Sarah Francis ('21)
Sarah Francis ('21)

By Sarah Francis (’21)

Note: The following essay is adapted from comments made before the Thomas Aquinas College Board of Governors at its November 14, 2020, meeting.

I am sincerely honored to be here before you today. I am humbled to have reaped the benefits of all the hard work that you have put into preserving the life that we have here, particularly with the pandemic going on. I would like to thank you for everything that you have done to make it possible for us to be here.

I am from Virginia, from a military family, raised Catholic my whole life, homeschooled at Mother of Divine Grace. I had an excellent religious formation. But I did not want to come to Thomas Aquinas College. I had no interest. I thought I already had everything I needed to be a good Catholic.

The thing is, even though I had learned much about the Church’s teachings, my heart really hadn’t followed my head. It wasn’t until I came here that I realized that I didn’t love my faith enough, and that love can follow knowledge. That is exactly what has happened since I arrived here for the first day of my High School Summer Program. I then decided to come here, and I applied immediately.

As a freshman, I was incredibly intimidated by what I knew to be a very rigorous curriculum, but I enjoyed studying, and I enjoyed school, so I was up to the challenge. I have been challenged in every way, and I love it. I thrive on it.

I remember walking out of the freshman writing exam, and I realized that I had just written an essay where I had to argue for something that I thought was right and prove it, without any of the text in front of me, just based on what I knew. From then on, I was going to be forced, in the best way, to do difficult things and to do them well. It amazes me after every final and every 150-page reading that I am able to accomplish something so difficult and accomplish it well.

I love the Discussion Method, which we use in our classes. I love being able to talk to people. When I discuss a text with my classmates and the tutor, we all take something different from it. The Great Books are the gifts that keep on giving. I could read everything in the curriculum, again and again, and learn something new from it every time.

The social life is also an important aspect of the TAC experience, and I have made some of the best friends that I could ever make here. The reason these friendships are so important is that we are all working together to develop and cultivate an interior life and spiritual life. My friends are helping me to live well, and I know that I want these people around me for the rest of my life.

All of which leads me to address my spiritual growth at the College. Here I experience a peace that I have never known anywhere else. I think it’s the people, the education, the books, the environment — all of it is so conducive to living well.

Yet TAC does not automatically make you a good person. The College gives us the formation, the support, the environment we need to achieve the excellence for which we were created — but it’s up to us to put these God-given gifts to their proper use. TAC has offered me something precious, with the implied condition that I have to live morally, to live well. It’s helped me to do that within certain bounds, and now I need to be able to continue to do that when I leave.

I’m still here — I’m not ready to graduate just yet — hopefully by the time that comes, I will be ready. I plan to teach. I am privileged to have been able to come here, and I want to be able to give a little bit of what I have received to others. I have seen here that I am capable of sharing knowledge and truth in a way that I love. So I hope I will be able to do that just as my tutors have done for us. I have had the best examples.

If I could convey nothing else to you today other than how grateful I am to have been able to attend this school — to be surrounded and formed by the people whom I have come to know and who have come to know me, to have learned the things I have learned, and to think the way I think — then I would consider this a successful talk.

Actions speak louder than words. Please know that I intend to take what I’ve learned here — to take who I have become and who I will become after I graduate — to please God and to do some good in this world. The rest of my life is simply for God’s greater glory and the good of my soul.

Thank you.

Miss Francis is from Suffolk, Virginia.