Thomas Aquinas College, based in Santa Paula, California, is opening a second campus in Northfield, Massachusetts this week.

“We have 30 freshmen starting at the New England campus tomorrow, and we’re delighted with that number,” says Anne Forsyth, Director of College Relations for Thomas Aquinas College. “We have two sections of freshmen, just as we did at the very beginning of the College.” The incoming freshmen will be joined by approximately thirty sophomores who completed their freshman year in Santa Paula. As the Santa Paula campus did, the Northfield campus student body will grow slowly and be capped at fewer than 400 students.

Margaret Langley, an incoming freshman, appreciates the small size of the school. “I want to get everything out of the Thomas Aquinas College experience and, with only sixty students, I’ll be able to actually get to know each student and each tutor, and have a chance to really talk to them.”

In 2017, after a lengthy selection process, the National Christian Foundation gave Thomas Aquinas College the 103-acre property, located within a mile of the intersection of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. The college shares a portion of the campus with the Moody Center. Dwight Lyman Moody, the Protestant evangelist who founded the Chicago Moody Bible Institute, was born at and is buried at the Northfield campus. “The inhabitants of the town of Northfield couldn’t be more welcoming,” Anne Forsyth adds. “Bishop Rozanski of the Diocese of Springfield has also been tremendously supportive, as has his staff, and he will be offering the opening Mass of the Holy Spirit in the newly dedicated Our Mother of Perpetual Help chapel.” The chapel was originally dedicated as Sage Chapel in 1909.

“The college will offer on the New England campus the same fully integrated, classical program as it has offered at its California campus since the school’s founding in 1971, in which students read and discuss the Great Books in math, science, language, literature, philosophy, and theology under the light of the Catholic faith,” the college said in a statement. The dean of the Northfield campus, Thomas J. Kaiser, graduated in Thomas Aquinas College’s first class and has taught at the college since 1982.

Due to the demands of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, Thomas Aquinas College, New England is accepting only Catholic students. Massachusetts law mandates that employers include contraceptive coverage in the health insurance they provide to their employees, as well as complying with various “non-discrimination” provisos relating to sex and gender. Churches and certain religious institutions are exempt from the mandate however, and a college falls into that exempt category if it is operated exclusively by and for Catholics.

“I would like to continue the tradition of community here in Northfield,” says Jonahs Chavez, a rising sophomore transferring to the new campus. His will be Thomas Aquinas College, New England’s first graduating class. “Having peers that are all striving after the same intellectual pursuits, while also being unified by the same set of morals, that being under the Church, is enough common ground to develop the deepest of friendships with nearly anyone that you meet.”

California Catholic Daily exclusive by Mary Rose.