Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Dr. Lane (Smith ’04) Scott and family

“I was in my dress and getting ready to leave,” recalls Lane (Smith ’04) Scott, describing that woeful day in 2011 when she almost got her Ph.D.

After spending three years completing her coursework and another four writing a dissertation, she had made the six-hour, 400-mile drive from her home in Angels Camp, California, to Los Angeles to defend her dissertation at Claremont Graduate University. Then the phone rang.

It was her adviser. “He said that the department chair had not actually bothered to read my dissertation until the night before, and then determined that I had an incomplete understanding of the subject,” she sighs. The defense was canceled. “Dissertation defenses never get canceled. Everyone knows that once the defense is scheduled, you’re golden. It was mortifying — unprecedented. I was in my dress and on my way to the campus, and instead of being done I had to write an entirely new dissertation.”

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When alumnus Jared Kuebler (’03) joined the Thomas Aquinas College teaching faculty in 2011, he had already completed his doctoral studies (theology, Ave Maria University), but not his dissertation. He therefore spent most of his vacation and free time over the last few years completing this requirement — a challenging task for a full-time college instructor and father of six. His diligence, however, has paid off and, as a result, he has earned the title of doctor.

Last week, Dr. Kuebler traveled back to Ave Maria and successfully defended his dissertation, “Created and Uncreated Duration: Time and Eternity in St. Thomas Aquinas.”

“Ultimately, my thesis was that the divine eternity is understood by St. Thomas as including the notions of duration and measure, but that both notions are understood in an analogous sense,” Dr. Kuebler explains. “I attempted to lay out the way in which one should understand those analogies based on our first knowledge of time, duration, and measure as taken from our experience of the sensible world.”

Rev. Matthew Lamb, S.T.L, the founder of Ave Maria’s theology graduate program, served as Dr. Kuebler’s thesis director, and the dissertation received the examining board’s hearty approval. Dr. Kuebler is now the fifth Thomas Aquinas College alumnus — and the third member of its teaching faulty — to earn a doctorate at Ave Maria, in a program that is just 10 years old and has accepted only three or four Ph.D. students per year. The other alumni are Dr. John Froula (’99), Dr. Jeff Froula (’02), and tutors Dr. Katherine Gardner (’06) and Dr. Paul Shields (’07).

Congratulations, Dr. Kuebler!


The Canadian Broadcast Corporation’s Ottawa Morning recently aired an episode about Elizabeth (Susanka) and Jeff Fennelly (both ’03) and their adopted son, Shawn. Now eight years old, Shawn is profoundly deaf and suffers from limited vision, cerebral palsy, and reflux disorder. Doctors once feared that he would never sit or stand on his own, or give and receive affection.

Yet under the Fennellys’ care, Shawn has thrived. He is walking and he feeds himself. His vision his improving, and he delights in the love of his parents. The Fennellys’ devotion to their son is heroic, from their initial fight to adopt Shawn, to their decision to relocate, so that they would be closer to his therapists, to the $10,000 they spend each year on Pedialite. At the moment, they are busily trying to learn American Sign Language so that they can communicate with him more effectively.

Thanks be to God for these loving parents, and may God bless this beautiful family!

Full audio of the episode is available in the player below:


Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro

A Third Order Carmelite, Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro recently appeared on Radio Maria’s “Carmelite Conversations,” where she spoke about her book, Diary of a Country Mother. The memoir, which chronicles the life of her beloved son Tim, reflects her yearlong journey of prayer and meditation, begun about six months after Tim’s death at the age of 15 in 2005.

Diary of a Country Mother“This account of the life of my son simply reveals that each person, no matter his mental or physical problems, has a great worth beyond measure, and leaves an enormous impact on those near to them and those farther afield,” Mrs. Montanaro tells host Mark Damis.

At the beginning of the interview, Mrs. Montanaro also describes how she and her husband, Andrew (’78), met while students at the College. “Conversation is a very big part of anything that goes on at Thomas Aquinas because, since everyone has taken the same classes, we can speak about the same things with one another,” she reflects. “So we became very good friends and discussed the important things of life” — a friendship that eventually led to marriage and Tim’s adoption.

“Tim’s death was very sudden for us,” she recalls, “and so then the rest of life just became trying to accept it and to deal with it.” The Montanaros found consolation by uniting their suffering with that of Christ. “It helps us so much, whenever there is an especially deep trial in our lives, to remember that life is not always the picnic or the party, the banquet. It’s very often the walk, carrying the Cross up the Hill of Calvary,” she says. “And that was particularly true to us as we were suffering, to remember that we were suffering with Christ, and He was carrying us, and we were carrying the Cross.”

The full interview with Mrs. Montanaro is available via the Radio Maria website, and Diary of a County Mother is for sale, in paperback and Kindle formats, on Amazon.com.


Some timely words of advice in USA Today from alumna journalist Katrina Trinko (’09): “No one needs to be able to buy a big-screen TV on Thanksgiving.”

