The Legacy of Cardinal Francis George | Matthew A. Rarey | CWR
As Chicago’s shepherd, Cardinal George formed a new generation of priests, emphasized orthodox catechesis, and defended marriage and life
In his seventeen years as the Archdiocese of Chicago’s chief shepherd, Cardinal George, who retired last September, leaves behind a legacy as pastor, teacher, and defender of the Faith, including on the national stage during his presidency of the USCCB (2007-2010). He died April 17 after a long battle with cancer.
“He was a man of tremendous intellectual power and clarity and strength,” said Dan Cheely, vice president of Catholic Citizens of Illinois and president of the Chicago Church History Forum. “I’d go so far as to say that in the entire history of the American Catholic hierarchy, the only person I know who had the intellectual qualities comparable to Cardinal George was Archbishop Fulton Sheen. I’ve seen him give talks at the drop of a hat to highly sophisticated audiences that were literally breathtaking—and without notes.”
Rather than being a “bricks-and-mortar bishop,” Cheely describes Cardinal George as a “thought, word, and deed bishop” who communicated his “powerful love of Christ and his Church on both a personal level and as philosophical truth” to the people and clergy of the sprawling Archdiocese, which encompasses six vicariates. And Cheely, as others interviewed for this article, identifies Cardinal George’s dedication to the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary as one of his main achievements.
Forming a new generation of priests
Fr. Thomas Baima, vice rector for academic affairs at the seminary and a professor of dogmatic theology, praises Cardinal George’s deep personal engagement with the seminary community.