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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Br. John Winkowitsch, O.P. (’04) Br. John Winkowitsch, O.P. (’04)

2020欧洲杯足球比分Twenty years ago Br. John Winkowitsch, O.P. (’04), received the Sacrament of Baptism during his freshman year at Thomas Aquinas College. On Saturday, he will the Sacrament of Holy Orders as he is ordained to the transitional diaconate at the Priory of Saint Albert the Great in Oakland — the third of four alumni to be ordained this year!

“What do I love more than anything in the world?” Br. John asked upon making his first profession as a Western Province Dominican friar in 2017. “I love the truth, and I love Jesus Christ, and I love the Church. I want to lay down my life sharing that love with others, sharing that truth with others.”

2020欧洲杯足球比分Less than a month ago, Br. John completed his entrance into the Dominican Order by solemn vows. Now, with his diaconate ordination — at the hands of the Most Rev. Alexander K. Sample, Archbishop of Portland in Oregon — he takes the last step toward the priesthood.

2020欧洲杯足球比分Saturday’s ordination, regrettably, will not be open to the public, owing to COVID-19 restrictions. The Mass will be available online, however, via the video player below, starting at 10:30 a.m. PDT.

Please keep Br. John and his fellow ordinandi2020欧洲杯足球比分 in your prayers!

Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro

“The whole world knows and loves St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross,” begins the online description of — the latest offering from alumna author Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro2020欧洲杯足球比分. “But what about the dozens of other Carmelite saints?”

Diary of a Country Carmelite, by Cynthia (Six '77) Montanato2020欧洲杯足球比分To these lesser-known holy men and women Mrs. Montanaro dedicates her latest work, offering a heartfelt, extensive look into their lives. She “walks in the footsteps of those whose feasts brighten the Carmelites’ liturgical year,”  the book’s description continues, following “a pathway straight to the Heart of God.”

Throughout the work, Mrs. Montanaro also shares details of her own life as a Third Order Carmelite living in the Western Massachusetts countryside. “Inside the cover you will find a little glimpse of what it is like to live in the country, but more importantly, what it is like to pray in the country,” she says. “You could also learn to get to know many new friends, our Carmelite saints, who have lived in every corner of the world and in every period of history, many with difficult days similar to those we are living in now. Find some hope and peace and security in the pages.”

The of wife another alumnus, Andrew Montanaro (’78), a mother and grandmother, and a retired homeschooler and public librarian, Mrs. Montanaro has now published two diaries. In 2013, she released Diary of a Country Mother2020欧洲杯足球比分, which chronicled the life of her beloved son Tim, who died at the age of 15.

Mrs. Montanaro’s newest book has received the enthusiastic endorsement of a fellow alumna,  published author, and Carmelite secular: Suzie Andres (’87). “Diary of a Country Carmelite is a gift to the Carmelite Order and the whole Church,” writes Mrs. Andres. “Enough of short paragraphs that give us only a glimmer of the saints’ lives! Cynthia gives us whole lives, both her own and those of the Carmelite saints. These pages provide an invaluable resource for Discalced Carmelites, as well as a wonderful introduction to Carmel for the rest of the Church.”

Erik Bootsma's design of the shrine chapel

More than a year after the groundbreaking ceremony, work on a forthcoming shrine to St. Kateri Tekakwitha just south of Gallup, New Mexico, by alumnus architect Erik Bootsma (’01). Sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the Southwest Indian Foundation, and the Diocese of Gallup, the shrine will include a chapel, a museum, and an outdoor Rosary walk consisting of 30 stations housed in adobe niches.

Erik Bootsma (’01) Erik Bootsma (’01)2020欧洲杯足球比分“I went out this July and checked in on the project, and it’s moving along well,” says Mr. Bootsma. “They so far have a number of the Rosary ‘bead’ shrines up, and have just started planning for the Guadalupe ‘link’ shrine to start this fall.”

