Thoughts on A Young Man’s Vocation

By Charles Bradshaw Photo Credit: Harry Stevens It was early on a cool Palm Sunday morning in 2008 that I found myself a few centimetres away from the High Altar on St Peter’s Square, ready for Mass with Pope Benedict XVI. From the sagrato or platform, over the heads of thousands of people gathered in … Read more

Finis noster principium nostrum

Starting Up the Only All-Boys Catholic School in Oklahoma By Donna Sue Berry Photo Credit: Brycie Matthews Loepp   Is a boy capable of mastering himself? Discerning his God-given vocation? Leading his future family? These days, in the teeth of an ideologically-driven U.S. education culture which has arguably hobbled many young men’s academic and leadership … Read more

Media Revolutionary

John Paul Catholic University in San Diego PHOTO CREDIT: JPCatholic staff On November 2nd, 2000, while visiting Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, Derry Connolly experienced something that would change his life. “I saw a campus full of young Catholic students on fire for the Lord. I had never seen that level of excitement about Jesus … Read more

A Sort of Magic in the Air

Something remarkable is happening in the town of San Benedetto del Tronto. Located in the Le Marche region in Italy some 70 km south of Loreto, the Marian shrine, the town is the site of a new idea for Italy: an independent Catholic academy. Marco Sermarini is the headmaster of Scuola Chesterton, and he offered … Read more

Newman College Ireland Debuts – in Rome

By Beverly De Soto Stevens The Irish have been accused of being dreamers. If so, this time they are dreaming BIG — a dream which they are sharing both in Ireland and among the Irish diaspora numbered in the tens of millions around the world. This Irish dream is to build Newman College Ireland (NCI) … Read more

Academic Excellence and Holiness at Chavagnes International College

‘What Eton and Oxford Might Have Become’ Chavagnes International College was founded in 2002, in a large former junior seminary in the west of France, by a group of British teachers under the leadership of Ferdi McDermott, a former Catholic publisher. Ferdi has himself been Headmaster of the College since 2007. What inspired you to … Read more

Newman College Ireland

‘Defending the Faith at the Highest Intellectual Levels’ by Donna Sue Berry There is a second Famine in Ireland today. Not a Famine which starves the body, but a spiritual Famine which threatens the foundations of a society whose Christian roots reach back into late Roman times. Kathy Sinnott and Nick Healy have a dream which … Read more

The Coolest Thing at Harvard

Discovering Juventutem in America — in Boston, Miami, DC and Michigan, too!

They are a young organization of young people, growing super-fast. The first American chapter of Juventutem began in Michigan in 2012, and since then ten additional chapters have been formed all over the United States. A big highlight in their short history so far has been a Solemn High Mass in Boston in the Spring 2013, celebrated by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf. Over 200 people attended this first TLM in decades,  illuminated by the artistry of the Choir of St. Paul — boys from the Boston Archdiocesan Choir School  — and a professional male schola, who sang beautiful Renaissance polyphony by Victoria and Palestrina. If Juventutem has their way, such beauty is just the harbinger of things to come. Recently, four members — three Harvard students and one alum — sat down with Regina Magazine to tell us about  Juventutem in the United States. Jim Mc Glone is a History major from New Jersey. Evan O’dorney is studying mathematics; he’s originally from the San Francisco Bay area. Eileen Macron is a freshman from Staten Island, New York. Finally, Paul Schultz is a Harvard alum and a lawyer who is the Group Coordinator of the Michigan chapter of Juventutem and the Secretary of the Fœderatio Internationalis Juventutem.

How did you first discover the TLM?
Jim: I had never even heard that the traditional Mass existed before starting college.  Two years ago, I attended one for the first time at Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross. I wouldn’t say that I immediately fell in love with the Latin Mass, but I kept coming back and learning more about it. It wasn’t long before I was altar serving and doing whatever I could to promote the Latin Mass among my peers.

Eileen: I attended my first Latin Mass when I was ten years old, because my father preferred this style of the Mass and we found a parish nearby that said the TLM.  Although I was resistant at first, I soon grew to love and prefer the Mass.