The managing editor of the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal and a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors, Miss Trinko has penned an op-ed encouraging Americans to abstain from shopping during the upcoming holiday. Lamenting that many, perhaps most, retailers compel their employers to work on what should be a day of rest and family, she writes:

Consumers could fight back by not shopping on Thanksgiving. And that’s what we should do — if we care about our fellow Americans and preserving our communities.

After all, the holidays are a time to remember and take care of each other. Sometimes being a good community member means helping others financially or taking time to pitch in with a difficult task. But sometimes it means other sacrifices, including our own convenience.

Sure, some of us might want to buy that big-screen TV at 50 percent off on Thanksgiving afternoon. But let’s help a brother (and a sister) out. Wait until Black Friday.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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.


September
04, 2014

Aaron Lee (’07)Having completed his coursework, Aaron Lee (’07) will soon be declaring candidacy for a Ph.D. at the University of Maryland. Mr. Lee works with the university’s Joint Quantum Institute, conducting research in the areas of atomic physics, condensed matter, and quantum information. He is a contributing author to two large studies that the group published within the last year in the journals of Nature and Science.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Mr. Lee and his wife, Ada (Doi ’07), have announced the arrival of their third child and first son, Andrew Joseph McArthur, born in June.


David A. ShaneyfeltThe latest issue of Los Angeles Lawyer magazine includes an article by David A. Shaneyfelt (’81), Liability Insurance Considerations for Wage and Hour Class Actions (PDF). The article advises fellow attorneys on what to do when insurance companies deny coverage for the costs incurred in class-action lawsuits over wage and hour complaints.

After serving for five years as a shareholder with the New York-based law firm of Anderson Kill, Mr. Shaneyfelt recently joined The Alvarez Firm, a law corporation in Calabasas, California, headed by fellow Thomas Aquinas College graduate Justin Alvarez (’97). For nearly 30 years Mr. Shaneyfelt has litigated complex civil matters in state and federal courts, often insurance-coverage disputes. Previously he served as a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, in Washington, D.C.

In addition to being an attorney, Mr. Shaneyfelt is a devoted husband and the father of seven children who now eagerly awaits the imminent birth of his second grandchild.


Jon B, Syren ('87)In 1993, one year after one of its former medical students died of cancer, the University of Alaska Anchorage created an award in his honor. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the creation of that award, named for Jon B. Syren, a member of the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 1987.

The university website notes:

Jon Benedict Syren expected to graduate from the University of Washington School of Medicine in the Class of 1993. He began his medical training in Anchorage, Alaska, in the fall of 1989 as a member of the first class of WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho) students enrolled in the Biomedical Program at the University of Alaska Anchorage.…

Jon distinguished himself by earning honors in several categories of studies, both in Anchorage and Seattle. He is also remembered by those who knew him for his strong commitment to his family and his faith, and for his unflagging courage and equanimity in the face of personal adversity.

The Jon B. Syren Award recognizes a first-year medical student in the University of Alaska Anchorage WWAMI School of Medical Education who has demonstrated personal qualities of character, integrity, and compassion, combined with a commitment to and promise of community service in medicine.

Mr. Syren’s widow, Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly is a member of the College’s Board of Governors. She has spoken eloquently about the blessing that accompanied her first husband’s holy death for those around him:

When Jon died, it was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had. I saw the effect that our education at the College had had on him. It was absolutely beautiful. And there was a ripple effect on the entire medical community and all that knew him and watched him suffer — in a way so beautifully, not dismayed or broken by it. His suffering was so faith-filled that it was just triumphant.

Twenty-one years later, Jon Syren’s life and death continue to touch lives. May he rest in peace.


The ValentisMary Rose (Bacani ’93) Valenti, the recently retired TV producer/reporter who left the news business to turn her full attention to motherhood, has written two new columns for the Knights of Columbus’ “Fathers for Good” website. In the first, Little Rich Girl, she describes how, in striving to give her daughter, Chiara, a simple life, she has come to appreciate simplicity all the more for herself:

I provide a daily rhythm in the home that’s important for me as a human being. Manual labor, involving my whole person, connects me to reality, fulfills me wholly because I’m using my body. And if I move slowly and rhythmically, almost prayerfully, my child absorbs this, too. She imitates not only what I do, but the spirit with which I do it.

When Chiara was born, I stopped “working.” I now have a work that demands my whole being. Aside from my love, the greatest thing I can offer is a spirit of poverty that enriches her life.

This theme continues in the second column, A Nightly Prayer, in which Mrs. Valenti writes about other ways that motherhood has shaper her outlook:

“… our lifestyle decisions have surprised us. We always thought we were city people, but we found our happiness in the suburbs, close to quiet nature and away from the busyness. We are happily getting rid of stuff and are so content with owning very few things. We are starting to appreciate the mystery of Sunday, our Sabbath, when we let ourselves rest.”

Mrs. Valenti also reveals the exciting news that she and her husband, Richard, are now expecting their second child! May God bless their growing family!