Last week I was in New York for the celebration of the 90th birthday of Alice von Hildebrand, a distinguished Catholic philosopher and theologian, and a friend whom I have admired from afar for decades. Her sister, Marie-Helene Peeters, and her children, most especially Therese Casey (pictured alongside her husband and daughter, Marthe Marie, in a photo I took outside of Gonzaga College in Washington, DC in the late 1980’s), have been close to the Towey family since 1987 when I first met them in France.
“Aunt Lily” bears a striking resemblance to her sister Marie-Helene, who lives with her husband Paul in Belgium.
At the New York Yacht Club gathering honoring her sister and the legacy of her husband, Dietrich, friends of Alice von Hildebrand (and friends of Ave Maria, too) arrived in droves: Cardinal Raymond Burke from the Vatican; Barbara Henkels, one of the “founding mothers” who with her husband Paul (after whom our academic building is named) was there for us from the beginning; Fr. Benedict Groeschel, trustee emeritus of AMU, in his wheelchair and as joyful and lovely as ever; Pat Lynch from Colorado, who received an AMU honorary doctorate degree at the 2011 commencement; Nick Healy, my predecessor, and his wife Jane; Colin Donovan, VP for Theology at EWTN and program host; Jim Coffey from the Papal Foundation and other representatives from academia, think tanks, and elsewhere.
Alice von Hildebrand was glorious in the company of those who admire her and the hosts of the evening, John Henry Crosby and those advancing the legacy of Dietrich von Hiledbrand, had to be grateful for how well the evening went. In the 20th century there may have been no comparable husband-wife paring of eminent philosophers and theologians - and she continues to write and influence 21st century culture. I am sure AMU will continue to introduce our students to their scholarly contributions to the Catholic intellectual tradition.
Before going to the von Hildebrand gathering, I went to Mass at St. Patrick’s. To my surprise, the Cathedral is undergoing a major renovation. So in case you have been away from St. Patrick’s for as long as I have, here’s a photo I took of what it looks like from the inside!