Giving thanks to God “for Dr. Dillon and for all the kind and generous people who have built this school,” the Most Rev. José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, visited Thomas Aquinas College on Tuesday. The day marked both a solemn occasion and a joyous one — the fifth anniversary of the death of President Thomas E. Dillon , and the blessing of two bronze plaques and a book that honor the benefactors of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel .
On April 15, 2009, Dr. Dillon was killed in an automobile accident while traveling to Ireland for an academic conference on the College’s behalf. His tragic death came less than six weeks after the completion and dedication of the Chapel, a project to which he gave himself tirelessly for the last 13 years of his life. Fittingly, five years later, the community that Dr. Dillon so faithfully served came together, once again, to pray for the eternal repose of his soul and the consolation of his family, as well as to honor the many benefactors he inspired to fund the $23 million construction of the College’s glorious Domus Dei.
“My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is a joy for me to celebrate this Holy Eucharist with you in this beautiful chapel this morning,” said Archbishop Gomez, who served as the principal celebrant and homilist. Joining His Excellency at the altar were Msgr. Joseph Hernandez, the Vice Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles; Rev. Brian Castañeda, Archbishop Gomez’s priest secretary; and two of the College’s chaplains, Rev. Joseph Illo and Rev. Michael Chabarek, O.P. Vested in violet for the Lenten season, the clergy processed into the Chapel with the College’s student acolytes, while the Thomas Aquinas College Choir filled the building with sacred music from the Chapel’s choir loft.
“As you all know, [Dr. Dillon’s] mission and dedication were a guiding force for this chapel and for this great school,” the Archbishop observed in his homily . “It is a great legacy he gave to the Church and to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.” In the prayers of the Faithful, His Excellency sought the intercession of the Chapel’s patroness: “We entrust the College to the maternal intercession of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity, she who is the daughter of the Eternal Father, the mother of the Eternal Word, and the Spouse of the Eternal Spirit. We thank you, O Father Almighty, for the gifts you lavishly bestow upon the members of this community within these sacred walls, and beg you to bless them with further gifts as they pursue a genuinely Catholic education on this venerable campus.”
Immediately following the Mass, the congregation reassembled in the Chapel’s loggia, where Archbishop Gomez blessed two new plaques, recently installed in recognition of the building’s major benefactors and those whom they chose to honor through their gifts. Designed by a graduate of the College and Dr. Dillon’s son-in-law, Domiane Forte (’00), the plaques contain names of major contributors to the Chapel’s design and construction. They also single out for special commendation Dr. Dillon, the Chapel’s patron, and the Dan Murphy Foundation, the principal benefactor for the project. The Archbishop additionally blessed a new Book of Gratitude, which is now displayed just inside the Chapel’s main doors, listing the name of every donor to the Chapel project — some 3,200 in all.
His Excellency incensed the book and both plaques, ensconced in the loggia’s limestone north and south walls, then sprinkled them with holy water. In his blessing, he noted that, “the College has the great benefit of a worthy temple in which to offer prayers to Your divine majesty, ‘a chapel that teaches,’ and teaches the one thing necessary for man’s salvation: knowledge of God.”
Following the blessing, President McLean thanked Archbishop Gomez and the Chapel’s benefactors, particularly Richard Grant, president of the Dan Murphy Foundation, “for the Foundation’s magnificent generosity and leadership in the design and construction of this chapel.” Mr. Grant, in turn, remarked that even though his predecessor, Sir Daniel Donohue, “was oftentimes reluctant to have his name on anything,” he would have been “absolutely overjoyed” about his name’s prominent placement on the new plaques. “This chapel was a great joy to him as it came into fruition, and now it is the focal point of this campus.”
Surrounded by many of Dr. Dillon’s family and dearest friends, Dr. McLean took the occasion to announce the creation of the newly created Thomas E. Dillon Memorial Scholarship Fund , which the Dan Murphy Foundation has inaugurated with a generous lead gift of $350,000. The first $1 million raised will go directly to supporting this year’s financial-aid costs, and all subsequent proceeds will fund an endowment in Dr. Dillon’s name. Like the Chapel, Dr. McLean explained, “The fund will benefit the students to whom Tom devoted his life and work.”