The Most Rev. Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, has accepted President Michael F. McLean’s invitation to serve as Thomas Aquinas College’s 2020 Commencement Speaker.
“It is an honor to be invited to speak at the Commencement this year for Thomas Aquinas College,” says His Excellency. “It is a mark of distinction that the great books of Western civilization are at the heart of the Thomas Aquinas College curriculum, which, together with its unabashedly Catholic identity, are key factors that distinguish the graduates of Thomas Aquinas College from those of many other schools. I look forward to addressing the graduates of this esteemed institution of higher learning named after the Angelic Doctor.”
Dr. McLean made Bishop Paprocki’s acquaintance at a conference last summer and extended the invitation not long thereafter. “His Excellency is a holy, intelligent, and humble man, as well as an enthusiastic champion of our program of Catholic liberal education,” he says. “We are grateful and honored that he will be part of this important day in the life of the College and for the members of the Class of 2020.”
Ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1978, Bishop Paprocki holds a juris doctor from the DePaul University College of Law, a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame. Pope St. John Paul II appointed him as Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago in 2003, and in 2010 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI named him the ninth Bishop of Springfield in Illinois. He is a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, Budget and Finance, and Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.
As Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, His Excellency has devoted himself to the formation of his flock, issuing a trilogy of pastoral letters that have focused, first, on reverent worship, next on evangelization, and finally on “how to live well in holiness so as to die well in God’s grace.” A courageous defender of the unborn and marriage, he has spoken and written eloquently on both subjects, encouraging repentance for those who stray from the Church’s teachings, including Catholic politicians who support policies promoting abortion.
Nicknamed “the Holy Goalie,” Bishop Paprocki is well known for his love of hockey and running. Over the last 25 years, he has completed 24 marathons — including Boston, Rome, and Athens — raising nearly $500,000 for charity. He has made the connection between sports and faith a focus of his ministry, serving as chairman of the Episcopal Advisory Board of Catholic Athletes for Christ, and authoring the 2013 book Holy Goals for Body and Soul: Eight Steps to Connect Sports with God and Faith (Ave Maria Press). He speaks Polish, Spanish, and Italian, and he serves as an adjunct faculty member at the Notre Dame Law School.
At Commencement, His Excellency will serve as the principal celebrant and homilist at the morning’s Baccalaureate Mass, then deliver the Commencement Address at the graduation ceremony for the members of the Class of 2020, who hail from across the United States and abroad. Having completed the College’s rigorous, four-year curriculum — which includes mathematics, natural science, language, literature, philosophy, and theology — each graduate will receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal arts. These new alumni will go on to a wide variety of pursuits, including law, medicine, business, technology, military service, education, public policy, and journalism, as well as the priesthood and religious life.