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 A former French teacher, author, moral theologian and amateur genealogist has been named the seventh president of Aquinas Institute of Theology.

Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P., begins as president on Jan. 1. He was chosen from a narrowed field of four Dominican priests by the governing body of priests and religious brothers in Chicago that sponsors Aquinas Institute. He succeeds Fr. Charles Bouchard, O.P., president since 1989.

Peddicord, 48, is a native of Howell, Mich., and a Dominican priest since 1986. He began his priestly career as a French and theology teacher at Fenwick High School near Chicago. That opportunity to delve into “every conceivable moral issue and dilemma” with high school juniors set the stage for him to pursue a doctorate in moral theology at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada.

He joined the faculty of Aquinas Institute of Theology in 1994 as associate professor of moral theology. He is especially interested in the relationship between faith and ethics as well as helping Catholics understand the Church’s social teaching.

Peddicord said he plans to build upon the school’s strengths when he assumes the presidency, which will include educating preachers and raising awareness about the importance of great preaching.

“This school is built upon the rich Roman Catholic tradition and the lives and thoughts of such greats as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Catherine of Siena,” Peddicord said. “I am humbled by the role I will play in keeping alive this tradition and perpetuating the ideas of such great models.”

In 2005, Peddicord published The Sacred Monster of Thomism, a book about the life and thought of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, an influential 20th-century theologian. He recently edited a collection of essays compiled into a book in honor of the oldest living Dominican priest in the Chicago province, Fr. Benedict Ashley, O.P.

Peddicord also describes himself as an amateur genealogist, having mastered the basics of French-Canadian genealogy.

He will remain in his current role as faculty member at Aquinas Institute and student master of Dominican priesthood candidates until July 1. He and Bouchard will begin his transition into the presidency in the fall.

“Rick is assuming this role during a critically important moment,” Bouchard said. “In our first 25 years in St. Louis, it is as if we have left the first hint of a footprint in the metropolitan area and national Catholic community. In the next 25 years, with so many critical developments in the Catholic Church, Aquinas Institute will be in a position to more firmly make its mark in preparing leaders for the Church.”

Aquinas Institute, which is sponsored by the Dominican order, or the Order of Preachers, prepares priesthood candidates for ordination. They study alongside vowed religious women and laypeople who want to pursue careers in the Catholic Church or simply better understand their faith tradition.

The graduate school moved to St. Louis in 1981 and had 55 students its first year. Today, enrollment has climbed to more than 300 as Aquinas Institute has responded to needs of the Church. In addition to becoming priests, graduates pursue ministries as vowed religious women, administrators in parishes without resident priests, CEOs in Catholic health care, principals in Catholic high schools, campus ministers, hospital chaplains and theology teachers, among other things.

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