By Torrey Culbertson, ’22
One of the marks of a truly joyous community—particularly one instilled with the richness of Catholicism—is a love of coming together in celebration, festivity, and feasting. Thomas More College is such a community, and the festive banquets held several times a semester offer students, faculty, and staff a respite from their intensive work and the opportunity to come together to enjoy good conversation, singing, and delicious food. These feasts hold a place of importance nearly akin to that of the classes themselves, for it is at these festive gatherings that all the reading and rich classroom conversation about the true, the good, and the beautiful, about the relationship of faith and reason, are lived out in a real and palpable way.
Our traditional November feast, the Fr. Rale Thanksgiving Banquet, is one of these opportunities. During arguably the most challenging part of the semester, when the weather is cold, the days are short, and the studies are strenuous, the spirit of the whole College is raised up on the wings of good music, inspiring stories, and—turkey.
Named for Sébastien Rale, the seventeenth-century Jesuit missionary to the Abenaki tribes of New England, the banquet honors not only Fr. Rale but all of the North American Martyrs who shed their blood to bring the Faith to the Native Americans. Each year, one of the Fellows of the College gives a speech and recounts the stirring history of some bold intrepid forebearer. This year, Mr. Fred Fraser spoke to the student body about two examples of strong women of the time: Hannah Duston, the Massachusetts Puritan mother of nine who succeeded in escaping from her Native American captors, and is commemorated with a 35-foot statue in Boscawen, New Hampshire; and Sister Lydia Madeleine Longley, whose impressive grave monument can be found in Groton, Massachusetts, where most of her family were killed during the July, 1694 Abenaki attack on Groton. These two women demonstrated their extraordinary bravery and feminine virtue in the face of great danger.
President William Fahey has written movingly about Lydia Longley’s story here: