Sylvia Kryszczuk 

Yale University

“My involvement with the TI at Yale has been one of the most fulfilling tasks I have undertaken. There is no greater work to be pursued, nor work more urgently needed, at our universities than what the Thomistic Institute aspires towards.”

Sylvia (left) and Fr. Dominic Legge, OP (right) at the Civitas Dei summer fellowship last summer.

Sylvia (left) and Fr. Dominic Legge, OP (right) at the Civitas Dei summer fellowship last summer.

How has your involvement with the Thomistic Institute impacted your life?

“My Catholic intellectual formation at Yale is indebted to the Thomistic Institute. Were it not for the Thomistic Institute, it is questionable if I would have ever discovered the intellectual richness of Catholic truths, and I firmly believe that I would have otherwise been dissuaded from the Catholic faith. The Thomistic Institute brought me to knowledge of what is true, noble, and beautiful- knowledge which powerfully addresses the transcendent meaning of human life and happiness, and thus why desires for fulfillment remain unsatisfied in many hearts.

Widespread materialistic and atheistic beliefs held by professors and peers had left me questioning and restless. I was unaware of where to find conclusive arguments or individuals who could respond to claims which seemed to overwhelm the academic world. That was the case until I providentially found, right within Yale University itself, individuals who were coming to campus to address precisely those issues I was yearning to find answers to.  Since its establishment at Yale, the Thomistic Institute has been stirring consciences, including my own. Consciences who would not otherwise have known that, yes, there are powerful, convincing arguments in favor of Truth as taught by the Catholic Church, and there are intelligent, driven individuals who hold them. It is simply that these arguments are not being taught us on our college campuses, and we are led astray in believing that a “Catholic intellectual” is an incoherent concept.  

Being so attracted to the gems of Truth found through the TI, I knew I wanted to do all in my power to promulgate them in our world which desperately needs to hear them. That is why my involvement with the TI at Yale has been one of the most fulfilling tasks I have undertaken. There is no greater work to be pursued, nor work more urgently needed, at our universities than what the Thomistic Institute aspires towards.”

Are there any specific lectures or events that you found especially profitable?

“The Civitas Dei summer fellowship is an academic experience unlike any other. To engage in a shared pursuit of knowledge, and also spiritual development, with other ambitious students over the course of one week is a precious experience with a lifelong impact. The content of the fellowship itself is a perfect instance of how the Thomistic Institute articulates a deep, perceptive, and truthful view of human nature and society. To learn, in the Capitol of our nation, the essence of Law itself and what constitutes its ultimate aim was rewarding beyond measure. The fellowship gifts students with hearing the personal testimonies of those in the legal realm who provide a compelling witness of faith. Those who attended the fellowship left with the necessary encouragement to cultivate this insightful understanding of the Law and then apply this knowledge to future legal and academic careers. We were given, thanks to Civitas Dei, newfound enthusiasm for cultivating authentic knowledge of how the common good is to be achieved.

The intellectual retreat in Enders Island is likewise a great blessing. To leave campus and partake in a beautiful retreat where spiritual renewal and intellectual formation are prioritized offers a much-needed respite from campus life.  The content of the 2018 retreat, Philosophical Realism and the Existence of God, was especially profitable in renewing my faith amid constant exposure to various views held at a secular university. The talks given at this conference assisted tremendously in countering many issues being raised in my philosophy classes. I left the retreat as one incredibly blessed for having been affirmed in faith that is grounded in reason and philosophical inquiry.“

What was the best “TI moment” on your campus?

“There are so many wonderful “TI moments” at Yale which come to mind. I have had, thanks to the TI, an innumerable number of conversations that I cannot express my gratitude for. These took place at our lectures, during dinners with speakers, at our conference, Christianity and Freedom, and during our frequent meetings of Yale undergraduates who meet to discuss St. Thomas’ Summa Theologica. However, to express one such moment when the TI had a flourishing moment at Yale, I would point to a lecture entitled, True for Me, not for You? Moral Relativism and Social Tolerance with Prof. Michael Gorman. Throughout the duration of the lecture, students were pouring into the room in numbers far beyond what was anticipated. Despite the room’s overflowing capacity, students were not deterred from continuing to enter. Some stood the entire duration of the lecture to hear what Prof. Gorman had to say. Those in attendance, the majority of whom were not Catholic, were listening with an attentiveness that I’ve never before witnessed during a lecture. It was pleasing to see Yale philosophy professors attend the lecture and behold such an enthusiastic defense of authentic morality apart from relativism.”

Has one of the speakers been especially helpful for you?

 “My favorite speaker so far at Yale has been Fr. Thomas Davenport, OP. His engaging, youthful presence provided an earnest defense of the compatibility of the Catholic faith and modern physics. Fr. Thomas’ evident love for both the teachings of the Church and for scientific research had a profound impact on the Yale students who attended his lecture on the Big Bang. Many were clearly astounded that a Dominican friar obtained a PhD in physics from Stanford, and it is precisely this type of witness that is needed at a place like Yale. Fr. Thomas’ open engagement with Catholic faith as he explored the topic, along with his evident passion for it, made for a very special lecture. It was clear, from the students who questioned him afterwards, that a new curiosity and hope had arisen that it is indeed possible to diligently pursue scientific research and also be unhindered in matters of faith.”

Sylvia Kryszczuk is a Sophomore History and Philosophy major at Yale University. She is currently the vice president of the Yale undergraduate chapter of the Thomistic Institute.