CandlemasSpring13_3
“I hated that the church was so hot. I hated that I arrived late and couldn’t sit near my friend. I hated that I didn’t have a worship aid of any kind.”

Paul: I grew up in a Lutheran family. In summer 2002 I attended a Traditional Latin Low Mass at Old St. Mary, Chinatown, DC. I hated that first Latin Mass.  I hated that the church was so hot. I hated that I arrived late and couldn’t sit near my friend. I hated that I didn’t have a worship aid of any kind.  I hated that I couldn’t even hear the Latin that was supposedly being whispered at the front of the sanctuary. 

BasilicaSpring12_2
YOUR REACTION TO YOUR FIRST LATIN MASS? “By the time the liturgy was over, I was nearly ill with the strength of my perverse anger at these Catholics that I took to be idol worshipers violating the First Commandment.”

By the time the liturgy was over, I was nearly ill with the strength of my perverse anger at these Catholics that I took to be idol worshipers violating the First Commandment.

But this visceral response ultimately led to good.  Having seen a church full of Catholics behaving like It Was True – that there really was the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ on that altar – I would ultimately have much more fruitful conversations with my pro-life friends the next Fall (particularly with one who is now a deacon) and would be received into the Church and become a weekly TLM attendee before nine more months had passed.

Juventutem Michigan Schola First Vespers of St. John the Baptist
WHAT DREW YOU TO THE LATIN MASS? “It was simple: the Juventutem folks at Harvard issued invitations for singers to join the schola!”

What was it about the Mass that drew you?
Jim: I was born and raised Catholic, and as I began college, I knew that I wanted to make my faith a priority after leaving home.  I wasn’t sure at first how I would do that, but discovering the traditional Mass provided an answer. 

juventutem michigan

What I like best about the traditional Mass is the way it emphasizes participation through prayer.  It can be a lot like Adoration, in a way, but centered on receiving Communion as the focal point.  The general tone of reverence, the natural, built-in periods of silence, and the way every item and action points toward the Eucharist and to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross: all of this, in my experience, makes it very easy to pray with the traditional Mass. 

Evan: I was raised Protestant and was led into the Catholic Church by my mother’s discovery of worthy friends there. I was baptized at age 9. At the time, Protestant-Catholic differences were meaningless; now they are core. I pray the Rosary regularly and find daily Mass a soothing antidote to any nightmare-laden night.

CandlemasSpring13_1
RAISED IN A PROTESTANT FAMILY, “I pray the Rosary regularly and find daily Mass a soothing antidote to any nightmare-laden night.”

I am drawn to the Latin Mass for the same reasons that many less-informed people are drawn to Islam: in a culture that tends to turn everything into entertainment, here is a ritual based on the very different aesthetic of reverently praying, trusting that the action on the altar is based upon sound theology and will lead to a holy outcome.

Eileen: I have been a Catholic from birth, and the Faith strongly influenced my upbringing.  The reverence shown to the Body and Blood of Christ was what has consistently drawn me to the Mass.  Also, attending the TLM has challenged me to think more deeply about Catholicism in a way that I could not have done without it.

Miami, Michigan, & Milwaukee -- at Martin's Tavern.
YOUNG ADULTS FROM MIAMI, MICHIGAN AND MILWAUKEE GATHERED in Washington DC after the 2014 March for Life.

How did you hear of Juventutem?

Paul:  In 2011, I was involved in young adult ministry and had become an organizer of Ann Arbor’s monthly TLM. While hosting friends from Hillsdale College on the occasion of a Pontifical Mass, one of them (now a seminarian with the FSSP) remarked on the great experience he had with Juventutem in Cologne. 

I eventually decided to travel with Juventutem to Bilbao and Madrid.  As I have written elsewhere (pdf), it was awesome.  Shortly after my return, I and four friends undertook the six commitments of Juventutem for ourselves.

Fall11Mass3
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THE LATIN MASS? “The general tone of reverence, the natural, built-in periods of silence, and the way every item and action points toward the Eucharist and to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross: all of this, in my experience, makes it very easy to pray with the traditional Mass.”

