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

Archbishop Burke

ArchbishoArchbishop Raymond L. Burke at the Offertory of the Baccalaureate Mass, Saturday, May 15, 2010. SANTA PAULA, Calif.-On Saturday, May 15, 2010, the most reverend Raymond L. Burke delivered the Commencement Address at Thomas Aquinas College; he also served as principal celebrant and homilist of the Baccalaureate Mass of the Holy Spirit earlier in the day. Archbishop Burke, a native of Wisconsin, traveled 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, were 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." Graduates will be going on to a wide variety of pursuits: law, medicine, education, the priesthood and religious life. Also noteworthy, 18 members of the Class of 2010 are engaged to be married to each other in the weeks ahead.

Archbishop Raymond Burke MG 1157 Sm2010 Commencement Speaker and Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion Recipient, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke

Elected by his classmates as Senior Class Speaker, Carson Lind of Minnesota spoke to the crowd of approximately 1200 friends and family about humility, exhorting the graduating seniors to cultivate this virtue, the first among the virtues, on which all others depend. Archbishop Burke took up the same theme in his commencement address, saying, "If the wisdom which you have acquired through your studies at Thomas Aquinas College is to remain untainted by the sin of pride and to develop to meet the most formidable challenges which surely lie before you, beloved graduates, as they lie before us all, then you must continue to practice the virtue of humility by which you have attained any measure of wisdom."

During the commencement ceremony, which was held outdoors in the academic quadrangle, Chairman R. James Wensley, by resolution of Thomas Aquinas College's board of governors, awarded Archbishop Burke the Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion, the college's highest honor. Established by the governors in 1975, the award was 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." Mr. Wensley noted in particular Archbishop Burke's lifelong support for authentic Catholic education at all levels, and his encouragement of vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Archbishop Raymond Burke MG 1249 SmArchbishop Raymond L. Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, awarded diplomas to the members of the Class of 2010 at Commencement, May 15, 2010. After receiving the medallion, Archbishop Burke said, "…With sincerest gratitude, I accept the Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion. Because of the profound esteem which I have for the mission of Thomas Aquinas College, carried out in complete fidelity to the teaching and discipline of the Church in what pertains to Catholic higher education, I am especially honored." He commented, too, that since childhood he has had a special devotion to St. Thomas Aquinas: "I thank God for giving me St. Thomas Aquinas as a spiritual companion, and I rededicate myself to imitate his virtues, most especially his humble and tireless pursuit of the truth revealed to us by God…."

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

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

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.