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The 2014 Aquinas Institute of Theology Baccalaureate Mass was held Friday, May 9, at 11:00 a.m. in the St. Francis Xavier (College) Church on St. Louis University’s campus.  The Eucharistic Liturgy was celebrated for the 36 candidates for graduation from the Institute, and their families and friends.  Aquinas Institute President, Fr. David G. Caron, O.P., officiated the Baccalaureate Mass, and Fr. Shane Crombie of Ireland, a member of the graduating class, concelebrated.

(Pictured Above: L-R): D.Min. in Preaching graduate Fr. Shane Crombie, and Aquinas Institute President Fr. Dave Caron, O.P., at the 2014 Aquinas Baccalaureate Mass.

A Baccalaureate Mass is a Catholic-based service which honors a graduating senior class from a college or high school within a few days of the commencement ceremony.   The Baccalaureate derives from the medieval European custom of presenting the candidates for the degree of Bachelor (bacca) with laurels (lauri) of sermonic oration.  The Baccalaureate Mass is a service of worship in celebration of and thanksgiving for lives dedicated to learning and wisdom.  The conferral of hoods, although not a religious ceremony, reminds graduates that they join a long line of scholarly ministers.   It represents the responsibility and the privilege of their role in the service of the church and the world.   The hood represents the story of the graduate’s education and academic competence.


(Pictured Above): Aquinas President Fr. David Caron, O.P., drapes an official hood on a graduate with the assistance of Aquinas Institute Board Member Dr. Darryl Ross (left).  Academic Dean Fr. Gregory Heille, O.P. is in the background.

The interior colors of black and white are the traditional colors of the Dominican order and the official colors of Aquinas Institute of Theology.   The velvet red border indicates the wearer is competent in the discipline of theology – the study of God. Aquinas President Fr. David Caron, O.P., hooded the degree candidates with the assistance of Dr. Darryl Ross, a member of the Board of Trustees.  Following the hooding rite, the Mass proceeded as usual.  Aquinas Institute candidates participating in the Baccalaureate Liturgy served as readers and Eucharistic Ministers. In accordance with custom, all candidates wore academic regalia, as did the faculty, board members and honorary degree recipients.

(Pictured Above): Aquinas graduate candidates and Aquinas Academic Dean Fr. Gregory Heille, O.P.,  take part in the Baccalaureate Mass.

Aquinas Institute of Theology conferred graduate degrees and graduate certificates on 36 women and men in a Commencement ceremony at 7:00 p.m. that night at St. Francis Xavier (College) Church.  Fr. Donald Senior, C.P., served as the Commencement speaker.  Graduate certificates were awarded to 15 people in Pastoral Care, Spiritual Direction, or Thomistic Studies.  Aquinas Institute conferred Masters and Doctoral degrees to 27 people in the concentrations of: Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies - Catechesis of the Good Shepherd; Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies; Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies Awarded with a Master of Social Work from St. Louis University; Master of Arts in Theology; Master of Divinity; and Doctor of Ministry in Preaching. 

A number of students received degrees and certificates in more than one category.   The graduating class included 26 lay students, and 10 members of religious communities. Aquinas Institute of Theology, sponsored by the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), is the only Catholic institution in the world offering a Doctorate in preaching.  While most students are Catholic, other Christians also study at Aquinas Institute. Students represent communities that stretch from coast to coast, and from around the world. 

In addition to the conferral of academic degrees, Aquinas Institute of Theology awarded honorary degrees (Doctor of Humane Letters) to the following individuals:

Theodore J. DuBuque, Jr., M.D., a St. Louis native, is the Founder of the CRUDEM Foundation, Inc., which he created after traveling to Hôpital Sacré Coeur in Haiti, and spending six months there performing 250 surgeries.  Dr. Dubuque's family and local community rallied around his efforts.  With enormous enthusiasm, Dubuque, close friend Carlos Reese, and the St. Louis community fueled an amazing grassroots movement.  Over the next two decades, the hospital developed from an eight bed clinic to a premier Haitian healthcare facility, now supported by several thousand donors and volunteers from around the world.  In 1993, the CRUDEM Foundation assumed operating control of the hospital, and became a 501(c)(3) corporation.  In 1999, CRUDEM and Hôpital Sacré Coeur was included as "100 Projects of the Holy Father for the Year of Charity" by Pope John Paul II.

Kerry Alys Robinson is the Executive Director of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, which is dedicated to promoting excellence and best practices in the management, finances and human resource development of the Catholic Church in the U.S.  She is a member of foundations including the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities in Wilmington, Delaware, and has served on boards and national committee, including the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development.  Robinson is the founding editor of The Catholic Funding Guide: A Directory of Resources for Catholic Activities, and  has been an advisor to grantmaking foundations, charitable nonprofits and family philanthropies since 1990.  Kerry is a frequent writer and speaker on the subjects of philanthropy, development and faith.

Rev. Donald Senior, C.P., President Emeritus of Catholic Theological Union – the largest Roman Catholic graduate school in the United States, is a member of the Passionist Congregation, was ordained a priest in 1967, and received his doctorate in New Testament studies from the University of Louvain in Belgium in 1972.  He is a frequent lecturer and speaker; serves on numerous boards and commissions; and is actively involved in the interreligious dialogue.  Rev. Senior has published extensively on biblical topics.  He currently serves as the President of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago.  In 2001, Pope John Paul II appointed him as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and he was reappointed in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI.

(Pictured Above: L-R): Honorary Degree recipients, Rev. Donald Senior, C.P., Kerry Alys Robinson, and Theodore J. Dubuque, Jr., M.D. being verbally honored by Aquinas President Fr. David G. Caron, O.P.

All graduates and attendees were invited to join administrators, faculty and staff at Aquinas Institute of Theology to continue the celebration amidst food and beverages.

Additional thoughts from a few of our recent graduates will be conveyed to readers over the next few weeks, and included some of the following:

• “I am privileged and blessed to have been a student of Aquinas Institute of Theology.  My experience has been rewarding in so many ways.  I’m going to miss the personal affirmation from classmates, instructors and staff, as we worked together.  I am confident that the education I received will serve me well in my current ministry and in my future journey-- always seeking to discern God’s invitations throughout the rest of my life.  I’ve added some new tools to my ministry toolbox. Thanks, everyone!” - Sister Pam Mueller, OSU, recipient of a graduate certificate in Pastoral Care.
• “I want to thank each member of the AI team for the best efforts to make the graduation day a memorable one for all the graduates.  All the AI staff members carry the love of God in their hearts and the Truth of Dominican tradition in their minds as they prepare us for the ministry, in the service of Church and society.  I am grateful for the support, encouragement, knowledge and experience received during my time at Aquinas.  The graduation commencement was for an experience of being anointed to be a bearer of the life of God. Thanks again.  I shall thank in person when I see you all.” – Chauramma Agnes Chawadi, recipient of a Certificate in Spiritual Direction
• “In 2011, enrolling in the MAPS-CGS course was the next right step in my life journey.  Every class in this well designed course presented me with a deeper understanding of my Catholic faith, relevant and applicable to my life and ministry. "Theology for life" is a fitting motto, and graduation is a door that opens to the next grand adventure in my life.  Both the Baccalaureate Mass and the Graduation Ceremony were joyful and prayerful and a fitting way to conclude my formal course of study.  The weather cooperated beautifully as it defied the forecast for storms.  Thank you Ann Garrido and Aquinas Institute for an enriching and meaningful graduate experience”. – Annette Witte, recipient of a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.


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