Evan: I have no idea who chose to begin Juventutem here. I do know that Harvard is a great place to find fiery, idealistic young people willing to put their lives into this outlandishly awe-inspiring Mass.

BasilicaSpring12_4
“Harvard is a great place to find fiery, idealistic young people willing to put their lives into this outlandishly awe-inspiring Mass.”

Eileen: I first heard of Juventutem in September 2013, when I found out that St. Paul’s Church was celebrating a Latin Mass.  In my opinion, there is no better location, because Boston is consistently recognized for having one of the largest population of young adults in the country, and is the American city with the greatest number of college students. For this reason, there is no place where Juventutem is more needed than in Boston.

Jim: We took the idea for a chapter from Juventutem Michigan, the first chapter in the United States, one of the leaders of which is a friend and Harvard alumnus, Paul Schultz.  For us, Juventutem has been a great way to incorporate the energy of young people around the Boston area into a unified effort to promote Catholic tradition.  We’ve been able to get more organized, reach more people, and build a stronger community around the traditional Mass than would ever have been possible before.

JuvBosSocial1
JUVENTUTEM GET-TOGETHER IN BOSTON: “We’ve been able to get more organized, reach more people, and build a stronger community around the traditional Mass than would ever have been possible before.”

 
How do young people react to the TLM?
Eileen: Harvard students have responded well to the TLM.  While some are skeptical, many others are intrigued and seek to learn more about the Mass and, ultimately, their faith. Attendance has been continuously strong, and the congregation is definitely growing. 

Although this is my first year here, I see many of the same faces at every Mass.  However, each time, I see a number of new people, some of whom are attending TLM for their first time and others who have gone before, but had just discovered Juventutem.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Springfield, Illinois with leaders of Juventutem affiliates from around the United States of America.
“In Michigan and elsewhere, many young adults are Catholic seekers: those who will try anything at least once – if a thing seems like its holy and will direct them to God and if they receive the invitation from a credible source.”

Jim: Our congregations have been sizable and growing, Deo gratias, and our core group has gone from a handful of Harvard and Boston College students to a team of people from all over the Boston area.  Our congregations include some devotees of the traditional Mass, but most people have never been to one. 

In fact, for a number of Protestants and non-believers, their first Mass of any kind was one we organized. Some people are hesitant or skeptical when we first invite them to Mass, which is a reasonable reaction to something apparently so foreign.  I don’t know of anyone, though, who hasn’t come away with at least an appreciation for the traditional Mass.

Paul: In Michigan and elsewhere, many young adults are Catholic seekers: those who will try anything at least once – if a thing seems like its holy and will direct them to God and if they receive the invitation from a credible source.  Once they’ve attended the Mass, young adults display the whole spectrum of reactions that can be observed in the public as a whole – some really like it, some dislike it, some just don’t understand it. 

theology on tap
IN MICHIGAN AND MASSACHUSETTS: “Our congregations have been sizable and growing, Deo gratias, and our core group has gone from a handful of Harvard and Boston College students to a team of people from all over the Boston area.”

Juventutem Michigan works to introduce the Mass to many – so that those who will like it will know it is out there and so those that don’t understand will have a friendly forum in which they can ask questions.

What does Juv actually DO?
Eileen: Juventutem brings together young adults in the Boston area to celebrate the Latin Mass together, as well as form a community of individuals who seek to practice their faith in similar ways.  This is done by the hosting and attending of regular Latin Masses, and the social events that follow. 

Paul: Following the model of Juventutem London, since September 2012 our Michigan chapter always organizes a Sung Mass on the last Friday night of each month. 

Young adults who pay attention know that we’ll gather somewhere that night for a beautiful liturgy followed by some sort of social gathering – whether a dinner, a dance, or a Christmas carol singing party.  With one exception, we’ve also had 40 or more young adults attend these gatherings. 