The site, Mr. Bootsma , is “designed in a Spanish Colonial style to note the Mexican heritage and connection to the Native Saint Juan Diego.” As such, it is being built mostly with all-natural materials and in keeping with Native construction technique. “We’re minimizing steel as much as we can and relying on adobe and wood,” Mr. Bootsma , “which, as the churches built in the 17th century in the area show, can last for centuries.”

Canonized by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2012, St. Kateri was a 15th century member of the Mohawk Tribe who converted to Catholicism. She is the first canonized Native American and the patron saint of indigenous people.

“This shrine is particularly meaningful for Native American Catholics because it is dedicated to St. Kateri Tekakwitha,” Rev. Henry Sands, director of the National Black and Indian Foundation,  the Arlington Catholic Herald. “It’s an acknowledgement of the role that she plays in the Catholic Church, not just as an example for Native Americans, but for all Catholics.”

Several other members of the College community are also involved in the project. “Patrick Mason (’03) with the Knights of Columbus nationally is coordinator on that side, and Jeremy Boucher (’03) is managing the project on the ground,” notes Mr. Bootsma, adding that Bill McCarthy — chief executive officer of the Southwest Indian Foundation; husband of Cathy (Short ’77); and father of Brigid (Strader ’04), Therese (Monnereau ’05), Erin (Feeney ’07), John (’11), Aileen (’14), Liam (’18) — “is spearheading the whole project.”

2020欧洲杯足球比分Designing the shrine marks a professional change of pace for Mr. Bootsma, a classical architect who ordinarily specializes in church designs and renovations. “This is really unique because it is not necessarily purely liturgical, but devotional,” he . “It’s a good opportunity for creativity and to do something really great within [Native American] traditions.”

Erik Bootsma's design of the shrine plaza

Br. Michael Thomas Cain (’18) and Br. Kevin Peter Cantu (’15) Br. Michael Thomas Cain (’18) and Br. Kevin Peter Cantu (’15)

Three members of the Dominican Friars of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus made their first vows on Saturday, including two Thomas Aquinas College alumni: Br. Michael Thomas Cain (’18) and Br. Kevin Peter Cantu (’15). The Mass of First Profession took place in Oakland’s Priory of St. Albert the Great, video of which is available in the player below:

Deo gratias!

Sr. John Henry (Eddyblouin ’19), O.P.Sr. John Henry (Mary Catherine Eddyblouin ’19), O.P.Allison Eddyblouin writes in with the happy news that on July 22 her daughter, Mary Catherine (’19), “received the habit of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, and the religious name Sr. John Henry.” Deo gratias!

Thus marks the end of Sr. John Henry’s postulancy, which began one year ago. She will now study in the novitiate for two years before taking first vows in July 2022. Of Sister’s newly appointed religious name, Mrs. Eddyblouin reports, “Her little brother John Henry is thrilled!”

Jane Neumayr Nemcova (’98) Jane Neumayr Nemcova (’98)


Actual Knowledge and Artificial Intelligence


By Jane Neumayr Nemcova (’98)

Note: Jane Neumayr Nemcova (’98) served as Managing Director of AI at Lionbridge until May 2020. She recently finalized a course at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in cryptocurrency and blockchain, and is planning to work on new projects in the area of natural language processing. The following article is adapted from remarks she made to the Thomas Aquinas College Board of Governors at its meeting on November 16, 2019.


Back when I was in high school, when people would ask me about my college plans, they would say things like, “Do you want to go play basketball or tennis?” Or, “Do you want to study law?” And I would say, “No, I think I probably want to study philosophy.” And they would respond, “Why would you ever do that? That’s, well, kind of silly and impractical, isn’t it? What are you going to do with that?”

And so I thought, “Well, OK, maybe it is silly,” but somehow I knew that I needed to learn, and deep down I knew that, while maybe everyone wants to learn in some sense, I kind of wanted it more. I knew that I needed to learn how2020欧洲杯足球比分 to learn, and that, if I did that, then I could pursue any profession that I wanted. If I decided to go into law later, that would be great, and if I decided to go into some other area, that would be fine. I would have the necessary foundation.

