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Home on the Range

Tom Hoopes has been a familiar name to many Catholics as editor of the weekly National Catholic Register and editorial co-director (with his wife, April) of Faith & Family magazine. He left full-time journalism for academia and is now carrying many titles at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas: Vice President of College Relations, Writer in Residence, and Adjunct Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications. He recently earned an Executive Master’s of Business Administration from Benedictine College.

He and April have been married for 18 years and they live near the campus with their eight children: Cecilia, 17; Olivia, 14; Thomas Sinclair, 12; Dorothy, 10; Benjamin, 8; John Paul, 5; Maria, 3, and Charlie, 1.

April and the eight Hoopes children gathered with Tom after he earned his master degree.

We caught up with Tom at the beginning of the school semester for an interview.

Fathers for Good: How is the transition to Kansas for you and the family?

Hoopes: We’re loving Kansas. It's quite a change from our home north of New Haven, Connecticut, to a small town in the very center of the country. But Atchison is a fascinating city of hills and brick roads and old mansions on the Missouri River with a railroad history and a reputation for haunting. We can walk from our house in one direction and get to perpetual adoration, in another direction and get to a water park by the river, and in another direction to shop. My dad was born in nearby Leavenworth.

The kids are loving it, for the most part. They have friends within walking distance. My oldest son has become quite the organizer, setting up neighborhood baseball games. We love living in a place where you'll get a knock on the door and find a kid standing there saying, "Can so-and-so come out and play?" Letting kids have safe, unsupervised play is very important to their development, and that's lacking in many places nowadays.

FFG: How are you adapting to academia?

Hoopes: The past year has been busy beyond belief. On top of taking master’s degree courses, I was publishing as often as possible, teaching a couple of classes –  one on film and one called “Christianity and the Media” – and helping out with marketing at the college.

It’s great, working with young people and helping them see the full gamut of possibilities in the world right now. The world needs young people who are convinced and convincing, solid in their faith but balanced in their lives. Benedictine College is a great place for that. We have 1,500 full time undergraduate students. The school is very mission-driven. Everything is designed to help students form a stronger community such that their faith life is deep and relevant and their academic experience is more effective.

FFG: Do you miss the weekly routine of deadlines and frontline journalism?

Hoopes: Well, it's not like I’ve left it entirely. April and I still write weekly for the Register and I have an article in the new Faith & Family, too. I write for Our Sunday Visitor and others, and hope to do even more in the year ahead.

But it was quite a different experience being the editor, I'll admit. It was a lot of fun. You got to see the best, worst and weirdest of the Catholic world. I loved seeing all the great things happening in the Church, and that gave me a great deal of hope that the scandals couldn’t eclipse.

FFG: Speaking of scandals, did you leave the Register because of the Father Maciel scandal – or were there other reasons? (Note: The Register is owned by the Legion of Christ.)

Hoopes: Yikes. That’s a loaded question, with a couple of big assumptions in it. For one, I still write for the Register. I will admit that the scandal gave my job-search more urgency. But April and I had been talking about academia for years, and intended to head in that direction sooner or later.

Universities are utterly critical to the future of the country and the faith. Any renewal of faith that doesn’t take root in the universities fails. A good university will have impact that reverberates for generations far from campus.

I had heard about Benedictine College years ago and we had covered it several times at the Register. It is kind of an anomaly on the list of canon law “mandatum” schools: It has 150 years of history in the Midwest, a football team, as well as solid, established philosophy and theology departments. The campus has a rich student life program: Focus was founded here, Communion and Liberation have a house in town, we have a spirited student body who know and sing the fight song, engineering and nursing majors, and we send buses to the March for Life every year.

As hard as it was to move, we’re constantly feeling affirmed that we made the right decision.

FFG: What can we expect from Tom Hoopes in years to come?

Hoopes: Career-wise, I want to publish more. I am working on several things which I hope will reach fruition. I won't jinx them by bringing them up beyond that. 

Family-wise, I’m not sure when or if child number nine will come along. I’m loving the free time I have now that my classes are done. I had breakfast with one daughter by the Missouri River Saturday. I took two sons to the Royals’ game Saturday night. Football season starts again soon, and my football fanatic son can’t wait to go to Benedictine games. Life is good.