JuvBosSocial4
SOCIAL EVENTS FOLLOW MASS: “Juventutem brings together young adults in the Boston area to celebrate the Latin Mass together, as well as form a community of individuals who seek to practice their faith in similar ways. This is done by the hosting and attending of regular Latin Masses, and the social events that follow.”

There are many beautiful churches in Michigan and we try to go to a new one every month – both because going to a new parish helps us meet new young adults and because visiting a new parish can leave a mild positive precedent if parishioners there should wish to work for more regular celebration of the TLM. 

In our first two years, we have thirteen times organized a parish’s “first TLM / first TLM since 1970s” – including Detroit’s Cathedral and Michigan’s only basilica.

Milwaukee, Michigan, and MCITL -- with Adam Ryback, Salvatore Randazzo and Paul Schultz at Dubliner Restaurant.
AT THE DUBLINER IN WASHINGTON DC AFTER THE 2014 WALK FOR LIFE: “Young adults who pay attention know that we’ll gather somewhere that night for a beautiful liturgy followed by some sort of social gathering – whether a dinner, a dance, or a Christmas carol singing party.”

In addition to the regular monthly gathering, we organize other festal occasions as the Spirit (and the calendar) moves us: organizing a Mass and social for young adults at the March for Life, alternative spring break trips to Clear Creek Abbey, 30+ mile walking pilgrimages, cemetery vespers for the dead on All Souls Day, trips to other traditional gatherings and retreats around the country.

Jim: Our goal is to revitalize Catholic life for young men and woman in the Boston area by promoting the spiritual, cultural, and liturgical traditions of the Church.  We do this through a variety of activities: we’ve organized retreats and sponsored guest lectures.  We also sing Compline together according to the 1960 Breviary every week.

“Our primary activity is organizing Masses as often as we can, generally about twice a month during the academic year.  Our Masses have been celebrated at Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, St. Paul’s Church in Cambridge, Mass., where the Harvard Catholic Center has been frequent sponsor of TLMs.  These Masses have given rise to a corps of young-adult altar servers, sacristans and schola members.

BasilicaSpring12_1

REVITALIZING CATHOLIC LIFE FOR A CATHOLIC FUTURE: “Our goal is to revitalize Catholic life for young men and woman in the Boston area by promoting the spiritual, cultural, and liturgical traditions of the Church.”“One Sunday in February found us opening up a new and unexpected venue for the TLM: the nondenominational chapel on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  Designed in the 1950s by modernist Eero Saarinen, this chapel does not exactly fit the profile of a traditional Catholic place of worship, to put it mildly.  Nevertheless, with some advance scouting we judged that the chapel could accommodate a Solemn High Mass, and photographic evidence now shows that this space can indeed be transformed into a beautiful and fitting place for the Mass of the ages.  In the end, 150 came to that Mass, mostly students who had never seen a TLM before.

 

Juventutem Miami's first snowball fight -- at Georgetown, Washington, District of Columbia.
FIRST SNOWBALL FIGHT FOR MIAMI JUVENTUTEM members who braved the cold at the 2014 March for Life in Washington, DC.

“Another example of what we do was our evening on the Requiem this past November.  The night began with an explanation of the Requiem Mass (how it differs from a typical Mass and why) from a young priest, who was then joined by four more clergymen who all shared spiritual and theological reflections on the Requiem.  A Solemn High Requiem Mass in the lower chapel of the cathedral followed the panel, after which all the attendees went to a local restaurant together.  All in all, it was a fantastic evening: everyone learned something, met new people, and participated in an incredibly beautiful Mass.

“Our main goal with these Masses is welcoming new people, who have never experienced a traditional Mass.  Our Masses are always followed by a young adult social, and often a guest speaker as well.  Past speakers include Frs. John Zuhlsdorf, Richard Cipolla, and John Berg (Superior-General of the FSSP), author John Zmirak, and Gregory DiPippo of New Liturgical Movement.”

Michigan, DC, Miami, & Milwaukee + Fr. Park -- at Georgetown Epiphany.
JUVENTUTEM MEMBERS GATHER IN WASHINGTON DC: Michigan, DC, Miami, & Milwaukee and Fr. Park — at Georgetown Epiphany.

