Vice Rector for Academic Affairs Receives International Award

by on October 25, 2017

Father. Thomas A. Baima awarded Gold Palm of Jerusalem
Highest Distinguished Service Award of Papal Order

For his lifetime of service to the Church and the Holy Land, Father Thomas A. Baima received the Gold Palm of Jerusalem, the highest distinguished service award of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, an international order of the Vatican, that serves the Holy Land. The ceremony took place on October 21, 2017 at Saint John the Evangelist Church, in Indianapolis.

Father Baima’s activities on behalf of the Holy Land stretch back to the 1980’s. As an ecumenical officer, he worked extensively with Eastern Christian, Muslim and Jewish Communities. His connection to the Middle East began with work with the Melkite Catholic Church and the Arab Christian community in Chicago. He worked ecumenically with the Armenian Church, one of the major Christian communions of the Holy Land. He planned and managed Joseph Cardinal Beranrdin’s historic Dialogue Visit to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza with leadership of the Catholic/Jewish Dialogue in Chicago. He accompanied Cardinal Bernardin in meetings with the President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, the President of the Palestinian Authority, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, the Apostolic Delegate, the Greek and Latin Patriarchs and numerous international scholars. He worked with Francis Cardinal George and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago to create the Fassouta Project which raised $100,000.00 to create a computer literacy center in the all-Christian village of Fassouta, in northern Israel, as a demonstration project to call attention to the problem of Christian emigration. Since 2006, he has annually taught seminarians in the Holy Land about ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. As Dean of Mundelein Seminary, Father Baima oversees the Seminary’s Study-Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Since 1998, Mundelein has sent its third-year graduate students to Israel/Palestine for a full term of biblical/theological studies, spiritual retreat and visits to the sacred sites. A key feature of the study-pilgrimage is direct contact with the “living stones,” the clergy and faithful of the Christian communities of the Holy Land.

Father Baima just completed nine years of service to the North Central Lieutenancy, which included Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. He served as ceremonial officer and principal ecclesiastical advisor to Cardinal Francis George and Cardinal Blase Cupich, in their roles as the priors of the Order in the Midwest and Great Lakes regions.

Father Baima is a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago. He currently serves as Vice Rector for Academic Affairs of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, where he is a full professor of dogmatic theology and as Vicar for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and Liaison for Formation Programs of the Archdiocese of Chicago. He is a graduate of Butler University in Indianapolis where he studied philosophy and religion. He completed seminary and graduate studies at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake and post-graduate studies at the Pontifical North American College and the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome.

The author of six books, and an internationally recognized expert in the promotion of Christian unity and interreligious dialogue, Father Baima serves on two Vatican dialogue commissions, the dialogue of fraternity and service with the Buddhists, and the theological dialogue with the Assyrian Church of the East. Nationally, he is a member of the Catholic-Muslim Consultation for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.