Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

His Holiness Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families Mass in Philadelphia, as photographed by Emily (Barry ’11) Sullivan
His Holiness Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families Mass in Philadelphia, as photographed by Emily (Barry ’11) Sullivan

The College has received reports — and photos — from a number of alumni who were present for parts of His Holiness Pope Francis’s visit to the United States. Among them are Emily (Barry ’11) and Joe Sullivan (’09), who serves on the parish council for the Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Below, the Sullivans are pictured with their two daughters before the World Meeting of Families Mass:

The Sullivan family before the World Meeting of Families Mass
The Sullivan family before the World Meeting of Families Mass

Mrs. Sullivan, who works for Endow, a nonprofit organization that writes study guides for magisterial documents to be used in women’s study groups, participated in a World Meeting of Families panel, “Woman: God’s Gift to the Human Family,” about the feminine genius and St. Edith Stein. A last-minute substitute for another speaker, she “literally had 10 minutes’ notice” that she would be presenting, she reports. “Thank God for four years of learning how to articulate theological ideas well!”

Rev. Ramon Decaen (’96) waits for the Popemobile to pass by in PhiladelphiaRev. Ramon Decaen (’96) waits for the Popemobile to pass by in PhiladelphiaAmong the other alumni in Philadelphia were Rev. Ramon Decaen (’96), the pastor of the Parish of Cristo Rey and diocesan director of Hispanic Ministry in Lincoln. Fr. Decaen traveled with a group of some 100 fellow Nebraskans to the City of Brotherly Love, where he had the honor of concelebrating at one of the Holy Father’s Masses. … Sr. Teresa Benedicta Block, O.P. (’02), joined by three of her fellow Ann Arbor Dominicans, led a pilgrimage of 12 high school students from San Francisco to the city. … Jacob Mason (’10) a seminarian for the Diocese of Arlington, attended a brief talk from the Holy Father at Charles Borromeo Seminary, where Mr. Mason is a student and Pope Francis stayed during his visit. … Other alumni on hand for the Holy Father’s trip to Philadelphia include Sarah Jimenez (’10), who works in the chancery for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and Becky (Daly) and Greg Pfundstein (both ’05), executive director of the Chiaroscuro Foundation in New York City.

Rev. Isaiah Teichert, O.S.B.Cam., before the canonization Mass for St. Junipero Serra
Rev. Isaiah Teichert, O.S.B.Cam., before the canonization Mass for St. Junipero Serra

Meanwhile, several alumni were able to attend the Holy Father’s canonization Mass for St. Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Rev. Isaiah Teichert, O.S.B.Cam. (’78), pictured above, served as a concelebrant. Among others in attendance were Aaron Dunkel (’06) and four alumni who are graduate students at the Catholic University of America: John Brungardt (’08), Joshua Gonnerman (’09), Emily McBryan (’11), and Kathleen Sullivan (’06),who provided the photo below:

Kathleen Sullivan (’06) at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Kathleen Sullivan (’06) at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Sara Majkowski ('14), front right, and fellow members of Catholics in Action
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.”

Jillian Cooke (’04)Please pray for alumna Jillian Cooke (’04), who, by God’s grace, will soon be making her perpetual profession of vows with the Father Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata. “From the seeds planted at TAC,” she recently wrote in a note to College President Michael F. McLean, “the Lord has worked wonders in my life.”

Miss Cooke is a consecrated member of the Fr. Kolbe Missionaries, a worldwide secular institute of pontifical right, having previously taken vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In this capacity, she once observed, she seeks to live “the intimacy of the cloister in the world of secular society.”

Noting that she is “praying for the faculty, staff, students, board, benefactors” of Thomas Aquinas College, and that she is “thanking God for the many blessings received during my four years” on campus, Miss Cooke writes that “all are sincerely invited to share” in her sacred day. Her perpetual vows will take place on March 21 at St. Christopher Church in West Covina, California, during the 1:00 p.m. Mass.

Thanks be to God!


Abi Retallick (’14)Thanks to all for your many prayers for Abi Retallick (’14), which appear to have borne good fruit. Brigid McCarthy (’04) reports:

“Last night Mariclare Lessard (’14) messaged me on Facebook relaying that the last update she knew of was that Abi ‘got through surgery’ and was ‘doing OK.’ ...

“Abi herself sent me a message on Facebook at 7:07 a.m. this morning: ‘I really appreciate all of the prayers. The TAC Community is so wonderful.’ She went on to say that she will ‘be heading home sooner because of this, but it should be a quick recovery.’”

Your continued prayers are greatly appreciated!

Senior tutor Dr. Thomas Kaiser (’75) asks for prayers for his brother Ken (’78), husband of Patricia (Grimm ’79) and father of William (’03) and John (’07). “Ken has pancreatic cancer,” writes Dr. Kaiser. “He is seeing specialists at UCLA, and they think they have caught the disease in its early stages and it is treatable.” The family will know more about Ken’s condition next week. “In the meantime,” adds Dr. Kaiser, “please keep him in your prayers.”

Meanwhile, the College has learned that Abigail Retallick (’14), who is on a six-month mission trip at an orphanage in Brazil, is suffering from acute appendicitis. As of this writing, she is in surgery, but due to the remoteness of her location, she may have arrived at the hospital too late for effective treatment. Please join us in praying the Memorare on Abi’s behalf:

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

Sarah Dufresne (’14)

“Here at the College we’re studying the age-old questions of man. We talk about justice. We talk about the way in which human nature is set in place by God Himself. We talk about some of the most ancient questions that man has had for all times.”

