A tribute to Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.

Francis Cardinal George was buried this past week.  I’m sure you’ve read many articles about the man, but please read just one more by my friend Christian Shiu.

I met Christian when our choir started singing at St. Therese Chinese Catholic Church in September of 2011.  I’ve written about Christian twice and you can read those articles, here and here.

Christian is now studying at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake Mundelein Seminary and doing very well.  He wrote “A Tribute to Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I. for the Mundelein Seminary’s publication, The Bridge (Fall 2014/Winter 2015).  I just recently got permission to reprint it here.

Your Eminence,

As Chicago’s eighth Archbishop, having been our shepherd for the past 17 and a half years, there is much we have learned from you.  Your example of service, compassion and humility will always remind us of how we should live the faith, of how we should serve the Lord and our sisters and brothers in Christ.  Your presence, generosity of time and pastoral care of the people of God continue to inspire us to see Christ in all of our neighbors and to love them no matter what.  In these ways, too, you taught us what it means to be a family.

Recently, you wrote:  “One is part of a family not because of what one does but because of the relationships that form through sharing in people’s life.”  here, at Mundelein, exists a flourishing and vibrant family, a community that you have greatly supported.  We will always remember your many visits, your reflections, the times you celebrated Mass, your humor, and of course, the privilege that my brother Chicago seminarians and I have had to pray and eat dinner with you at the Villa.  These have been most wonderful moments in the familial life of the seminary, and we are so grateful for the memories and time spent with you.

While thinking about the Church in Chicago as a family in Christ, I would like to share two stories that showcase your commitment to serving this family, your desire to know them and your openness to the people of God.

In the 1997 edition of The New World, Ms. Heidi Schlumpf wrote an article entitled “Welcoming ‘one of us’:  Disabled community praises Archbishop George’s openness about his own limitations, vulnerability.”  In this story, Schlumpf recounts how you explained to the people of Yakima and Portland what it means to have polio:  that is, it occasionally causes you to fall down.  And so you said to them, “If this happens when I’m visiting you, don’t get excited.  Just reach down and pick me up, and we’ll go on together.  That is how people with polio and other weaknesses live:  we fall from time to time.”

Most humbling, as Schlumpf wrote, you went on to say that you might fall in other ways, too “by not listening adequately, making a mistake of judgment hurting someone with a decision or being impatient or forgetful.”  But even in these instances, you hoped that people would again help you to get back up and, together we would journey on.  We realize, too, that each one of us has a cross to bear – whether it consists of something physical, spiritual or emotional – and each one of us makes mistakes, but you teach us how to persevere.  Despite our human frailty, we can do much when we turn our lives over to the Lord, when we keep Christ at the center and trust always in Him.

In December of last year, you celebrated your 50th anniversary of priesthood with a special Vespers service at Queen of All Saints Basilica  During your homily, you mentioned that people sometimes ask you what legacy you hope to leave behind.  You responded by saying that you don’t think about that much.  Rather, you hoped that people would be able to say that he tried to be a good priest and a good bishop.  And you closed by reminding us to “have confidence in the goodness of God.”

Cardinal George, God has been incredibly good to us, for He has sent you to proclaim the Gospel, to teach the faith and to shepherd the Church in Chicago.  We want to tell you that you have been an exceptional priest and Archbishop!  All of us at Mundelein send you our best wishes, and please be assured of our prayers.  May God bless you!

Please keep Christian and all the seminarians in your prayers!

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