College Awards its Highest Honor to the Most. Rev. Thomas J. Paprocki
May 15, 2021
At its 2021 Commencement exercises, Thomas Aquinas College awarded its highest honor, the Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion, to the Most Rev. Thomas J. Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois.
The Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion, an award established by the College’s Board of Governors in 1975, is a means of recognizing those Catholics who have shown, through their lives and work, an extraordinary dedication to God and His Holy Church. Each recipient has demonstrated unfailing adherence to the Magisterium as well as influential leadership in advancing the teachings of the Church. The Medallion is awarded by resolution of the Board of Governors on behalf of the entire College community.
Below are the remarks delivered by College President Michael F. McLean before Chairman of the Board of Governors R. ScottTuricchi awarded the medallion:
Introduction of Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion Recipient
Our Commencement Speaker was originally to have presided at graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020 last May. The pandemic, of course, made that impossible. When we rescheduled that class’ commencement exercises for later this month, Bishop Paprocki was unable to attend. He was, however, free to be with us today to celebrate the achievements of the Class of 2021, and we are delighted you are here, Your Excellency.
The Most Rev. Thomas J. Paprocki comes to us from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. His Excellency was ordained to the priesthood in 1978 for the Diocese of Chicago, where he grew up. Not long after, he was sent to DePaul University College of Law to obtain a civil law degree. When he returned to his hometown, he served as a parish priest in South Chicago and established the South Chicago Legal Clinic to provide legal services for the poor. He then served as vice chancellor for the Archdiocese and was soon sent to Rome to study canon law, where he obtained a doctoral degree from the Gregorian University. He returned to Chicago and in 1992 was appointed Chancellor.
In 2003 Pope St. John Paul II appointed him to serve as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Chicago, and in 2010 Pope Francis chose him to serve as the Bishop of Springfield in Illinois. In 2013, despite the many demands of his office, Bishop Paprocki obtained an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.
The motto on his coat of arms reflects his deep understanding of the laws of God and man: Lex cordis caritas — The law of the heart is love. As Bishop Paprocki’s motto suggests, to follow these laws is a matter of the heart, an act of love.
Likewise it is an act of love to teach the law — the truth about how we are to live — and this is among Bishop Paprocki’s chief objectives: to love, to care for, and to guide the souls in his care by making known to them the truths of the natural law and of Revelation.
As an example, in 2019, when Illinois passed the most extreme state legislation in the country on abortion, Bishop Paprocki, like a true shepherd, issued a decree to the priests of his diocese stating that Catholic politicians who had voted in favor of the new law had thereby put themselves outside the Church and could not receive Holy Communion until they were reconciled through the sacrament of Penance.
With this decree His Excellency proclaimed the truth with love, seeking to safeguard the souls of all the faithful in his care.
Bishop Paprocki has similarly upheld the truth about marriage and human sexuality, been a leader in Catholic healthcare, and a valiant defender of religious liberty.
To speak the truth on matters of both natural law and Church teaching takes great courage, and we are grateful to His Excellency for his love of the truth and his bravery in teaching and defending it.
A lifelong hockey-player who has also run an impressive 25 marathons, Bishop Paprocki authored a book in 2013 especially for teens and young adults entitled: Holy Goals for Body and Soul: Eight Steps to Connect Sports with God and Faith. His association of athletics with holiness evokes a declaration made long ago by St. Paul, one that we all hope to make our own: “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).
To honor Bishop Paprocki for “fighting the good fight,” the Board of Governors of Thomas Aquinas College has resolved to award him our highest honor, the Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion.
I invite the Chairman of our Board to come forward now to read that resolution and to make the presentation of the Medallion.
Today I gave the Commencement Address at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California, where I received their Thomas Aquinas Medallion. This college is an inspiring place of Catholic higher education. Congratulations to all the graduates! pic.twitter.com/2ARXFjvEfV