Cardinal Francis George, the retired Archbishop of Chicago who was the first native Chicagoan to head the Archdiocese, died on April 17 after nearly 10 years battling cancer. He was 78.
- Catholic News Service
Cardinal Francis George
His successor in Chicago, Archbishop Blase Cupich, called Cardinal George "a man of peace, tenacity and courage" in a statement he read at a news conference held outside Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral to announce the death.
Archbishop Cupich singled out Cardinal George for overcoming many obstacles to become a priest, and "not letting his physical limitations moderate his zeal for bringing the promise of Christ's love where it was needed most."
A childhood bout with polio had left the prelate with a weakened leg and a pronounced limp throughout his life.
Cardinal George was a philosophy professor and regional provincial then vicar general of his religious order, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, before being named Bishop of Yakima, Washington, in 1990.
He then was appointed Archbishop of Portland, Oregon, in Apri,l 1996. Less than a year later, St John Paul II named him to fill the position in Chicago, which was left vacant by the death of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in November, 1996.
By retiring in 2014, Cardinal George accomplished what he often joked was his aspiration, to be the first Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago to step down from the job, rather than dying in office, as his predecessors had. In the last few months the Archdiocese had issued a series of press releases about changes in Cardinal George's health status as it declined.
The future Cardinal was born in Chicago on January 16, 1937, to Francis and Julia (McCarthy) George. He attended St Pascal elementary school on Chicago's northwest side, the parish where he would be ordained a priest on December 21, 1963.
After being rejected by the Archdiocesan seminary because of his disability, he instead attended the Oblate-run St Henry Preparatory Seminary in Belleville, Illinois. He entered the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1957.
His formal education continued through a string of academic degrees including: bachelor's and master's degrees in theology from the University of Ottawa in Canada, a master's in philosophy from The Catholic University of America in Washington; a doctorate in philosophy from Tulane University, New Orleans; and a doctorate of sacred theology in ecclesiology from the Pontifical Urban University in Rome.
After his ordination, much of Cardinal George's work was in academia, teaching at the Oblate Seminary in Pass Christian, Mississippi, at Tulane University, and Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1973, he became provincial superior of the Midwestern province of the Oblates, based in St Paul, Minnesota. The following year he was elected vicar general for the order, and served in that post in Rome from 1974 to 1986.
When he returned to the United States, he became coordinator of the Circle of Fellows for the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Faith and Culture in Massachusetts from 1987-1990.
Cardinal Francis George, ‘a man of peace, tenacity and courage’, dies aged 78 (The Catholic Herald)