Most Reverend John Vlazny — Christus Magister Medal | University of Portland

Most Reverend John Vlazny — Christus Magister Medal

The Most Reverend John Vlazny, Archbishop of Portland in Oregon since 1997 and a bishop since 1983, was born in Chicago in 1937. Fascinated by the priesthood even as a boy, he graduated from Quigley Preparatory Seminary in the city and then St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois, before sailing on to the North American College and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome (bachelor¹s in sacred theology), the University of Michigan (master's in classics), Loyola University (master's in education), and the University of Portland, which awarded him an honorary doctorate of laws in 1999.

Ordained at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome in 1961, the young Father Vlazny served his native Archdiocese of Chicago as priest in five parishes between 1962 and 1979, as a teacher and dean of studies at Quigley Prep from 1963 to 1979, as president of the Presbyteral Senate for the Archdiocese, as pastor of St. Aloysius Parish, and finally rector of Niles College Seminary until His Holiness John Paul II named him bishop. As auxiliary bishop he served as episcopal vicar for northern Illinois until the Pope appointed him bishop of Winona, Minnesota in 1987. Ten years later he was appointed the tenth Archbishop of Portland in Oregon — following in the footsteps of the University's founder, the fourth archbishop of Portland, the Most Reverend Alexander Christie.

Renowned among Oregonians of all faiths for his humor, honesty, and blunt candor, Archbishop Vlazny is especially beloved among the state's Catholics for having steered the community through tumultuous times with irreproachable integrity and unswerving commitment to serve the Christ in every soul. The very antithesis of a cold and forbidding authority figure, he has been a remarkably creative and forthright leader of the Archdiocese, and been a passionate and articulate voice for service and teaching as the hallmarks of his tenure. He has also served the Church Eternal with the same diligence and wit that have graced his work in Oregon: He has chaired or been a member of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops committees on faith formation and sacramental practice, vocations, evangelization, women, migration and refugee services, Hispanic affairs (Spanish is one of his four languages), conciliation, and arbitration, and he is a writer and speaker of skill and strength, noted not only for his lyrical weekly essays in The Catholic Sentinel newspaper, but for his primary role in writing the first pastoral letter ever issued by the bishops of northwest Canada and the United States, on the holiness of the Columbia River and its vast watershed.

"The darkness at the beginning of our Easter vigil service is all darkness," he wrote recently, "everything hidden and secret, deceitful and dishonest, divisive and abusive, immoral and sinful. It is the darkness in our world and the darkness in our hearts. But when the light of Christ broke into the dark history of humankind, everything was changed. The Easter candle is the light of Christ, bringing new life, new hope, new joy. We were children of darkness but we became children of the light. As that light of Christ grows brighter in each and every one of us, we will become much more effective witnesses to a world that desperately needs to be reminded once again that He is alive!"

Archbishop Vlazny is the fifteenth recipient of the Christus Magister Medal, the University's highest honor. It is awarded annually to men and women of international distinction in the fields of art, science, and government.