From TAC to AI

I was always interested in language, but when I graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and I started thinking about what I wanted to do next, there weren’t many options in that field. I had studied French extensively and I had even lived in France for a while, so I thought maybe I would go back to France, continue with French, and see what I could do with that.

As I went to graduate school and then later into the business workforce, language was my focus. Back then it was really about translation, using translation services to take the products or software technologies that companies build in English, translate them into other languages, and then deploy them in other countries.

2020欧洲杯足球比分But as I was working I realized that technology was changing rapidly, and about seven or eight years ago, just as Artificial Intelligence (AI) was beginning to catch on, I started thinking about the role that language played in the development of technology. I saw an opportunity, and so I started an AI division within the language company where I was working.

What my team did, and what I have done, is structure an organization around supporting AI companies with data services. We developed the human side of the human-data input for AI. In language and speech, which are the most difficult parts of the process, we provided data services for developing language models, natural language processing, computational linguistics — all aspects of speech development for products — among others. We covered more locales than any other company. We specialized in finding people, even working in languages you’ve never heard of, and developing language technology across the world.

What’s funny, given the opposition I ran into in high school when I told people I wanted to study philosophy, is how philosophy proved to be the avenue that brought me to AI. And these days, many of my colleagues in the AI industry — very accomplished individuals who are creating the products and technologies that we all use day in and day out — often remark about my college education. They say, “It’s really the most interesting thing about you, that you studied Descartes, or Aristotle, or Kant.”

AI and Liberal Education

What’s more, they are beginning to see that the sort of education that I had is something like what they want for their own children. I have been involved in countless conferences and summits with different folks in the AI community over the years, and I have often heard industry leaders asked the question, “What should my child study in school to survive in this AI world?” What I find pleasing, but also ironic, is that these professionals who have spent so much of their lives — 20 or even 30 years — working on different areas of AI often see the perils of over-exposing children to technology.

One of the people I respect the most in AI is Andrew Ng, who was one of the founders of Google Brain; later he was a key person at Baidu, and he started Coursera, which is one of the most successful online education companies. He said at an EmTech conference, in answer to a question along those lines, “You know: for my children, if I could pick what I wanted, I would want them to learn how to learn.”

2020欧洲杯足球比分What pleased me, of course, was that I had essentially made that choice as a teenager — and now Andrew Ng was validating it.

2020欧洲杯足球比分Steve Jobs famously prohibited his children from using an iPad, and one of the reasons he did so is because these devices can be a huge distraction from focusing on the right things. Technology, in and of itself, might not be a problem; it helps in many practical aspects of life. But, as far as education is concerned, distractions from the focus on actual knowledge and learning can be a very big problem.

The emergence of AI is pushing everyone into understanding what education ultimately means, what learning is, and what knowledge is. And I do see, in the Silicon Valley in particular, that more people are trying to teach their kids languages; they are trying to get their children to read more, to decode what knowledge is. The people I have often encountered at big tech companies see that learning how to learn is really the most important part of education. The ability to think is essential to the smooth operation of business, and that becomes ever more apparent the more technical an area becomes. We are in a technology revolution of sorts right now, and we don’t have a choice about that. It is happening, and how we navigate and educate ourselves in and around that is absolutely crucial.

One of the ways in which I think this trend will evolve is that AI is going to force more true2020欧洲杯足球比分 learning. It is going to heighten the value that society places on creativity, broad thinking, and the liberal arts. People with a liberal arts background typically end up being very good in a business environment because they are used to thinking about things from different angles, in different frameworks, and figuring out how to discuss complex topics. In business and technology, a liberal arts background is a kind of natural advantage. That will be even more true in an increasingly AI-driven economy. It will push people to figure out what makes humans different from machines — what ultimately makes humans valuable — and, as a result, knowledge itself is going to become a commodity worth purchasing.