 

Ave Maria

A Very Catholic Town

by Michael Durnan

‘When I first saw the rendering of Ave Maria town and the Oratory I thought that this is a place we would like to live,” writes Sue Maturo on one of the town’s blogs, avemarialiving.com.

‘There’s something very special about Ave Maria and the people who live here,” says resident Joseph Pierce.  “It’s a community centered on Christ.’ 

These American Catholics have chosen to make Ave Maria the place they want to live and to raise their families. Located thirty miles from the city of Naples, Collier County, in Florida, Ave Maria is the brainchild of Tom Monaghan, the founder of the Domino’s Pizza chain and a Catholic philanthropist. (See below: The Tom Monaghan Story)

 
Ave Maria is the brainchild of Tom Monaghan, the founder of the Domino’s Pizza chain and a Catholic philanthropist. 

How the Ave Maria College and Ave Maria School of Law Began

In 2000, the Ave Maria School of Law opened which was inspired by several former professors from the Catholic University of Detroit Mercy. These had left that University after it had invited several pro-abortion members of the Michigan Supreme Court to attend the annual ‘Red Mass’. These professors then approached Tom Monaghan for support to establish a Catholic law school faithful to the teachings of the Church. Ave Maria School of Law was established in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and then relocated to Naples in 2009.

In early 2000, Tom Monaghan sought to establish Ave Maria University — the fledgling school was operating out of an old elementary school building at the time — in Ann Arbor on land which he still owned that he had leased to Domino Pizza. The plan included a 250 ft. crucifix, taller than the Statue of Liberty, but officials refused to grant permission for this. Hence, Monaghan was forced to seek another location. Eventually, community leaders in Collier County, Florida offered him a large undeveloped area of land, thirty miles east of Naples, on which to establish the new university.

 

 

 

Ave Maria Beginnings

In February 2006, the foundations of the new Ave Maria University and town were established.  Ave Maria is built around a Catholic Oratory and Ave Maria University, a liberal arts college, which was relocated from Ypsilanti, Michigan. Ypsilanti is also home to the first-ever Domino Pizza restaurant. Tom Monaghan sold his control of Domino Pizza, and later his remaining shares, and has since devoted himself to philanthropic works and the support of Catholic causes.

Ave Maria town is a joint venture with a real estate developer; Monaghan owns 50% of the non-university real estate. The plan is to build 11,000 homes and several business districts. At the announcement, Monaghan stated that any businesses in Ave Maria would be prohibited from selling contraceptives and pornography which drew legal criticism and comment from the American Civil Liberties Union. Residents will tell you that they welcome anyone who is open to what the town offers, and realtors readily point out that anyone can buy a home or open a business in town.

A former student of architecture, Tom Monaghan has retained a passion for and interest in the subject, especially the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. It was Monaghan himself who sketched the first design for the Oratory on a tablecloth. The Oratory design was inspired by several works of Wright’s protégé, E. Fay Jones, especially the 1988 Mildred Cooper chapel. One of the distinctive features of the Oratory is the visible steel structure which can be seen inside and out. In 2008, The Oratory won an award for its distinctive architecture from the American Institute of Steel Construction. The facade features a monumental Annunciation relief by sculptor Marton Varo, who also created the Good Shepherd that is inside the Oratory.

Ave Maria Today

Since the town of Ave Maria was established in 2007, 500 homes have been built with the eventual goal of 11,000. The goal is to attract college students and families by providing attractive housing, amenities, good schools and a safe and secure environment underpinned by a distinctive Catholic ethos.

The town has a variety of facilities and amenities, including a pub named The Queen Mary after the eldest daughter of Henry VIII and Catholic Queen of England. The pub’s signature drink is called “The Bloody Bess,” named after Queen Elizabeth I. (This is a fact which pleases the English author of this article and makes a refreshing change from the preoccupation with her notorious Tudor father and half sister, Elizabeth.) The Queen Mary even has its own dedicated Facebook page.

 

The town’s newspaper of record is www.AveHerald.com There is community weblog avemarialiving.com, run by residents of the town, which provides over 100 links to pages with information about Ave Maria town.

