My First Month at Thomas More College by Nealia Fil, Class of 2016

by mschwerdt on October 8, 2012

Thomas More College is a college infused with a beauty which only a distinctly classical Catholic culture can attain. Aesthetic beauty permeates the physical campus environment, classical Catholic traditions form the vibrant cultural atmosphere, and the joint pursuit of knowledge is brought to fruition in the finding and love of Truth.

The aesthetically beautiful atmosphere at Thomas More College is equally conducive to both learning and recreation.  Situated in the natural beauty of New England with expansive woods and rivers within walking distance, our small, rustic campus combines the charming buildings, seemingly untouched by time, with the modern conveniences essential to college life.

When I first visited Thomas More College during a winter open house, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the classroom walls were lined with floor length windows and bookshelves. During Humanities, Latin and Desire for God, sunlight illuminates the room and the crisp air helps the mind to focus on the task at hand. During these fair-weathered late summer weeks, Natural History class meets in Saint Francis Hall, a grove in the woods behind campus, where we can observe the birds and plants we are studying first hand and learn directly from the Book of Nature! Sometimes the Way of Beauty course even meets in the chapel to sing the Liturgy of the Hours together!

The coursework is challenging but well balanced.  Humanities and Desire for God are reading intensive courses, with class periods focusing on writing exercises and teacher guided discussion of the classic texts we have read.  Sometimes students continue to discuss texts over meals or sitting on benches beneath the trees on the lawn. Learning Latin entails a lot of memorization homework, but when the sun is out, it is pleasant to sit together in the grass and study. For Natural History assignments, we spend a lot of time in the woods, marsh, or by the bird feeder sketching and observing trees, birds, and botanical specimens, or identifying each species based on the texts we are reading. The slide shows and lectures in Way of Beauty classes are enriched by reading from our 8.36 pound, 996 page art history book!

Aside from the core classes, my favorite aspect of the unique Thomas More curriculum is the Guilds Program!  I am in the St. Joseph’s Woodworking Guild, led by a skilled craftsman Mr. Jenkins. He has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about his trade and about life as a whole! He shares fascinating facts about the history of hand crafted furniture, stories of early American antiques he has repaired, and tips on what to pay attention to when shopping for fine furniture or cabinetry. He lets us work with various woods and tools, many of which are finely wrought antiques, so well made that they are still in working condition!

Outside of the vigorous academic life, there is a whole lot of fun to be had. On campus, there is a short, pleasant trail along the boundaries, winding through pines, maples, and birches, around a marsh surrounded by ferns, and branching off the stone Marian grotto. The ten minute break between classes is just enough to speed-walk the trail one time around. Groups often go across the street to the YMCA to use the exercise equipment, go swimming, or play team sports (such as soccer, ultimate Frisbee, volleyball, wallyball, or my favorite: basketball). Then we come back hungry for dinner and if the weather is nice, the piazza outside the cafeteria perfect for dining outside!  Almost every night, guitars are brought out, students sing, and impromptu “jam sessions” are struck up, sometimes lasting late into the evening…

There are plenty of organized events to look forward to as well. Last week there was a 20’s-themed Contra dance with live music in the ballroom and refreshments downstairs in the library.  Upcoming events this week include a formal tea party with an archery contest, a trip to Boston for a small retreat, and a pro-life dinner in Manchester! Some students even take private art lessons at a studio in Manchester, and others are rehearsing the play “Arsenic and Old Lace.”  There are diversions for every interest!

When there are all-college events, the families of the faculty and staff often join us. These families are shining examples of wholesome family life and marriage. During the formal dinner at Convocation, children went around visiting students, and one boy ate his ice cream at our table, absolutely mesmerized by a brilliant retelling of “Little Black Sambo” by one of the young men. Thomas More College is truly blessed with a culture of life!

The wellspring of our lively culture is our faith. Many of the students are Catholic, although people of all faiths feel comfortable here. Our rustic chapel, uniquely designed to fit into the barn, stands as the crown of central campus. It has a welcoming and accessible feel to all students. Its position in the heart of campus makes it convenient for both students and faculty to stop by throughout the day to pray, whether on their way to class or meals.  Holy Mass is celebrated every day before dinner and is a beautiful conclusion to a full day of classes, study, and work!

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