay people obtaining sanctity in their lives as lay people,” Miss Majkowski explains. “We pray together in adoration. We receive spiritual formation. We reach out to the community, the poor, and young people who need formation, everything Christ directs us to do.”
Although a new member, Miss Majkowski is already heavily involved in CIA and its good works. She is helping to organize a trip to the 2016 World Youth Day in Poland, and she is busily raising funds for an upcoming film, Footprints.
The genesis of Footprints came about last summer, when two groups from St. Anne’s — one men, one women — made 40-day pilgrimages along Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela. A camera crew accompanied the men’s group, obtaining footage for a film that aims, Miss Majkowski says, “to document their spiritual experience, undergoing psychological trials and harsh physical demands.” There will be a premier screening in June and a general release, they expect, within a year. “I’m working on raising funds to complete production through a Kickstarter campaign, selling merchandise, approaching businesses, and spreading the word,” she says.
Meanwhile, Miss Majkowski thrives at Arete Preparatory Academy in Gilbert, where she teaches history and Latin to elementary-school students. “There is so much that goes into teaching — finding ways to make the lessons ‘stick,’ holding students’ attention, being responsible with grading, working with parents, and planning events,” she says. “I like it. I like it a lot.”
Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01) and Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05)
The latest issue of the Claremont Review of Books features one Thomas Aquinas College alumnus writing about another: Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01), a visiting assistant professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, reviews The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law, by Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05), an assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University.
“I wanted to title my review ‘Natural Law Photobombs Locke-ish Selfie: What Happens Next Will Shock Your Political Philosophy,” jokes Mr. Peterson via Facebook. “But they went with Nature Trail. I guess I’ll keep my day job.”
Alas, sans the Gawker-worthy headline, the review begins:
“The debate over what we mean when we speak of rights, especially in the American context, often concerns what John Locke understood them to mean. Locke’s ambiguity is a gift that keeps on giving to scholarly presses. In The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law, S. Adam Seagrave, a self-identified Aristotelian-Thomist, mercifully refrains from attempting the definitive commentary on what he rightly calls Locke’s ‘problematically vague and incomplete’ account of the basis of rights. Instead, he makes not a wholly Lockean but, as he says, a ‘Locke-ish’ case for how natural rights arise from the very structure of human beings.”
After a thoughtful analysis of Dr. Seagrave’s book — mostly positive, albeit sprinkled with a few objections — Dr. Peterson concludes his review with praise:
“[Dr. Seagrave] has eschewed the imposing vagaries of modern scholarship in favor of actually engaging in the act of philosophy rather than mere commentary or critique. True philosophic exploration of difficult questions is much like the art of negotiating a fair deal: if one side walks away in smug satisfaction, you’re probably not doing it right. Everyone will disagree with some chunk of S. Adam Seagrave’s provocative work, but his effort is a brave breath of fresh air in the stagnant, painfully insecure, and often comically compartmentalized world of academic books.”
The full review is available via the Claremont Review of Books.
“I do not see a flickering candle at the end of this year’s Lenten journey,” writes alumnus Mark Langley (’89) on his blog, Lion & Ox. “No, I see a burst of glory and the veritable Super Nova, that is Christ’s Resurrection from the tomb, and what’s more, I also see over two cases of a very fine pale ale, some of which will enable me to celebrate that Resurrection with more propriety.”
The founder and the academic dean of The Lyceum, a classical school in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Langley is also a husband, a father of 12, and an amateur brewer. In this last capacity, he has detected a relationship between his faith and his hobby. “Lent was specifically designed for brewing beer,” Mr. Langley writes. “The reason for this is obvious. Beer takes exactly 40 days (more or less) to ferment and grow from a weak sweet slop of ‘wort’ into a fine, noble, life-giving, heart-cheering, spiritually-enhancing liquid — whose foam raises itself in the glass as does incense in the chapel.”
And so, at the start of Lent, Mr. Langley began a new batch of English pale ale that will be ready precisely on Easter Sunday. “Of course we fast and pray for forty days first primarily in imitation of our Lord,” he observes. “But the same period of time is also roughly speaking an ideal space for brewing beer, and therefore I think it is obvious that this is a fitting thing for Christians to do in the first week of Lent.”
To read more of Mr. Langley’s musings on Lenten brewing, read the full post on his blog.
In 2008 Dean Brian T. Kelly (’88) introduced Rev. Gerard George Steckler, S.J., at an Alumni Association dinner held in the former chaplain’s honor. In light of Fr. Steckler’s death last week, the College has published the text of Dr. Kelly’s remarks — a beautiful recollection of a good and holy priest.
Please continue to pray for Fr. Steckler and the repose of his soul.
Dr. Christopher A. Decaen (’93) now a tutor at the College, recently presented a Tutor Talk entitled, “Why the Burning Bush?” Audio of the talk is available via the player below, or by following this link.
Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87)In response to a rising demand for classical liberal education in Catholic schools, some Thomas Aquinas College graduates are working to prepare the next generation of Catholic school administrators. Under the auspices of their Institute for Catholic Education (ICLE), Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87) and Michael Van Hecke (’86) are hosting a webinar for Catholic teachers who are interested in becoming headmasters and headmistresses.
“The word is getting out that a rising number of Catholic schools are flourishing!” declares an ad for the webinar. “Their secret? A renewed commitment to the traditions of Catholic education — serious grounding in the classical liberal arts, immersion in Catholic history and culture, attention to developing virtue — resulting in communities that rejoice in the truth. Catholic schools are in growing need of leaders who can turn these ideals into living realities. Appeals for qualified and committed educators are constant. Searches are no longer merely regional, but national in scope.”
Dr. Seeley is a tutor at the College and ICLE’s executive director. Mr. Van Hecke, the Institute’s president and founder, is the headmaster of St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, California. Among the educators who will be leading the seminar is another graduate of the College, Luke Macik (’87), headmaster of the Lyceum, a classical liberal-arts high school in Cleveland, Ohio.
The three-hour online discussion, Answering the Call — An Introduction to Catholic School Leadership, will include Catholic educators from around the country. The webinar will take place on Saturday, February 21, at 10 a.m. Registration is $25.