Arms impaled. Dexter: Chevronny of eight Argent and Vert, a Latin cross, the terminations patty, enfiling in fess an open crown Or. Sinister: Argent, upon a cross Azure, a Paschal candle Proper; between; to chief dexter a pick and shovel in saltair Vert and to chief sinister a Keltic “M” of the second; and in base two garbs of wheat Proper.
The episcopal heraldic achievement, or bishop’s coat of arms, is composed of a shield, with its charges (symbols), a motto scroll and the external ornaments. The shield, which is the central and most important feature of any heraldic device, is described (blazoned) in 12th century terms, that are archaic to our modern language, and this description is done as if being given by the bearer with the shield being worn on the arm. Thus, it must be remembered, where it applies, that the terms dexter and sinister are reversed as the device is viewed from the front.
By heraldic tradition, the arms of the bishop of a diocese, called the “Ordinary,” are joined to the arms of his jurisdiction, seen in the dexter impalement (left side) of the shield. In this case, these are arms of the Diocese of Helena.
These arms are composed of a field of alternating silver (white) and green chevrons to heraldically portray the mountain peaks in the diocese. On this field are the conjoined cross and crown of Saint Helen, Empress and mother of Constantine, the Great. This traditional representation of Saint Helen is used to signify that she is the titular patroness of the See’s Cathedral-Church.
For his personal arms, seen in the sinister impalement (right side) of the shield, His Excellency, Bishop Thomas, has retained the design that was adopted to reflect his life and heritage as a priest and as a bishop as he was called to serve as an Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Seattle.
On a silver (white) field is placed a blue cross that contains the central symbol of the theme of the design that is additionally carried forward by Bishop Thomas’ episcopal motto. After the kindling of the fire during the Easter Vigil Service, as the deacon carries the newly lighted paschal candle into the darkened church, as a symbol of resurrected Christ, he intones, three times, the phrase that His Excellency, Bishop Thomas has selected for the motto of his episcopacy … “CHRIST OUR LIGHT.” This light, as seen throughout the liturgical season of Eastertime and which is given to each newly baptized person, and is also seen during the rituals of Christian burial, is symbolic of the fact that the Light of the salvation of the Risen Christ that is in each Catholic is carried from birth to death as the sustaining beacon on each person’s life journey. It is He, Christ, who is this light. That is the guiding force for Bishop Thomas as he ministers to God’s Holy People in the fullness of the priesthood as a bishop.
Within the quarters of the shield that are created by The Cross are a green crossed pick and shovel to honor the Irish heritage of The Bishop’s mother, Mary Rita (Cronin) Thomas, whose family were miners in County Cork, Ireland and then in Michigan and Montana. There are also two garbs of wheat, that are blazoned as “Proper,” that is, “as they appear in nature,” to signify that the family of the Bishop’s father, also George Leo Thomas, were farmers and there are two of them to honor His Excellency’s baptismal patron, Thomas, whose name means “twin.” The final charge in the design is a Keltic “M,” in blue, to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, in her title of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. this charge is used to signify that it is Mary that sustains the life of every cleric in The Church, particularly by always being there, as our “Other Mother,” to be the guide that we each need to follow the Light of Christ as we are called to do.
The device is completed with the external ornaments which are a gold episcopal processional cross, which is placed in back of the shield and which extends above and below the shield, and a pontifical hat, called a “gallero,” with its six tassels, in three rows, on either side of the shield, all in green. These are the heraldic insignia of a prelate of the rank of bishop by instruction of The Holy See of March 31, 1969.
By: Deacon Paul J. Sullivan
Rev. Mr. Sullivan is a Permanent Deacon of the Diocese of Providence.
To inquire about usage of Bishop Thomas’ coat of arms, please contact:
406-442-5820 (ext. 22)