 

The goal is to attract college students and families by providing attractive housing, amenities, good schools and a safe and secure environment underpinned by a distinctive Catholic ethos.

Good Manners, Generosity and Charity

Catholic writer and Templeton Prize laureate Michael Novak taught a mini-course at Ave Maria University on Religion and the Founding Fathers; he writes in the National Review about his impressions of Ave Maria and its citizens. Ambassador Novak says how he has never lived in a more Catholic culture than he experienced at Ave Maria and observed how on Sundays, 95% of the whole town attends Mass and 65% of students on weekdays.

Interestingly, what impressed Novak most were the good manners, generosity and charity of the townspeople and their willingness to help and to receive help.  He was also impressed by the dedication and sacrifice of the university students and staff. Novak especially rejoiced in the large families of the faculty members and the goodness and holiness of the people he encountered in Ave Maria.

Ave Maria is still a relatively new enterprise and it remains to be seen if it will grow as large Tom Monaghan has envisaged.  It appears to have made a promising start, however, supported by people who are committed to its ethos and values.

Interestingly, what impressed Novak most were the good manners, generosity and charity of the townspeople and their willingness to help and to receive help. 

The Tom Monaghan Story

Tom Monaghan was born in 1937 and grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When Tom was four years old, his father died, leaving his mother to raise him and his younger brother. But after two years of experiencing considerable difficulties, Tom’s mother made the difficult decision to give her sons to the care of an orphanage — the St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Jackson, Michigan, run by the Felician Sisters of Livonia.

Tom and his brother remained at the orphanage until 1949 when they were re-united with their mother. The care, love and faith displayed by the nuns inspired Tom’s devotion to the Catholic Faith and he later pursued a vocation as a priest. However, he left the seminary and enrolled in the US Marines in 1956 and he was honorably discharged in 1959.

When Tom was four years old, his father died, leaving his mother to raise him and his younger brother. But after two years of experiencing considerable difficulties, Tom’s mother made the difficult decision to give her sons to the care of an orphanage — the St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Jackson, Michigan, run by the Felician Sisters of Livonia. Tom and his brother remained at the orphanage until 1949 when they were re-united with their mother. The care, love and faith displayed by the nuns inspired Tom’s devotion to the Faith.
 

Monaghan then returned to Ann Arbor and enrolled in the University of Michigan to study architecture and later, with his brother, purchased a small pizza store, named DomiNick’s, with a loan of $500. His aim was to finance himself through college but the pizza business took up more and more of his time until he devoted himself to developing the business into what would become one of the largest franchise fast food companies in the US.

In 1998, Monaghan eventually sold his control of Domino’s Pizza to Bain capital for an estimated $1 billion. This accumulated wealth enabled Tom to indulge in lavish lifestyle, but after reading a passage about pride in C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, he disposed of some of his most flamboyant and conspicuous possessions, including the ownership of the Detroit Tigers baseball team, as well as his lavish office suite at Domino Pizza and calling a halt to the construction of a mansion inspired by his interest in the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, which remains unfinished to this day.

In 1983, Tom Monaghan established the Ave Maria Foundation to support Catholic education, media and community projects, as well as other Catholic charities. After visiting the Vatican in 1987, an experience that had a profound and moving impact on him, Monaghan resolved to promote the Faith with greater determination and resolve. Some of his foundations include Ave Maria Radio, the Ave Maria List, a pro-life political action committee and the Thomas More Law Center, a public interest law firm dedicated to promoting and defending issues in line with Catholic moral teaching, such as pro-life and traditional marriage. Monaghan also built several schools for the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist and also gave them land to build their Mother House in Ann Arbor.

A Liberating Education

Thomas Aquinas College was founded in response to the decline of Catholic higher education evident in the late 1960s, and in accordance with the Second Vatican Council’s encouraging of Catholic laity  to take a more active part in “the explanation and defense of Christian principles.”  The College founders proposed to establish a new Catholic institution that was determined to pass on the great intellectual patrimony of our civilization and the wisdom of the Church’s greatest thinkers, and to do so in complete fidelity to the Church and her Magisterium.

