Classics and Conversions

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Monday, Aug 18, 2008 - 7pm ET

Jeffrey Lehman comes from a strong Methodist family in Ohio. Raised on a farm, Jeff entered Taylor University in Indiana as an undergraduate where he majored in philosophy and Biblical literature. In his first week at school he met another Biblical literature major named Jennifer. By the time they were juniors, they were married.

In his senior year, Jeff was encouraged by his professors to pursue graduate work. As he had developed an interest in the history of philosophy, one of his mentors suggested he consider the University of Dallas (UD), which, though Catholic, offered an integrated curriculum that included politics, literature, philosophy, and theology. Jeff applied and was accepted, and the couple moved to Texas where he completed the doctoral program in philosophy.

During their time in Dallas, he and Jennifer were deeply affected by the vibrancy of the Catholic community at the school — one animated by personal piety, genuine charity, and a deep devotion to the Holy Eucharist. Though feeling an ever-stronger attraction to the Catholic Church, they were not yet ready to leave their Protestant roots behind.

Upon finishing his coursework, Jeff received an appointment to the faculty at Biola University in Southern California, a strongly Protestant institution with a detailed statement of faith that faculty members are required to sign annually. As the Lehmans were drawn through reading, discussion, and prayer ever closer to the Catholic Church, however, it became increasingly difficult to sign that statement. When they did eventually convert to Catholicism — a momentous event, given that all their means of support and nearly all their friends and family were in one way or another connected to Protestantism — Jeff decided he could not remain as a professor at Biola. For a time he worked as a private tutor. He then began making inquiries about a faculty appointment at Thomas Aquinas College.

In graduate school, he had known graduates of the College and was impressed with their ability to think clearly and argue logically. He had also been to the campus in Santa Paula and was, he remembers, “incredibly impressed by two things, in particular: the humility and charity of faculty and students alike.” After going through the normal interview process, he did indeed receive the appointment for which he had hoped.

Jeff explains that while he did not have a particular guide on his journey to the Catholic Church, he relied heavily on the writings of St. Thomas More and his example of courage and steadfastness. “I had read a spiritual biography of St. Thomas More, A Portrait of Courage,” he explains, “and it had a formative influence in helping me see my way to the Catholic faith.” As Providence disposed it, when Jeff stood to take the Oath of Fidelity and make a Profession of Faith at the matriculation ceremony in August, 2006, just over his shoulder — from his wife’s vantage point — on the wall behind him, hung a portrait of this very saint.

He has been a tutor at Thomas Aquinas College since 2006.