Premium on Philosophy

A couple years ago I spoke to students at the College and shared with them a story about a friend of mine who developed “Magic: The Gathering,” which is a famous game that was later bought by Hasbro some years ago. The story has to do with a discussion we had about the hiring practices at his company, which was worth something like $300 million at the time. “What are you looking for in students coming out of college?” I asked him. “Are you looking only for candidates with degrees in gaming?” And he said, “Well, we’ve got PhDs and master’s students from gaming programs, but they have not been our best hires. What we have come to figure out is that we really need to hire philosophy majors. Those are the guys and gals who are creating next-level games and characters and storylines — all the exciting, interesting things that lead to success in this industry.”

That story is, I think, representative of what is happening in the marketplace right now. Philosophy is no longer an impractical piece of your education; it actually may be the most important piece.

An enormous amount of human data is required to make AI and related technologies work, and an obstacle to using that data properly can be labeling and categorizing. Now, TAC students know well that Aristotle spent a lot of time going through all kinds of data empirically, labeling and categorizing the natural world around us. In a sense he is the number-one thinker in AI, and many of the great AI thinkers reference him and talk about him as an important part of building any kind of machine-learning model. He is also one of the initial data collectors. So he went about observing nature and observing everything about the world that he could in order to use empirical means as a form of validation.

What I tried to communicate to the College’s students was their value as philosophy students, which is now recognized as an important criterion by people looking for the next generation of professionals — especially in areas such as management and marketing, and particularly in AI. Thomas Aquinas College graduates are well positioned for these sorts of positions and can interview very effectively. The ability to discern and navigate complex matters is the most crucial trait that our economy needs right now — in other words, critical thinking.

2020欧洲杯足球比分What Thomas Aquinas College is doing in the lives of its students is invaluable not only in terms of the good it’s achieving for American higher education, it’s vital for preparing the next generation to navigate the AI world. And the folks in AI are looking for candidates exactly like those coming from Thomas Aquinas College to help them, not only in developing their products, but in figuring out how those products should function and how they should be applied.

As I have spent much time in AI with accomplished engineers, I have come to realize how precious my own education in philosophy is — and that has been recognized by the folks I work with in Big Tech everywhere. They have all noted that. So thank you for your support of Thomas Aquinas College. It’s been amazing. 

 Ken May (’03)Ken May (’03)There are those, no doubt, who would argue that Ken May (’03), a cybersecurity expert and CEO, misspent four years of his life by pursuing a Catholic liberal education at Thomas Aquinas College. Surely he would have been better served earning degrees in computer science, or business, rather than studying the great books of Western civilization?

Mr. May disagrees. “My education at TAC did a wonderful job of preparing me for doing research, seeking original sources, and thinking critically,” he says. “It has served me quite well over the years.” So well, in fact, that Mr. May has authored a new book, detailing how history’s great thinkers provide invaluable insights into some of the most critical technological challenges of our times.

Cover for The Art of Hacking In his newly released 2020欧洲杯足球比分, Mr. May explores the teachings of the greatest minds in a wide range of fields — from Sun Tzu to Machiavelli, from Thucydides to Musashi — and how these can help small businesses and information technology professionals shield computer and data networks from attack. “The teachings of the greatest minds of the world have endured through countless generations,” he says. “The tools and techniques may change, but the primary principles remain the same.”

Citing age-old insights on warfare, politics, martial arts, history, and strategy, The Art of Hacking combines ancient philosophy with contemporary, practical advice. “The College’s curriculum was a driving force in my decision to write the book,” Mr. May observes. “Thucydides is in the book, as is Machiavelli. I was mostly focused on texts working with warfare, political strategy, and martial arts. I do wish dear St. Thomas wrote more on martial arts …”

2020欧洲杯足球比分Mr. May is chief executive officer of , an IT solutions firm serving more than 400 small- and medium-sized businesses in California, He is also an experienced educator, serving as a community instructor for , the globally leading cybersecurity educational organization, where he teaches military, intelligence, and Fortune 500 teams in ways to protect the country’s IT infrastructure. He is the father of four young children, ages 5 to 11.

