In acknowledgement of his lifetime of service to the Church and the Holy Land, Father Thomas A. Baima ’76 was presented with 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, on October 21 at Saint John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis.
Baima’s activities on behalf of the Holy Land stretch back to the 1980s. 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 Bernardin’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 numerous dignitaries, including presidents, prime ministers, the foreign minister of the State of Israel, the president of the Palestinian Authority, the chief rabbi of Israel, and others.
He worked with Francis Cardinal George and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago to create the Fassouta Project, which raised $100,000 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.
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 Vicar for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
He studied Philosophy and Religion at Butler and has served on the Board of Visitors of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and on the Advisory Board of the Center for Faith and Vocation.
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.