Note: At its 2014 Commencement exercises, Thomas Aquinas College awarded its highest honor, The Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion, to His Eminence Edwin Cardinal O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
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 in presenting the medallion:
Introductions of Saint Thomas Aquinas
President, Thomas Aquinas College
May 17, 2014
Nearly every year since our first Commencement in 1975, we have taken a moment during the graduation ceremony to pay tribute to those who have served Christ and the Church in an extraordinary way. This is a fitting time to do so, for we hope that as our graduates go forth from the College, they will emulate our honorees in their own lives. Today we award the Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion to a faithful soldier for Christ.
Cardinal Edwin O’Brien is a native of New York. His first assignment after being ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of New York was as a civilian chaplain at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Five years later he was commissioned as an Army chaplain with the rank of captain, and was soon flying by helicopter to offer the Mass and administer the sacraments to our soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam.
After earning a doctorate in Sacred Theology at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he later served as rector, Cardinal O’Brien held a number of leadership roles in the Archdiocese of New York, including rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary. In 1996, Cardinal John O’Connor — our friend and Commencement speaker in 1989 — ordained him as an auxiliary bishop for New York.
But his service to the archdiocese was to be short-lived. Just a year later Pope John Paul II returned him to the ministry of our troops — all of our troops — as Archbishop for the Military Services, a See that includes 1.5 million Catholic servicemen and women and their families posted around the world. In that capacity he did much to encourage moral integrity in our troops and the responsible deployment of our military.
In 2007 Pope Emeritus Benedict appointed him as the 15th Archbishop of Baltimore, our country’s oldest diocese. There Cardinal O’Brien initiated a renewal of Catholic education and fostered vocations to the priesthood and religious life. But again, his tenure in Baltimore was not long: Just four years later, Pope Benedict returned him to military service — of a sort — appointing him Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. One of the oldest and most revered military orders in the Catholic Church, with origins in the Crusades, its mission today is to support and administer all the projects of the Latin Patriarchate in the Holy Land.
From his chaplaincy in the jungles of Vietnam, to his care of our nation’s 1.5 million Catholic military men and women, to his stewardship of the Church’s work in the Holy Land, Cardinal O’Brien has exhibited the qualities of a knight in service to his Lord, Jesus Christ: steadfastness in service, courage in teaching and defending the truths of our Faith, and selflessness in shepherding the souls in his care.
Lynda and I have had the honor to meet with Cardinal O’Brien on three occasions in Rome, first at the consistory of 2012, at which he received the cardinal’s red hat, then at his offices in Rome, and only a few weeks ago at his residence. We are honored and delighted now to have the opportunity to welcome His Eminence to our campus and to return his kind hospitality.
Chairman of the Board of Governors R. Scott Turicchi presents Cardinal O'Brien with the Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion.