Addressing Liturgy Training Publications' employees several years ago, Cardinal Francis George spoke casually. He explained that he was visiting the Archdiocese of Chicago's agencies to provide, as he termed it, "cardinal sightings." Having returned to work after a surgery due to his cancer, the cardinal wanted to assure others of his health and stamina.
Indeed, his energy was such that the next year he was elected president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Among his duties in that position, and in his role with Vox Clara, was assisting with the passage of the drafts of the third edition of The Roman Missal. While Cardinal George was president of the USCCB from 2007 to 2010, the bishops studied and approved the drafts of the Missal. The third edition of The Roman Missal was implemented on the First Sunday of Advent in 2011.
Before and during his time as shepherd of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Cardinal George's influence was widespread. Not only did he serve in Rome for a dozen years as vicar general of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, but also as a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, the Congregation for Oriental Churches, and the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.
The honors accorded to him were many, continuing even after his death. Hours after Cardinal George's death, the Catholic Press Association awarded him the Bishop John England Award for distinguished service for exercising and defending the First Amendment Rights of Catholic newspapers. On June 24, Joyce Duriga, editor of the Catholic New World, accepted the honor on his behalf, at the Catholic Media Conference in Buffalo, New York.
On the archdiocesan website, tributes from people from around the world tell of his intellect, courage, and work with people of varied faiths. Among the most poignant of these tributes were those that revealed the heart of the cardinal and the affection others had for him. Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, of the Archdiocese of San Antonio and a former Chicago auxiliary bishop, called him mi padre. Dr. Gary Slutkin, founder and executive director of Cure Violence, recalled that the cardinal led marches through Chicago neighborhoods affected by violence, spoke with at-risk youth, and prayed at the hospital bedside of a former gang leader. "His faith was so certain, it moved me and continues to cause me endless hours of contemplation," Dr. Slutkin said.
The cardinal desired for others to possess the certainty of faith that was his. To provide for that in the future, he founded the Teach Who Christ Is campaign, which is raising $350 million to ensure the religious education of children and faith formation of adults. More immediately, he explained the faith through varied media and at a range of levels. On a regular television program, he answered the interviewers' questions on matters of faith. He wrote both an online column that arrived in subscribers' emails and one for the archdiocesan newspaper. He was the author of the pastoral letter on evangelization, "Becoming an Evangelizing People" (1997), and of another on racism, "Dwell in My Love" (2001) and of three books, The Difference God Makes: A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion, and Culture (The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2009), God in Action: How Faith in God Can Address the Challenges of the World (Doubleday Religion, 2011) and A Godly Humanism: Clarifying the Hope That Lies Within (Catholic University of America Press, June 2015).
At Liturgy Training Publications (LTP), we appreciated his support of our mission as we sought to provide liturgical formation for all of the faithful.
"I'd often receive a note or call from the Cardinal simply expressing gratitude for the work that LTP was doing and asking that I share his gratitude with the staff," said John A. Thomas, director of the agency. "He'd only had the opportunity to visit our offices a few times, but when he did, he took the time to get into the detail of what each staff person did and an interest in who they were.
"He was happy to share in our joy at the dedication of our building after we moved to the south side of Chicago six years ago. On October 22, 2009, Cardinal George blessed our offices and warehouse and presided at the liturgy. And especially after having worked so diligently for the translation of the third edition of The Roman Missal, on September 26, 2011, he was pleased to bless (already sold) copies of the Missal and to preside at a liturgy in our warehouse."
May the angels lead him into paradise.