Born on 29 June 1944 in Lakewood (Ohio) in the United States. He joined the Capuchin friars and took vows on 14 July 1965 at the age of 21, studying in the US.
He was ordained on 29 August 1970 and taught at the Catholic University of America from 1969 until 1973. He held various pastoral and administrative positions in the Archdiocese of Washington, particularly with respect to hispanic communities. He was honored by the Portuguese Government in 1974 for his services to the Portuguese people.
He was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of St Thomas, Virgin Islands on 2 June 1984 and consecrated on 2 August 1984. He succeed to full governance of the diocese on 16 October 1985. He was transferred to be Bishop of Fall River on 16 June 1992 and then to be Bishop of Palm Beach on 3 September 2002, before being appointed Archbishop of Boston on 1 July 2003 to replace Cardinal Bernard Law.
He was created Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI at the consistory of 24 March 2006.