La Salle University presented Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., D.D., with an honorary degree on October 7 at its honors convocation ceremony for his lifelong commitment to the Catholic faith and inspirational leadership.
Chaput was appointed Archbishop of Philadelphia by Pope Benedict XVI on July 19, 2011, and was installed as the 13th bishop and ninth archbishop of Philadelphia on Sept. 8, 2011.
La Salle University President Br. Michael McGinniss, F.S.C., said, “We are especially pleased to be able to recognize Archbishop Chaput as part of our 150th anniversary celebration because of the historical bond between La Salle and the archdiocese. Bishop Wood and the Lasallian Brothers of the Christian Schools collaborated to found La Salle College, bringing much-needed Catholic higher education to Philadelphia in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War. Now, as La Salle University, we continue to serve our region and beyond.”
James V. Morris, a member of La Salle University’s Board of Trustees who sponsored Chaput for the honorary degree, said at the convocation, “Our Lasallian values and the values of Archbishop Chaput have so much in common, particularly the focus on the young and the poor. Our University seeks to recognize those who stand as role models not only for shared principles but also for actions that support those principles. Therefore, I believe it is both appropriate and a great pleasure to present Archbishop Charles Chaput to you for the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa.
Archbishop Chaput said, “I’m very grateful to Brother McGinniss and to the whole university community for welcoming me so warmly today. La Salle is one of the treasures of Philadelphia’s long history of intellectual excellence. It’s a privilege to be part of celebrating your 150th anniversary. But the real joy of being here is knowing that the greatest work of this great institution lies in the future, not in the past.
“If we believe our public media, we live in an increasingly secular country. American culture can often seem “Christian” on the surface. But it’s also more and more unfriendly to Catholic belief in its laws and political life. So my message today is very simple, and it speaks to the mission of every great Catholic university like La Salle:
“We need to form a new generation of Catholic believers who will be missionaries and leaders; men and women who are on fire for Jesus Christ and have the courage to prove it with their own suffering; men and women who aren’t afraid to preach the truth of the Catholic faith wherever God leads them–including in the public square.”
He concluded his remarks by saying, “The mission of Catholic higher education is to develop the whole person: body and soul; mind and spirit – and to transform the world through the talent, the intelligence and the zeal of those who experience its excellence. For 150 years, La Salle has served that mission with extraordinary success. May God grant all of you who make up the La Salle family the privilege of carrying that same mission into the future.”
Born in Kansas, Archbishop Chaput joined the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, a distinctive branch of the Franciscans, in 1965. He earned a Master of Arts in religious education from Capuchin College in Washington, D.C., in 1970, the same year as his ordination to the priesthood.
He returned to Pennsylvania in 1971, holding positions at St. Fidelis and at the Capuchin Province in Pittsburgh until 1977, when he became a pastor of a church in Colorado. By 1983, he had become the chief executive and provincial minister of the Capuchin Province of Mid-America.
Archbishop Chaput was ordained Bishop of Rapid City, S.D., in 1988 and Pope John Paul II appointed him Archbishop of Denver in 1997, making Archbishop Chaput the second Native American to be ordained a bishop in the United States, and the first Native American archbishop.
His 14 years as archbishop of Denver are marked by major accomplishments. In 1999, building on the efforts of his predecessor in Denver, Archbishop Chaput founded St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, an affiliate of the Pontifical Lateran University. In 2002, he founded Centro San Juan Diego in response to the pastoral and educational needs of the growing Hispanic community in Colorado and later co-founded the national Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL). He was also instrumental in creating the Denver-based Augustine Institute, an independent, lay-run graduate school for the formation of lay Catholic leaders, catechists, and evangelizers.
An active member of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, Archbishop Chaput has taken leadership roles on issues of Native American Catholics, cultural diversity in the Church, health care, and pro-life activities. In fact, he has earned a national reputation for his commitment to these issues.
Archbishop Chaput served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom from 2003 to 2006 and as a member of the official U.S. delegation for the Conference on Anti-Semitism and Other Forms of Intolerance in 2005.
In 2009, the national Becket Fund for Religious Liberty awarded him the Canterbury Medal for his work in advancing religious freedom.
Since arriving in Philadelphia, Archbishop Chaput has worked to ensure the vitality of Catholic elementary and secondary schools by helping to create and support the “Faith and the Future Foundation,” an independently managed Catholic school system comprised of seventeen Catholic high schools and four schools of special education. The Foundation will focus on fundraising, enrollment management, marketing and cultivating best practices in leadership and education. It will also work to support the Archdiocesan grade schools and the newly formed Mission Schools.