Forming Friendships, Transforming Lives: Welcoming the Thomas More College Class of 2023
With Intern Writer Torrey Culbertson, ‘22
“The Freshmen are coming! The Freshmen are coming!” The familiar cry has been echoing throughout campus, as Thomas More College welcomes 30 new students—including several new upperclassmen—from fifteen states, and from such distances as British Columbia and Puerto Rico.
“Thomas More College is about place and context—about not just studying the Good Life, but living it.” – Dr. William Fahey, President
Just a few days ago, these new students joined the faculty and student counselors of Thomas More College for Freshman Orientation in the spectacular White Mountains of New Hampshire. Robert Frost once owned a home near here, and Nathaniel Hawthorne called the range “earth’s undecaying monuments.” In a culture grown weary of natural monuments and positively hostile to man-made ones, TMC’s Freshman Orientation serves to introduce students to the rich patrimony of the college and its course of studies.
“Freshman orientation is always an inspiring time for me,” notes President William Fahey. “I love introducing our students to the natural world and the time-worn history of New England. Thomas More College is about place and context—about not just studying the Good Life, but living it. Hiking in the White Mountains gives the students a sense of God’s grandeur revealed in the place they now live. The students’ journey here is both grounded in the reality of the moment and symbolic of the intellectual and spiritual pilgrimage they have chosen to undertake for the next four years.”
“Mass on the mountain was one of the most inspiring and beautiful things I have ever experienced.” – Damianos Soutsos, ’23
Father John Brancich, FSSP, served as Chaplain for Orientation, offering confessions and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at a place called “Chapel Rock”—an amazingly-situated hill top of granite, with a bare wooden cross standing out starkly against the surrounding mountains and a brilliant blue firmament. “Mass on the mountain was one of the most inspiring and beautiful things I have ever experienced,” says Damianos Soutsos, a freshman from Front Royal, Virginia. Father also joined the students for their hike up Mount Washington (elevation 6,288), the most well-known and challenging of the “Presidential Range” of peaks that make up the White Mountains.
“I really enjoyed being able to spend some extended time getting to know the new TMC freshmen,” says Father Brancich. “The arduous climb up Tuckerman’s Ravine provided a great opportunity to form a certain bond: we were united a little bit of ‘adversity.’ The students loved the adventure of hiking, but I also found them to be receptive to the spiritual discussions made possible through an extended outdoor experience like Thomas More’s Freshman Orientation.”
Before the freshmen began their ascent of Mount Washington, Academic Dean Walter J. Thompson drew an analogy between the hike and their own upcoming journey as students of Thomas More College: You start out fresh and sprightly, full of energy and ready to take on whatever challenges the mountain throws your way. At some points of the journey, however, all you can focus on are the individual steps you must take; at times, you can see the trees breaking and catch a glimpse of the shrinking valley below. You are reminded of the goal of the hike and the reason for your pain. And finally, up ahead, you can see the summit.
With this analogy in mind, freshman Emma Culbertson of Camano Island, Washington, reached the summit of Mount Washington. “At that moment,” she says, “I was able to see where we had been, where we were going, and what we were there for in its completeness.” Freshman Rose Dussault of Pawtucket, Rhode Island agrees: “It helped me put into perspective the entire purpose of coming to Thomas More College.”
The Orientation is a microcosm of life at Thomas More, complete with a roaring bonfire, folk singing, and good conversation over toasting marshmallows and sizzling cocktail franks. On the final evening, students climbed Chapel Rock to stargaze with Dr. John McCarthy, with whom they will study Astronomy in their sophomore year. “It was a near-perfect horizon,” recalls Dr. McCarthy. “With such little light pollution, the Milky Way’s thousands of stars were clearly visible, and we were able to identify a number of them, along with Jupiter and Saturn.” Freshman Orientation helped the students experience the intelligibility and splendor of God’s Creation—and forge new friendships.
And so begins another year of studying—and living—the Good Life at Thomas More College.