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Head of Vatican's Top Court to Preside at Thomas Aquinas College's 2010 Commencement

Archbishop Burke

SANTA PAULA, Calif.-On Saturday, May 15, 2010, the most reverend Raymond L. Burke will deliver the Commencement Address at Thomas Aquinas College; he will also serve as principal celebrant and homilist of the Baccalaureate Mass of the Holy Spirit. Archbishop Burke, a native of Wisconsin, will travel to the Ventura County campus from Rome where he has served since June 2008 as the prefect of the Catholic Church's highest court, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolica Signatura.

The College's 75 seniors, having successfully completed a 4-year course of classical studies in mathematics, science, Latin, literature, history, philosophy and theology, will be awarded the degree of bachelor of arts in liberal arts. "There is no doubt that ours is a rigorous program," says Dean Brian Kelly. "These graduates should be very proud of themselves. We certainly are."

During the commencement ceremony, by resolution of Thomas Aquinas College's board of governors, Chairman R. James Wensley will award Archbishop Burke the Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion, the college's highest honor. Established by the governors in 1975, the award is given in recognition of Archbishop Burke's "exemplary loyalty and devotion to the Holy Father and the magisterium of the Church" and for his tireless work "to advance the mission of Christ on earth."

To be honored, also, on commencement day are new members of the school's Order of St. Albert which was established in 1992 as a means of recognizing benefactors whose generosity has been exceptional. To be inducted into the Order on Saturday are Dr. and Mrs. Henry J. Zeiter of Lodi, California, and Mr. Edward N. Mills of Oak View, California, and his late wife, Dolores.

Explains the college's new president, Dr. Michael F. McLean, who was installed in office this past February, "On this day when we celebrate the accomplishments of our graduating seniors, it is fitting that we honor, too, these new members of the Order of St. Albert whose magnanimity has contributed so greatly to our graduates' success."

The Baccalaureate Mass will begin at 9:00 a.m. in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. Commencement exercises will be held on the academic quadrangle at 11:00 a.m.

ABOUT ARCHBISHOP BURKE: Raymond Leo Burke was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin, on June 30, 1948, the youngest of the six children of Thomas F. and Marie B. Burke. He attended high school at Holy Cross Seminary in La Crosse, Wisconsin, from 1962 to 1966. He also completed college courses there (1966 -1968) before attending the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he studied as a Basselin Scholar (1968 -1971). He undertook his studies for ordination at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome (1971-1975) and was ordained to the priesthood by Pope Paul VI on June 29, 1975, at the Basilica of St. Peter.

Father Burke's first assignment was as associate rector of the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman in La Crosse. In 1980 Father Burke returned to Rome to study Canon Law at the Pontifical Gregorian University. In April 1984, after completing his studies, he was named Moderator of the Curia and Vice Chancellor of the Diocese of La Crosse.

In 1989 Father Burke returned to Rome when Pope John Paul II named him Defender of the Bond of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the first American to hold this position on the Church's highest court. After five years in this post, the Holy Father appointed him Bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse. Bishop Burke was ordained to the episcopacy by Pope John Paul II on January 6, 1995, at the Basilica of St. Peter, and was installed in the Diocese of La Crosse on February 22, 1995, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter.

On December 2, 2003, Bishop Burke was named Archbishop of St. Louis, succeeding Justin Cardinal Rigali, who was appointed Archbishop of Philadelphia in July 2003. Archbishop Burke was installed in St. Louis on January 26, 2004, the fifth anniversary of Pope John Paul II's historic pastoral visit to the archdiocese. On June 29th, 2004, twenty-nine years after his ordination to the priesthood by Pope Paul VI, he received the pallium as Archbishop of St. Louis, from Pope John Paul II.

Archbishop Burke has served as a member of the College of Judges of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, of the Congregation for the Clergy, and of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. He was appointed Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church's highest court of appeal, by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, on June 27, 2008.