Note: Four graduates of Thomas Aquinas College have been ordained this past year, bringing to 50 the number of alumni priests in the College’s first 40 years. Below is the fourth in a series of profiles of the College’s newest ordained alumni.
As the child of two alumni, Thomas Waldstein was always interested in one day coming to Thomas Aquinas College, but during his teenage years, something else almost lured him away — the religious life. While his father, theologian Michael Waldstein (’78) served as founding president and taught at Austria’s International Theological Institute, Thomas got to know the Cistercian monks at Stift Heiligenkreuz monastery outside of Vienna. Their prayerful life appealed to him, but at the recommendation of his family’s priest, he opted to come to the College first.
“I was completely captivated right from the start,” he says of his education at the College. Still, the religious life continued to call, and after watching two monks make their final professions during the summer between his sophomore and junior years, Thomas e-mailed the abbot concerning his intention to drop out and enter the community right away. “Although I loved the College, the monastic life was a stronger pull,” he says. To his surprise, the abbot strongly encouraged him to complete his undergraduate education before entering the monastery.
Thus, for the next two years Thomas remained at Thomas Aquinas College during the academic year, while living in community at the monastery during Christmas and summer vacations. “I am very grateful that I went back to the College, because finishing up has been a big help to me in the religious life,” he says. “Having seen the intellectual life as ordered to God has prepared me for the monastic life, because the whole point of monasticism is to order one’s life to God.”
Held in high esteem by his classmates, Thomas was elected to deliver the Class Speaker’s address at their graduation in 2006. He then formally joined the Cistercians. In 2009, he made his final profession, taking the religious name of Edmund. On June 19, 2011, His Eminence Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, O.P., Archbishop of Vienna, ordained him to the priesthood at Stift Heiligenkreuz.
“When I took final vows, I had the feeling of entering something huge,” Pater Edmund reflects. “When I was ordained to the priesthood, I had the feeling of becoming very small. I had the great sense of being unworthy, but that did not matter because it was not about me.” In addition to participating in the monks’ rich prayer life, he is now completing a doctorate in theology, after which he will teach at the Cistercians’ seminary in Vienna.
Posted December 29, 2011