The Art of Hacking: Ancient Wisdom for Cybersecurity Defense2020欧洲杯足球比分 is available in both an formats via Amazon.

Rev. Andrew De Silva (’03) offers Palm Sunday Mass
for soldiers at the Army Reserve Center in Staten Island, New York. Rev. Andrew De Silva (’03) offers Palm Sunday Mass for soldiers at the Army Reserve Center in Staten Island, New York.

“I have always been drawn to the Armed Forces,” says Rev. Andrew De Silva (’03)2020欧洲杯足球比分. “And one reason I was drawn to my ministry to American soldiers is the great need for good Catholic chaplains among our men and women in uniform.”

2020欧洲杯足球比分The College’s 73rd and most recently ordained alumnus priest, Fr. De Silva serves in the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, as well as in the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps. He is the parochial vicar at St. Agnes Parish in Clark and a chaplain to the Army’s 8th Medical Brigade in Staten Island, New York. It was his lifelong admiration of the military that helped lead him to the Army chaplaincy — and almost kept him from attending Thomas Aquinas College.

For as long as he can recall, the College has been a part of Fr. De Silva’s life. His father, Dr. Norman De Silva (’75), was a member of the first graduating class and an early member of the teaching faculty. His mother, Maureen (Barlow ’76), was a fellow graduate, and after Dr. De Silva died of cancer in 1985, she married a classmate, James Finley (’76).

2020欧洲杯足球比分Yet, despite these ties to the College, when he graduated high school, his affinity for the Armed Forces brought him instead to the Virginia Military Institute. He had heard that the first year at VMI was “one of the toughest military experiences you could have” — a challenge too appealing to let pass.

Triumphing over this obstacle, however, proved to be a fleeting satisfaction. “I found myself seeking something more intellectually or philosophically challenging,” Fr. De Silva says. “I decided I would rather search for the truth at Thomas Aquinas.” Thus he transferred to the College as a freshman, where he developed “the ability to think about something and articulate my thoughts on whatever it was that I was studying” — talents, he says, that would serve him well in the years ahead.

After graduating in 2003, Fr. De Silva spent the next three years as a manager for a large-scale wine retailer in Virginia. He had become lackadaisical in his practice of his faith, he admits, until two friends from the College independently surprised him with the same question: “Have you ever considered becoming a priest?”

2020欧洲杯足球比分“For the first time, I actually asked myself that question: ‘Is God calling me?’” Fr. De Silva muses. “The answer came back very clear: ‘Yes.’” With the help of a friendly deacon, he began a 30-day Lenten Ignatian retreat that included three hours of prayer squeezed between shifts in his fulltime work schedule. “At the end of those 30 days of listening to God, I was ready to say back, ‘Yes, I’m going to give my life to You.’”

2020欧洲杯足球比分He left the wine business and became a brother with the Community of St. John in Princeville, Illinois. The community sent him, first, to study theology in France, and then to serve as a campus minister at Seton Hall University, where he earned a master’s degree in pastoral ministry and biblical studies. He was also commissioned, while still a brother, as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain Corps — and began to discern a vocation to the diocesan priesthood. In 2016 he became a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Newark.

On Saturday, May 25, 2019, His Eminence Joseph W. Cardinal Tobin, C.Ss.R., conferred Holy Orders upon Fr. De Silva at Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. In his first assignments, he is the parochial vicar at St. Agnes while also working with those at the Army Reserve Center on Staten Island. “I’ve dealt with soldiers who are addicted, or soldiers who are suicidal,” Fr. De Silva reflects. “Soldiers struggle on different levels, and I pray that my presence among them will bear good fruit.” 

