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  • Photo by Jodie Andruskevich^^Dr. William Fahey, right, President of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack places a Bachelor of Arts Hood over the head of Lauren Rice Witter during Sunday's commencement ceremony.
  • Photo by Jodie Andruskevich^^A group of graduates from Thomas More College Class of 2010 enjoy a laugh during President William Fahey's final remarks at Sunday's commencement ceremonies. From left are, Jesse Brandow, William Herreid, Terence Peter Monagham, Laura Thibodeau, and Lauren Witter.
  • Photo by Jodie Andruskevich^^Laura Thibodeau peeks at her Bachelor of Arts Degree during Sunday's commencement exercises at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack.
  • Photo by Jodie Andruskevich^^Noted author, Dr. George Weigel gives the commencement address at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack on Sunday.
Monday, May 17, 2010

Graduates challenged to defend

MERRIMACK – Considering you could nearly count them on two hands, it wasn’t surprising that it only took a few minutes to run through the list of Thomas More College graduates Sunday afternoon.

Eleven students received degrees at the small Catholic college’s commencement, held on the campus tucked in the woods near old Route 3. With an enrollment of about 65 students, the school is the third smallest accredited college in the country.

It’s that close-knit atmosphere that many of the graduates said drew them to the school in the first place. For Luke Chichester, 23, it was also the school’s focus on Catholic tradition and principles.

“It helped shape and mold not only my faith but my academic career,” said Chichester, who came to the college from western New York. His older brother, Jerry, also graduated from the school, Chichester said.

Victor Revollo Jr. shared a long embrace with his father after the ceremony, and then showed his father the degree he had just received. Revollo, 24, came to the college from Arlington, Va.

“I came here, actually, looking for Jesus,” said Revollo, who earned his degree in literature. “I came from the city and I got tired of its vices.”

Revollo now plans on pursuing a career in law enforcement or social work.

The ceremony was held underneath a tent on the campus lawn. The campus is just as small as the enrollment would indicate, made up of only a few buildings and dormitories.

Author George Weigel was the commencement speaker. Weigel has written or edited 20 books, including, “The Final Revolution: The Truth of Catholicism” and “Letters to a Young Catholic.” Weigel writes a weekly column, “The Catholic Difference,” which is published in newspapers across the country.

Weigel challenged the graduates to rise to the defense of religious freedom, which he said is under grave threat in the United States.

“This will be the work of a lifetime but must begin sooner rather than later,” he said. “You must drive the sharp edge of truth into sometimes hard soil of public policy.”

Weigel referenced states recognizing gay marriage and health care workers being forced to perform abortions against their religious beliefs as examples of the deterioration of the “natural moral law” in the country.

“The conscience rights of Catholic doctors, nurses and health care workers are not second-class rights,” he said.

College President William Fahey encouraged graduates to “be mindful and remember.” One day you will only be a memory, but that memory will not be yours, he said.

“God bless you seniors, you are now alumni,” Fahey said, concluding the ceremony.

The graduates then gathered on a hill for pictures with family and friends. The program for Sunday’s commencement included a list of the topics graduates covered in their senior thesis. Graduate Jesse Brandow’s thesis was titled, “The Resurrection: On the Confident Openness of Supernatural Hope.”

Brandow, who came to Thomas More from Michigan, earned his degree in philosophy and now plans to study theology in New York City. Brandow’s long-term plans are not yet set in stone, but that’s OK with him.

“I think my future plans are to find my future plans,” said Brandow, 22.

Brandow said he wants to stay in New Hampshire and is hoping to find a career in law enforcement. Gail Brandow, Jesse’s mother, said she was very proud of her son, the older of her two children.

“I’m anxious to see what the future holds for him,” she said.

Michael Brindley can be reached at 594-6426 or mbrindley@nashuatelegraph.com.