Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin, on June 30, 1948, the youngest of the six children of Thomas F. and Marie B. Burke. His elementary education was undertaken at St. Mary School in Richland Center (1954-1959) and at St. Joseph School in Stratford, Wisconsin (1959-1962).
He attended high school at Holy Cross Seminary in La Crosse, Wisconsin, from 1962 to 1966, and also completed college courses there (1966 -1968) before attending the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he studied as a Basselin Scholar (1968 -1971). He undertook his studies for ordination at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome (1971-1975) and was ordained to the priesthood by Pope Paul VI on June 29, 1975, at the Basilica of St. Peter.
Burke's first assignment was as associate rector of the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman in La Crosse. In 1977 he took up the additional duty of teaching religion at Aquinas High School in La Crosse. In 1980 Burke returned to Rome to study Canon Law at the Pontifical Gregorian University. In April 1984, after completing his studies, he was named Moderator of the Curia and Vice Chancellor of the Diocese of La Crosse.
In 1989 Burke returned to Rome when Pope John Paul II named him Defender of the Bond of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the first American to hold this position on the Church's highest court. After five years in this post, the Holy Father appointed him Bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse on December 10, 1994.
Burke was ordained to the episcopacy by Pope John Paul II on January 6, 1995, at the Basilica of St. Peter, and was installed in the Diocese of La Crosse on February 22, 1995, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter.
On December 2, 2003, Burke was named Archbishop of St. Louis, succeeding Justin Cardinal Rigali, who was appointed Archbishop of Philadelphia in July 2003. Burke was installed in St. Louis on January 26, 2004, the fifth anniversary of Pope John Paul II's historic pastoral visit to the archdiocese. Pope John Paul II invested him with the pallium on June 29, 2004, at the Basilica of St. Peter, in Rome. On July 8, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Burke to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, where he had previously served as Defender of the Bond.
He was elevated by Pope Benedict XVI to the Sacred College of Cardinals at a Papal Consistory in Rome on November 20, 2010, and is the current Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.