Thus, amid this great turmoil and disintegration, and in spite of the dominant relativism and skepticism in higher education, Thomas Aquinas College came to life. This new college would be dedicated to renewing what is best in the Western intellectual heritage and to conducting liberal education under the guiding light of the Catholic faith. The College welcomed its first freshman class to its Santa Paula, California campus in 1971.

The years since have been exciting ones of great growth and increasing recognition. In this exclusive Regina Magazine interview, Anne Forsyth, Director of College Relations, gives her perspective on the school and its success.

Q. What kind of young person is attracted to your school?

All kinds, really.  People sometimes think that because we offer only one and the same fully-integrated, 4-year program of studies, that our students must walk in lock step.  Not at all. 

Some have tremendous musical talent; others are gifted artists; some are practically-oriented, intent on pursuing careers in law, medicine, engineering after graduation; some come to us already hearing a call to the priesthood or religious life but desiring an education as a basis for the consecrated life.  And there are those you might expect to find at a “liberal arts” school, those who desire to teach, and at all levels. 

Many (between 40-50%) of our entering freshmen are home-schooled.  A steady 5% already have college credits, and some come with BA’s and even MA’s from prestigious institutions in certain practical fields, e.g., engineering) but find that though well-trained, they do not yet have an education. 

Our students come from across the U.S. (only 1/3 come from California, and over 40% come from east of the Mississippi).  We also have foreign students each year.  Predominant among them are Canadians, but we draw form others, mostly English-speaking countries.  This year we have students from Nigeria, Argentina, and Spain, among others.

What these students do have in common is a thirst for what is true, good, and beautiful, and a sense of wonder about creation and the God who made and sustains it.  They are a very intelligent group, and this is necessary to be able to accomplish our rigorous program which includes four years of mathematics and natural science (not your typical liberal arts program!). 

But even more than having “the brains” to do our program, students need to have a deep desire to understand the causes and principles of things, especially for the junior and senior years when the studies become intense – Newton, Descartes, Einstein, the modern philosophers such as Kant and Hegel.  The works by these authors are difficult to read and require real perseverance.  And I didn’t even mention St. Thomas!  The junior and senior theology courses are devoted exclusively to studies of the Summa – law, proofs for the existence of God, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the sacraments.  All wonderful and edifying, but quite difficult.  And then there’s Aristotle’s physics and metaphysics which make up the senior year philosophy curriculum – studies of such abstract notions as place and time, and natural theology, as well.

But even more than having “the brains” to do our program, students need to have a deep desire to understand the causes and principles of things.

All of this is to say that our students are serious students.  There is a great deal of study they must do.  But there is also a great deal of joy among them, and a tremendous sense of fun, outlets for which come in the form of intramural sports, quarterly dances (and more), trips to the beach only 20 minutes away, and hikes in the national forest, literally at our back door.

All of this makes for a community life animated by charity and ordered to the best things.  While not perfect (witness confessions being heard 8 times a day, before and after each Mass), it is a community striving to follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Our students are a very intelligent group, and this is necessary to be able to accomplish our rigorous program which includes four years of mathematics and natural science — not your typical liberal arts program!

Q. Given the scarcity of vocations in America, how is your school doing in this regard?

 

Since our founding a steady 10% of our alumni have entered the priesthood and religious life.  As of now, we have 59 alumni priests:  1 is the superior general of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, 7 are pastors of parishes from Alaska to New York, 4 teach in seminaries, and 1 was recently sent to Rome by Cardinal Dolan to study canon law.  Many are serving in parishes; others are monks, e.g., 10 at Clear Creek Monastery and 4 in Norcia.  And we have 4 at the Norbertines in Orange Coutny, and 5 are Dominicans.  In addition, there are at least 30 in seminary.

