The Most Rev. Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago and a 1971 St. Thomas alumnus, has received an honorary degree from the university.

St. Thomas conferred a Doctor of Laws degree on Cupich during a May 11 ceremony in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas. A reception for the 200 guests followed in Woulfe Alumni Hall.

Cupich, an Omaha native, enrolled at St. Thomas and St. John Vianney Seminary for his junior and senior years. He was ordained to the priesthood after four years of study at the North American College and Gregorian University in Rome, and returned to Omaha to serve as a pastor and teach at a Catholic high school at Creighton University.

He was secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature, the pope’s diplomatic mission in Washington, where he earned his doctorate in sacramental theology from the Catholic University of America. He was rector of a seminary in Columbus Ohio, and a pastor in Omaha before Pope John Paul II appointed him bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, in 1998. Pope Benedict XVI named him bishop of Spokane 12 years later and in 2014, Pope Francis appointed him archbishop of Chicago.

The citation that accompanied the honorary degree notes how church observers said “the Francis revolution in Catholicism has finally arrived in the United States” with the Cupich appointment in Chicago. John Carr, a fellow St. Thomas alumnus and a longtime leader at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, agreed but added an important distinction. “Blase is a remarkable example of a Francis bishop before there was a Francis,” Carr says in the citation. “He listens, learns and leads.”

“Humble, compassionate and thought provoking, your ministry is grounded in fundamental convictions that we are on this earth to make it a better place for all of God’s children as we steadfastly seek to promote a universal common good,” the citation states. “It is that pursuit of the common good that unites all of us: our students, faculty and alumni, the citizens of your great archdiocese, and you.”

In his remarks to the chapel audience, Cupich said he always will be grateful for his years at St. Thomas because they helped him to develop “an ability to self-reflect” and “instilled the value of living an authentic life.” The Sermon on the Mount is a favorite Gospel passage, he said, because Jesus taught his followers that they were “blessed,” and in doing so “He lifted them up” and “let them know that God’s grace was at work in their lives.”

To read more about Cupich, see this St. Thomas magazine profile, published in the fall 2015 issue.

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