Cardinal Francis George is stepping up to the plate.

Sneed is told that George is offering a huge helping hand to the hundreds of unaccompanied children seeking refuge in Chicago from the nightmare of their Central American countries.

“The Archdiocese of Chicago is asking the federal government to allow us to feed and provide safe temporary housing for the refugee children who are being brought here,” George tells Sneed. “The many children on the Mexico-U.S. border who are in danger and without adequate shelter call for a compassionate and merciful response.”

George also has enlisted the help of the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago and Maryville Academy, which is run by Sister Catherine Ryan, to provide necessary services for about 429 children currently housed in nine Heartland Alliance locations — the locations of which are undisclosed for security reasons.

Maryville Academy is a school in Des Plaines that houses abused and neglected children, many of whom are wards of the state.

“We need to protect these abandoned children,” the cardinal said.

Colleen Dolan, the cardinal’s spokeswoman, tells Sneed: “The archdiocese is working on an application to the government — the U.S. Health and Human Services Department — to care for the children.”

“We will know after the Aug. 6th deadline for the application if we will legally be allowed to do it,” Dolan said.

Ald. Ed Burke (14th), a devout Catholic whose wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, once chaired an advisory board to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops probing clerical sexual abuse of minors, stated:

“Clearly, the Archdiocese of Chicago has a legacy of welcoming immigrants and refugees to the American heartland. The decision of the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago is consistent with that history and underscores that compassion that should come to all of us in this humanitarian crisis.

“These youngsters are presumably all Catholic and studying to receive the sacraments of communion and confirmation,” Burke said.

◆ Backshot: More than 57,000 unaccompanied Central American children have entered the country illegally since October.

Often, the children have paid thousands to guides to be taken through Mexico on a dangerous journey to the Texas border, and they face violence and horrific conditions on their trip. Some have been raped or tortured and others suffer mental anguish, which Maryville is equipped to tackle.

◆ Buckshot: The majority of them are from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, where violence, gang war and poverty drives them from their families to seek safety in the U.S. The children are held in detention centers or shipped to states that will accept them and put them into the foster care system.

President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion in emergency funds last week to provide services for the children and speed up deportations.

Pot shot . . .

Where’s former U.S. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terry Gainer now?

Here’s where: Watching weed.

◆ Translation: Gainer, the former head of the Illinois State Police who served a combined 47 years in law enforcement and retired in May from his federal job — is now consulting on a security plan for Green Thumb Industries, a Chicago-based medical marijuana purveyor.

◆ To wit: Gainer, an independent security consultant, has teamed up with former Secret Service Special Agent Arnette Heintze and former Chicago Police Supt. Terry Hillard’s consulting company on the project.

“It’s truly new for me, having spent 47 years in law enforcement. I’ve secured many different things in my career, this is just another one,” Gainer tells Sneed.

The state’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules found no objection to the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program on Tuesday, so medical marijuana could be for sale in early 2015.

Sneedlings . . .

Wednesday’s birthdays: Will Ferrell, 47; Duncan Keith, 31, and Barry Sanders, 46.