I was deeply touched by the homage that George Weigel paid to you in the recent First Things article.
Please know how eternally indebted we all are for the great gift you bequeathed to us at the University of St. Thomas, that fine school which we share such affection for, located on the upper banks of the mighty Mississippi River.
Your vision with the Catholic Studies department makes me think of this quote from Christopher Dawson: "It seems to me that the time has come when the universities should consider whether it is not possible to do more for Christian studies. The Christian culture of the past was an organic whole. It was not confined to theology; it expressed itself also in philosophy and literature, in art and music, society and institutions; and none of these forms of expression can be understood completely unless they are seen in relation to the rest" (cf. Christianity and European Culture, p. 79).
And still another quote from the same author: "Christians can only react successfully through cultural and educational channels and they are unable to do so unless they possess either their own institutes of higher education or reasonable opportunities for the study of Christian culture within the existing system" (cf. Christianity and European Culture, p. 81).
The Catholic Studies program has done just this: it has enabled us to react successfully within the existing system to teach and absorb the organic whole. We give credit where credit is due: THANK YOU!
Twenty years ago last September I set foot in your office in Aquinas Hall, a nervous eighteen-year old college freshman, a recent graduate of St. Agnes High School. You were very kind to me and spoke to me as an adult, inviting me to consider a major or minor in your "new" venture. Convinced of your cause, I was more than happy to declare a Catholic Studies major.
By God's grace, that encounter opened many doors for me and has led me on a surprising path that will bring me this June to Rome for my lectio coram, defending my licentiate thesis in the dogma section on the theme of the question of atheism in Gaudium et Spes, articles 19-21.
Please pray for me. And be assured of our fervent prayers for you as you labor fortiter et suaviter, in this most important moment of your life.
John Paul Sonnen