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.”
Officer Rex (’90) and Serena (Grimm ’87) Mohun
A two-decade veteran of the California Highway Patrol, Officer Rex Mohun (’90) has received “Officer of the Year” honors from the Kiwanis Club of Ventura — for the third time.
At a ceremony at Oxnard’s Tower Club on May 22, the civic organization presented its annual award — given to one officer from each law-enforcement agency in the county — to Officer Mohun, who previously received the honor in 1998 and 2014. The California Highway Patrol chooses its honorees via a vote of fellow officers, meaning that Officer Mohun has earned the highest regard of his peers. Below are the words that his superior, CHP Captain Terry Roberts, offered in his support:
Throughout the years, Officer Mohun has earned the respect and admiration of his fellow officers and supervisors. Officer Mohun has consistently and without exception displayed sound judgment, leadership abilities, and a strong work ethic that is second to none.
Officer Mohun has willingly taken on many responsibilities and collateral assignments within the Department. Officer Mohun is a dedicated Motorcycle Officer and serves as a vital member on the Coastal Division Protective Services Detail, which provides escorts and protection for visiting dignitaries. Officer Mohun has completed comprehensive training courses during his tenure and regularly serves in the capacity of Field Training Officer, Physical Methods of Arrest Instructor, Certified Motorcycle Training Officer, Range Master and Non-Lethal Training Ammunition Instructor, Special Response Team, Warrant Service Team, Taser Instructor, and Emergency Medical Response Instructor. To say that Officer Mohun’s contribution to each of these assignments is excellent would certainly be an understatement.
Officer Mohun lives in Santa Paula with his beautiful wife of 30 years, Serena (Grimm ’87). They are the proud parents of twelve children. Two years ago Officer Mohun had the honor of pinning the California Highway Patrol badge on his oldest son, Robert (’09), who is currently assigned to the Altadena Area Office.
Officer Mohun is a credit to the California Highway Patrol and the citizens of California. He is truly deserving of your recognition as the Kiwanis Club of Ventura Officer of the Year.
Dr. Adam Seagrave ('05)“Most of us have a profound appreciation for our mothers that transcends description,” begins Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05) in a new essay, timed for Mother’s Day, in The Public Discourse. An assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, Dr. Seagrave then proceeds to consider the current state of motherhood in terms of social and public policy.
Americans’ affection for their mothers, he observes, does not translate into an appreciation for motherhood itself, particularly the stay-at-home variety. “As long as full-time motherhood does not produce some immediate economic benefit, economic and social pressures will continue to effectively foreclose this choice for many women,” he writes. “If it matters that women have a genuine choice in their own pursuit of happiness, this is a serious problem. It becomes even more serious when we consider that fully 84 percent of women don’t think it’s best for their children for them to work full-time outside the home. Women have indeed been empowered to work outside the home, but in many cases and in many unforeseen ways, they also have been forced to do so against their wishes.”
So, as his Mother’s Day gift to moms elsewhere, Dr. Seagrave proposes “a significant tax deduction for households with a full-time parent … on the order of 150 percent of the mean individual income.” That may not seem as charming as a bouquet of roses or a box of chocolates, but, “such a deduction would provide women with a less constrained choice between being a full-time mother and pursuing work outside the home. It would also signal the value that society should place on the inestimable contribution of motherhood.”
And, on Mothers’ Day in particular, what could be more worthwhile than that? “Motherhood is a more important task for society than any other private occupation or public service,” Dr. Seagrave concludes. “No woman who would choose full-time motherhood should be unduly constrained by economic or social pressures to give up her all-important vocation.
Please pray for Michelle (Firmin ’97) Halpin, who sends along the following request:
“I’d like to request continued prayers for my health and my family. That this cancer treatment may be effective on my Stage 4 cancer, for minimal side effects, and for my oldest child, who is discerning college plans during this difficult time for our family. We are asking for a miracle through the intercession of Fr. John Hardon, S.J., whose cause for canonization is being brought forward. We would appreciate prayers to Fr. Hardon from those who wish to join us in our prayers. Thanks!”
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.
Please pray for the soul of Loraine (Ivers ’81) Hoonhout, who, following a years-long struggle with liver cancer, passed away peacefully in her sleep on the morning of Saturday, March 5.
Please also pray for the consolation of her family, including her beloved husband of 30 years, Ronald; their three children, Clare (’08), Peter, and Lisa Davis; her 3-month old grandson, Christopher Davis; her two brothers, Jim and Harry; and her four sisters, all of whom are graduates of the College: Maureen Coughlin (’79), Marian Hartzell (’82), Jessica Langley (’85), and Sr. Maria Basiléa (Margaretha ’88).
The Rosary and funeral Mass for Mrs. Hoonhout will take place this Saturday, March 12, at St. Louise de Marillac Parish in Covina, California. The Rosary will begin at 8:45 a.m., and the Mass at 9:30 a.m. Burial will follow at Holy Cross cemetery in Pomona, after which there will be a reception; details are forthcoming.
May her soul, and those of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
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.”
Tonight an audience at the University of British Columbia will be delighted by a father-daughter concert featuring two Thomas Aquinas College alumni, Mark (’89) and Colleen Donnelly (’14). The concert, billed as Love Songs Old & New, in honor of St. Valentine’s Day, is set to begin with the “Ecco la primavera” of Francesco Landini (d. 1397), and then continue on “through seven centuries and three languages.” It will feature masterpieces by Mozart and Beethoven as well as many Broadway favorites. Notably, the production will also include the premier of Mr. Donnelly’s musical setting of Alfred Noyes’ classic ballad “The Highwayman.”
An opera singer, teacher, and composer, Mr. Donnelly is most famous for leading crowds in the singing of “O Canada” at Vancouver Canucks’ home games. Since graduating from the College two years ago, Miss Donnelly has enrolled in the UBC’s School of Music, where she is concentrating in opera performance.
Readers in the Vancouver area can still purchase tickets online!
Head Chaplain Rev. Paul Raftery, O.P., has asked for prayers for Matthew Reiser (’00) and his wife Sharon (Raskob ’99), the College’s director of foundation relations. Fr. Paul visited and anointed Matthew at a local hospital this morning. “His condition is critical,” says Fr. Paul, “and he is very much in need of prayers, as well as Sharon.”
The College community is gathering this morning in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel to pray the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for Matt. Please join us in prayer!