As for religious – most of our 40 professed alumni are women, though we have a few brothers, as well.  They gravitate to the new, solidly orthodox orders, or those that are being renewed.  We have 8, I believe, with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, one of whom served as president of their Aquinas College for some years.  There are 3 or 4 with Mother Assumpta and the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.  Others are in Europe with teaching and contemplative orders.  Still more are stateside, e.g., two who were recently sent from the Carmelite Monastery in Lincoln, Nebraska, to found a new house in the Bay Area, in Northern California.

All in all, we are truly blessed with alumni vocations.  Our goal is to provide the good soil for God to cultivate, and He seems to be hard at work here. 

A number of years ago, our late president Tom Dillon was asked by the Congregation for Education to give an account of how it is that we could have so many vocations.  They had been astounded to learn of the relatively high number, knowing that we were lay-founded, lay-administered, and co-educational, and wanted to share with their readers “the secret” as it were.  You can find that article on our website.

A number of years ago, our late president Tom Dillon was asked by the Congregation for Education to give an account of how it is that we could have so many vocations.  They had been astounded to learn of the relatively high number, knowing that we were lay-founded, lay-administered, and co-educational, and wanted to share with their readers “the secret…”

Q. Cost is a huge factor these days as students balk at assuming large debts for undergrad degrees. How is your school addressing this?

Our admissions policy is needs-blind.  Students are accepted without any regard to their financial wherewithal.  At that point, they and their families are asked to make a maximum effort toward covering the cost of tuition.  In nearly 80% of cases that effort falls far short of the actual need.  The College, however, has been committed since its beginning that no qualified student ever be turned away for lack of resources.  Because we accept no direct government funding, lest our Catholic identity and academic integrity be compromised, we must, therefore, raise over $4 million annually to cover the financial aid needs of our students.

Our alumni, though young and raising large families, typically on one income, are very generous (we’re #2 in the country on the U.S. News  “Most Loved” by alumni list, based on alumni giving percentages).  But their giving is not sufficient for the need.  It is, therefore, private individuals and foundations who fill the gap.  We think of these benefactors as our “spiritual alumni,” who without having benefit to themselves, yet give generously to our students, seeing them as a kind of leaven for the Church and our culture.

The result is that 100% of our students’ demonstrated need is met each year, a fact for which the College is lauded by college reviews, e.g., the Princeton Review’s “Financial Aid Honor Roll” (it’s worth noting, I think, that TAC is the only Catholic college in the country to be so ranked) and the U.S. News  “Great Schools, Great Price” rankings (again, the only Catholic college on this list).

Our benefactors are our “spiritual alumni,” who without having benefit to themselves, yet give generously to our students because they see them as a kind of leaven for the Church and our culture. The result is that 100% of our students’ demonstrated need is met each year.

For the first $4,000 or so of financial aid, students perform 13 hours/week of work on campus, in the kitchen, on landscaping, working in offices or the library, assisting in the labs, etc.  If more funding is needed, grants are then made accordingly.

Students receiving financial aid must also take out loans, approximately $4000 each year.  But we do cap that at $16,000 or so at the end of 4 years.  Again, it is our benefactors who make it possible for our students not to be strapped by crushing debt after graduation.  And again, we are ranked in the top 25 schools in the country by U.S. News “Least Debt” ranking.

Thomas Aquinas College is ranked in the top 25 schools in the country by U.S. News “Least Debt” ranking.

Q. How would you characterize the formation of young Catholics these days – as opposed to 20 years ago?  Any reason for hope?

These are definitely reasons for hope.

On the other hand, with what one reads  of the culture and the terrible state of education, especially in the public schools, it is hard to be hopeful.   The prevalence of pornography alone, at ever younger ages, is heartbreaking and frightening.  One wonders how we can pull ourselves out of these depths.

For this reason, I am especially grateful to our contemplative alumni who spend their days, months, and years, in prayer, making reparation for the sins of the world and begging for the graces we must have to overcome it.

I am especially grateful to our contemplative alumni who spend their days, months, and years, in prayer, making reparation for the sins of the world and begging for the graces we must have to overcome it. 

Support

Consider making a gift today. The need is great, and the reward for your investment will be far greater still.

Photos by Duncan Stroik.