I’ve been in the presence of Cardinal George many times – at Masses, at dinners, etc. He came here to Mundelein Seminary a few times since I’ve been up here. My mom and I loved watching midnight Mass from Holy Name Cathedral on Christmas.
Last summer, as you know, I spent 10 weeks in Omaha praying and studying at the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University with 175 seminarians from around the country. Cardinal George came to the program to celebrate Mass for us and give us some words of encouragement.
As he was preparing to leave Creighton and go back to the airport, I had the opportunity to hold the door for him as he came into the lobby. He wasn’t using crutches yet but was obviously weak from his cancer.
I was wearing my Diocese of Joliet polo shirt that day and when the cardinal looked up to thank me for holding the door for him, he noticed my Joliet polo shirt and his face lit up. While he was the archbishop of Chicago, he was also the Metropolitan Archbishop for the whole Illinois province, Joliet included. He stopped walking, and said “Oh, Joliet! Wonderful.”
Then he grabbed my hand and said, “We need you. Don’t ever give up”, and kept walking on his way toward the car.
Nothing fancy, nothing exuberant; just humility and grace. He really was one of a kind who inspired so many people in so many ways. I’m sure gonna miss him.
Godspeed, Francis George.