So began Sarah Dufresne (’14) in an interview with host Coleen Kelly Mast on a recent episode of the Mast Appeal program on Ave Maria Radio. The College’s resident assistant and a member of its most recent graduating class, Miss Dufresne called in to the show as part of a series of interviews with young adults. Over the course of the 15-minute conversation, she discussed the College’s curriculum, its pedagogy, and its strong Catholic character.

“We have, in a way, some of the best Catholic ‘peer pressure’ here, in that your friends around you — your peers — are going to Mass, they’re going to confession,” she said. “You have peers who are actively trying to seek the Faith and learn and grow intellectually in what the Faith means and what the Faith calls us to do. It is an encouragement.”

In addition to helping students grow both intellectually and spiritually, the College, Miss Dufresne noted, prepares them well for whatever careers they may pursue after graduation. “People want to hire employees who have critical-thinking skills, who have strong relational abilities, the ability to relate and to hear and to dignify another person in conversation. I think those are qualities that Thomas Aquinas College really instills in its graduates,” she said.

“When you receive the truth, you want to proceed as humbly as possible,” Miss Dufresne continued. “But when you do have the truth, it gives you a certain form of confidence. I think graduates have confidence in what they know, and that’s attractive to people who are hiring young minds.”



“Don't like abortion? Don’t have one.” So read the pro-abortion bumper sticker of bygone days. There’s now an addendum: “But pay for mine.”

Thus begins an op-ed piece by Catherine Short (’80), who — as part of her 35-year effort in defense of the unborn — is taking on a new California policy that requires all insurance plans to provide abortion coverage. (Thomas Aquinas College is, mercifully, exempt from the mandate because it self-insures.)

As the legal director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which she helped to found, Mrs. Short recently sent a letter to the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC), decrying its shoddy legal pretext for the new policy:

The DMHC decision apparently rests on two untenable positions. The first is the self-evidently false proposition that all abortions, including elective abortions, are “medically necessary” and thus must be covered pursuant to the Knox-Keene Act. In the context of abortion, “medically necessary” and “elective” are antonyms. Second, the decision asserts that the California Constitution prohibits health plans from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy. The California Constitution, a s currently interpreted, prohibits the state from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy, by withholding funding for abortions. CDRR v. Myers , 29 Cal.3d 252 (1981). This decision does not prohibit private actors such as religious employers from deciding what services its employee health insurance policies will cover.

The letter additionally notes that the state’s policy is in plain violation of federal law. The 2004 Weldon Amendment prohibits states, such as California, that receive certain forms of federal funding from imposing abortion-coverage requirements without conscience exemptions. “California’s violation of federal law is clear,” writes Mrs. Short on “Equally clear is the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate to enforce that law. What remains to be seen is whether the Administration will follow through on President Obama’s personal pledge to ‘honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion.’”


Sarah's Pancake Breakfast

A member of this past year’s graduating class, Sarah Dufresne (second from left, above) is serving as the College’s resident assistant this year. This past weekend, she hosted a pancake breakfast for the students, a slideshow of which is available via the College’s website.

“Bl. John Paul II,” by James Langley (’85)“Bl. John Paul II,” by James Langley (’85)“We are having an epic, all-day event for the canonization of Bl. John Paul II in Denver,” reports Andrew Whaley (’05).

Mr. Whaley is the owner of Calix Coffee, a consulting business, as well as the manager of the Tolle Lege Coffee Bar & Bookshop at the Augustine Institute in Greenwood Village, Colo. In that latter capacity he has organized a tribute to the late Holy Father that will begin at noon on April 26, and then continue into the early morning of April 27 for Bl. John Paul’s canonization.

According to the Denver Catholic Register, the celebration will begin with a group discussion of Pope John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists,” after which various local artists will display their works depicting His Holiness. That evening, Mr. Whaley will moderate a panel discussion about John Paul II’s life and legacy, followed by a musical performance featuring another Thomas Aquinas College graduate, Elizabeth Wood (’11). Then there will be readings from one of Karol Wotijyla’s plays, until around midnight,. “We’ll keep vigil and pray until the live feed starts,” says Mr. Whaley — at which point all eyes will turn to video of the canonization in Rome.

All are welcome. If you care to attend, please RSVP by e-mail or call 303-937-4420.


 Jillian Cooke (’04)“Last night I dreamt that Mission Today took place at TAC,” writes Jillian Cooke (’04) on her Facebook page.

Mission Today is a conference sponsored by the Fr. Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata, a worldwide secular institute of pontifical right, of which Miss Cooke is a consecrated member. In 2010 she took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The purpose of her commitment, she explained in an article for the Thomas Aquinas College Alumni Newsletter, was, “living the intimacy of the cloister in the world of secular society.”

Four years later, Miss Cooke will be a featured speaker at the Missionaries’ conference on Saturday in West Covina, Calif. There she will speak alongside Rev. Edward Benihoff, whom Archbishop José Gomez recently appointed as Director of the Office for the New Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Her talk, “An Analysis of Mary’s Role in Evangelization,” is one of a series of presentations on the theme, “Dialogue and Inculturation: The Relationship Between Charism and Culture.”

“I turned into my 18-year-old self,” continues Miss Cooke’s Facebook post about her dream of returning to her alma mater. “It was hilarious, once I woke up.”

She then gets to the heart of the matter: “Why am I telling you this? BECAUSE THERE IS ONLY ONE DAY LEFT TO REGISTER, AND I KNOW THAT IF YOU COME YOU WILL LOVE IT. There are no chalkboards. THANK GOD.”

Indeed, Friday is the last day to register, so go sign up now — before it is too late!