 Members of the Knights of Columbus carry supplies from a truck Class of 2003 classmates Jeremy Boucher (left) and Patrick Mason (right) unload a trailer of supplies / Photo: Johnny Jaffe

The Knights of Columbus have published a about the work that their members are doing to support vulnerable Native American populations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Notable among those featured are two members of the College’s Class of 2003: Jeremy Boucher and Patrick Mason, the Knights’ national supreme director.

“Native populations are always hit disproportionately hard by pandemics,” Mr. Mason — a member of the Osage Nation and a board member of Life is Sacred, a prolife Native American organization — tells reporter Carl Bunderson. “The 1918 flu wiped out entire villages. The H1N1 death rate in Native American communities was four times the national average.”

In March, Mr. Mason, Mr. Boucher, and fellow Knights in their Gallup, New Mexico, council began filling a trailer with crates of donated and purchased food, which they distributed to local reservations. Their efforts soon expanded — all the way to native communities in Hawaii — and by early July the Knights had delivered more than $320,000 of relief in the form of boxes containing sufficient groceries to feed a family for two weeks. 

2020欧洲杯足球比分“Pope Francis is always talking about going out to the peripheries,” the article quotes Mr. Boucher as observing. The Knights of Columbus’ “Leave No Neighbor Behind” program — designed to aid those in need during the pandemic — “is really encouraging us to do that,” he continues, “to go outside of our comfort zone, and remember that it’s not just our family and friends who are our neighbors.”

2020欧洲杯足球比分Adds Mr. Mason: “I have great hope because God always brings great good out of bad situations — and I’m seeing the good that’s coming out of this and the love that’s growing between neighbors and peoples.” 

Regina (Aguinaldo ’97) Sweeney Very dedicated readers may recall that, 10 years ago, the Thomas Aquinas College Newsletter published a story (PDF) about Regina (Aguinaldo) and Owen Sweeney (both ’97), an alumni couple and then the parents of six children, who helped to found a Catholic Montessori school in Great Falls, Virginia.

A decade later, the Sweeneys have relocated westward, but their devotion to the Faith and its application in Montessori education continues. “After moving away from the area, I transitioned to a homeschooling mom,” , now the mother of nine. “As time went on, I realized that the true genius of Maria Montessori was not in the materials and lessons which she developed for children. Rather, it was her brilliance in observing and understanding the God-given nature of the child, based in Catholic theology.”

Drawing on her experience of applying Catholic Montessori principles to the raising of nine children, Mrs. Sweeney is now sharing her wealth of knowledge with parents everywhere by way of her new website, . The site includes as well as a virtual community for parents, — the fruit of many, many questions about child-rearing that the Sweeneys have received over the years.

2020欧洲杯足球比分“With current events causing children to be home full-time with their parents,” Mrs. Sweeney notes, she saw that “it was time for me to share more widely what has worked for us in raising our children.”

2020欧洲杯足球比分What “has worked” for the Sweeneys, as the website’s title suggests, was the incorporation of Montessori principles into family life and homeschooling. Indeed, what led the couple to investigate the Montessori method in the first place was when their eldest, then two years old, had an overwhelmingly positive reaction to a Montessori-based catechetical program.

That daughter, by the way, is now a student at Thomas Aquinas College, California — making the Sweeneys not only TAC alumni, but also TAC parents. “Owen and I just love our alma mater, in a different light too now — as parents,” says Mrs. Sweeney. “Our oldest finished her freshman year this spring. Just the first in many more to come.”

The Sweeney children The Sweeney children

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Kathleen Murphy (’16) on integrated curriculum

“I think about the entire world differently since I have come here. I have learned certain truths, whether in the natural sciences or philosophy, that I never would have imagined I could know.”

– Kathleen Murphy (’16)

Cheshire, Connecticut


“On behalf of the Church in Phoenix, I want to express my appreciation of the witness to Christ offered by the faculty, staff, and students of this exceptional institution, and to thank you for your love of learning and your desire to offer fitting worship to the Blessed Trinity.”

2020欧洲杯足球比分– Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted

Bishop of Phoenix