B.A., Thomas Aquinas College, 2007; M.A., Ave Maria University, 2009; Ph.D., Ave Maria University, 2013; Teaching Assistant, Ave Maria University, Fall 2012; Instructor of Theology, Ave Maria University, 2013; Tutor, Thomas Aquinas College, 2013-.
As a high school student, Dr. Paul K. Shields (’07) suspected that he might have a calling to the priesthood. His father gave him books of Christian apologetics from authors such as Archbishop Fulton Sheen and Frank Sheed, and these works whetted his appetite for theology. When he learned that the whole of the Thomas Aquinas College curriculum is ordered to the study of theology, he had little doubt about where he wanted to go to college.
“As I reviewed the reading list, I thought, these are all the books I have always wanted to read,” he remembers. “This is exactly what I was craving. These books were the sources for those authors who got me interested in theology.”
Once at the College, this interest flourished. “What drew me in was discovering that God’s revelation was intelligible,” Dr. Shields says. “From my earliest memories, I recall being Catholic, but in reading Scripture, Church doctors, and other great authors, I discovered that these things I believed in could be explained and defended on the basis of reason.”
By sophomore year, though, a blossoming relationship with a classmate, Mary (Coughlin ’07), suggested that his vocation may not be to Holy Orders after all. Still, the desire to spend his life studying God’s word endured. “Theology was my first love, and I thought, if I have the wherewithal to get through the schooling it requires, it was what I wanted to spend my life doing.”
One month after their graduation in 2007, Dr. and Mrs. Shields were married at the San Buenaventura Mission. Following a brief honeymoon in Lake Tahoe, they boarded a rental truck for Southwest Florida, where Dr. Shields had received a scholarship in the graduate program in theology at Ave Maria University. Over the course of six years, he earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in theology, for which his dissertation was a translation, introduction, and commentary for St. Thomas Aquinas’s second commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences. One week after successfully defending the dissertation in August, 2013, he and Mrs. Shields made the return journey to California, this time accompanied by their three young children.
Even though theology remains his “first love,” as a tutor at the College, he is glad for the opportunity to teach across the disciplines. “Here the integrated curriculum, which has a theological architecture, offers students a rare chance to receive the authentic Catholic theological tradition,” he says. “That can only be achieved through rigorous training in all the disciplines. They all work together.”
Though he did not became a priest, Dr. Shields nevertheless regards his work as being in the service of Christ and His church. As he describes it, “I see myself coming back here as a way of giving to those whom Christ has entrusted to me the intellectual treasures that they, as heirs of the Kingdom, deserve.”