Commencement Guests Bishop Conley & Christopher Check

By Sandra Kirby, Class of 2018

The road goes ever on and on; down from the door where it began.

At Thomas More College of Liberal Arts the senior class is preparing to open a new door and travel the road of post-collegiate life, that “real world” which, once a pleasant fairytale of an idea, now appears a real dragon that must be faced. Leaving the like-minded, Catholic culture of TMC behind to encounter an increasingly liberal and “tolerant” world will be no easy adjustment, but a challenge always has the allure of heroism and the students are eager to pick up the gauntlet and try their mettle. As the long-awaited graduation approaches, anticipation builds over the honored guests who will participate in the celebrations. His Excellency James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, will offer the baccalaureate Mass and Christopher Check, President of Catholic Answers, will deliver the commencement address.

Bishop James D. Conley, D.D., S.T.L. was born in Kansas City in 1955; he was not raised a Catholic, but converted in his junior year in the Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas. His godfather was his professor, John Senior. Conley graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.A. in English Literature in 1977. At age 25, he entered the seminary for the Diocese of Wichita and was ordained a priest on May 18, 1985. That same year he earned his Master’s in Divinity at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

He also holds a licentiate in Moral Theology from the Accademia Alfonsiana (part of the Faculty of Theology at the Pontifical Lateran University) in Rome, Italy. Since then he has served as a pastor, college chaplain, director of Respect Life ministries, theology teacher, Vatican official, and “chaplain to his Holiness” Pope St. John Paul II. He was consecrated a bishop in 2008.

In 1991 Conley was blessed to welcome his own family into the Church when he had the honor of baptizing his parents.

In 2012 Bishop Conley was appointed to his current position as the bishop of Lincoln in Nebraska by Pope Benedict XVI.

Christopher Check, President of Catholic Answers, graduated from Rice University with a degree in English Literature and served as Vice President of the Rockford Institute for two years. Previously, he served seven years in the United States’ Marine Corps as a field artillery officer, reaching the rank of captain.

Check is known for his lectures on Church and military history. He is perhaps best known for his lectures on the Battle of Lepanto. Renowned Catholic author and TMC Visiting Fellow Joseph Pearce has praised Check’s presentation, saying, “Christopher Check delivers his lecture on Lepanto with the punch and passion that such a subject demands. The combination of scholarship and rambunctiousness with which he tells the story of Don John’s victory over Christendom’s ancient foe is nothing less than a Chesterbellocian feast and is not to be missed.”

Check, however, is not simply content with dwelling on the past. His series of lectures make their way even to the modern day to comment on the negative effects of technology on the community.

He views history throughout the ages with a Catholic lens, focusing on such events as the Battle of Lepanto, the Mexican Revolution, the Inquisition, and Henry VIII’s divorce, among others. He tries to dispel the myths and rumors which have grown up around such stories and preserve the truth within, combatting modern theories which look to impose moderns problems and agendas on events past.

Check recognizes the cultural crisis of our age and its spiritual roots and looks to counter it with a practical approach; instead of theorizing elaborate plans of restoration, he finds a solution in the restoration of the smallest social unit, that cornerstone of society—the family. These lectures provide Catholics with both answers from the past and a defense against those who have misunderstood or have prejudices against the past.

With such wells of knowledge to draw upon, how could students help but be excited for the upcoming events? It will undoubtedly be a rich and fortifying send-off to the graduates as they embark upon their next adventures. Their road does indeed go on and on, into a world in need of stability and light, but at least they will be sent well-armed against the cultural dragons that will challenge the principles they hold dear.

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