The entire coat-of-arms is composed of a shield with its charges painted on, the motto, and the external ornaments. The term "dexter" is used to refer to the right half (viewers left) and the term "sinister" refers to the left half (viewers right). The dexter half is given in heraldry to the arms of the jurisdiction, and so are the arms of the Archdiocese of Chicago in Illinois. The sinister half is given to the personal device of arms of the Cardinal himself.
On the dexter half (viewers left), is a phoenix rising from flames, a religious symbol of the resurrection of Jesus and his triumph over sin and death. The phoenix design, which also constitutes the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Chicago since it became an Archdiocese in 1880, symbolizes the rebirth and reconstruction of the city in the years after the Chicago fire of 1871. The color red is symbolic of the Holy Spirit who guides, protects and breathes life in the church. Written across the breast of the phoenix are the Greek letters iota, eta and sigma, which form the monogram of Jesus in the Greek language, symbolizing the Cathedral of the Holy Name, the Cathedral Parish of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The first Gothic structure of the Cathedral was destroyed in the great fire of 1871 and itself rose from the ashes to be rebuilt in 1875. On the wings of the bird are two fleur-de-lis, the French form of the lily, which symbolize the exploration of the Chicago area by two Catholic French missionaries, Joliet and Marquette, in 1673.
On the sinister half (viewers right) the basic field is silver and signifies the purity and wholeness of the Faith to which we are committed as our means of salvation. Over this is the blue heraldic pile, the color of Our Blessed Lady. In the upper shield is a six pointed star taken from the coat of arms of Saint Eugene de Mazenod, Bishop of Marseilles in France and the founder of Cardinal Georges religious congregation, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. This star is pierced to allow the silver to show through it, and so suggests the Archbishops commitment to witness faithfully to the Gospel. The crescent next to it is associated with the Immaculate Conception, another allusion to the Oblate Fathers. Again, the profusion of blue speaks of truth, perseverance, and all the virtues so important in our spiritual pilgrimage. The ships anchor is an ancient Christian symbol of hope, confidence, and stability in a sea of temptations and difficulties, and the red rope "fouling" the anchor is for the Precious Blood of Christ by which we take hold of hope in the Church. A bishop in his diocese is a sign of that hope and stability for his people which is promised in the gospel.
The motto, "Christo Gloria in Ecclesia," is inspired by Hebrews 13:20 and by the motto of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. His Eminence chooses it as his essential purpose in life as a Father of his people and wishes his work and witness always to cry out "To Christ be Glory in the Church!" The red color of the hat and the number and color of the tassels signify the rank of Cardinal. The gold archiepiscopal cross with two traverses or crosspieces symbolizes the Archdiocese of Chicago as the metropolitan, or principal, see of the Province of Chicago which includes all six diocesan entities in the State of Illinois: the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Dioceses of Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford, and Springfield.
The coat-of-arms is the Cardinals symbol as Ordinary in Chicago, and is used on letterheads, documents and other official publications.
The heraldic design was created by Rev. James Parker of the Diocese of Charleston and Assistant to the Ecclesiastical Delegate. Art work is by Rev. Larry Lossing of the Diocese of Orlando.