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Bishop Rozanski, Fr. Illo to Preside at 2019 Convocation Ceremonies

Posted: June 26, 2019

For the first time, Thomas Aquinas College will hold two Convocation ceremonies this August.

On August 24, freshmen and sophomores from across the United States and abroad will commence their studies at Thomas Aquinas College, New England. Welcoming the students for this, the inaugural academic year on the East Coast campus, will be the Most Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski, Bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts, who will offer the Convocation Mass of the Holy Spirit and preside over the matriculation ceremony.

Two days later, the academic year will formally begin at Thomas Aquinas College, California, on August 26. Presiding will be Rev. Joseph Illo, the pastor of San Francisco’s Star of the Sea Church and a chaplain at the College from 2012 to 2014.

“We are honored and grateful to have two good friends of Thomas Aquinas College, one new and one old, joining us for our Convocation ceremonies,” says President Michael F. McLean. “Bishop Rozanski has been tremendously gracious in welcoming the College to his diocese, and Fr. Illo has been a faithful champion and confidant for many years now. Together, they will help us launch what promises to be a historic year on both coasts.”

Bishop Rozanski will be visiting the New England campus on the occasion of two significant personal milestones. This year is the 35th anniversary of his 1984 ordination to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and Convocation Day — August 24 — marks the 15th anniversary or his ordination to the episcopacy. A graduate of the Catholic University of America, His Excellency received his seminary training at the University’s Theological College. Pope St. John Paul II named him an Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore in 2004, and His Holiness Pope Francis named him the Bishop of Springfield in 2014.

“It is with a great sense of joy and welcome that I look forward to the official opening of the East Coast campus of Thomas Aquinas College,” says Bishop Rozanski. “The presence of Thomas Aquinas here in the Diocese of Springfield will be a blessing for this local church as well as the entire region. I am grateful to Dr. Michael McLean, the faculty, staff, and students of Thomas Aquinas for their persistence and patience throughout this entire process. May God, who has begun the good work in this, bring it to fulfillment here in New England and beyond!”

Returning to the California campus, where he served as the celebrant at the 2015 Baccalaureate Mass, Fr. Illo is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University. While working as a young man at Ignatius Press in San Francisco, he discerned his vocation to the priesthood for the nearby Diocese of Stockton. He then studied philosophy and theology with the Dominicans in Oxford (Blackfriars) and Rome (the Angelicum), and finally as a seminarian at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York. Ordained to the priesthood in 1991, he served as a parish priest for 21 years, then came to the College as a chaplain in 2012. In 2014 His Excellency Salvatore J. Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco, appointed him the pastor of Star of the Sea.

“Many thanks to Dr. McLean for inviting me for the Convocation Mass at the California campus in this watershed year for the College,” says Fr. Illo. “My parish school in San Francisco has crossed a watershed itself in committing to the development of a classical, integrated curriculum, which I hope will prepare future TAC students. I also hope to hire Thomas Aquinas graduates in years to come and look forward to networking with educators at the College during my Convocation visit.”

The 2019-20 academic year will be the 49th since Thomas Aquinas College’s founding in 1971. “We are grateful to God that, by His grace, the College has been able to thrive, to the point that we are now able to open a second campus,” says Dr. McLean. “We look forward to celebrating this accomplishment at two Convocations this year — and then resuming the true work of the College, which is the pursuit of wisdom under the light of faith in our program of Catholic liberal education.”