The mood was somber and quiet as parishioners walked out of Holy Name Cathedral on Sunday, two days after Cardinal Francis George died after a long fight with cancer.
Children, young couples and the elderly alike remembered the late cardinal, who was archbishop of Chicago until November when he stepped down after 17 years of service.
“It’s somber and uplifting as well because of the man that he was, he was special for the city,” said John Brady, who first met Cardinal George before he became archbishop of Chicago. “He was always a humble person.”
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George had been fighting cancer for nearly a decade and late last year the archdiocese announced the cardinal had been dropped from an experimental cancer treatment at the Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood.
The Rev. William Woestmann, who officiated the 11 a.m. mass Sunday, shared stories of the cardinal’s early life, his family years and his perseverance through polio.
A portrait of Cardinal Francis George was displayed during masses Sunday at Holy Name Cathedral. | Brian Jackson/For The Sun-Times
“It made him very human,” said Jane McCarthy, adding she was moved by George’s determination to become a priest, even though he had been rejected by the local seminary.
McCarthy, who said she was in town for a conference, said she had gone to Holy Name to see how the cathedral celebrated the cardinal’s life.
“I’m a Catholic and it was very moving to see on TV his life and the good things he’s done,” she said.
Visitation for George begins Tuesday at Holy Name. A private funeral mass will be held Thursday.
For Estelle Martin, who has been a parishioner at Holy Name for decades and met George when he first became archbishop, the mass was very touching and a good way to remember the cardinal’s legacy.
“He was very true to his self, he was very true to all of us and he’s going to be greatly missed,” she said. “I remember his sister constantly talking about his baby brother, she was so proud of him.”
Others remembered specific aspects of his ministry.
“He was very compassionate about the elderly, the disadvantaged and the widows –– as in the Bible,” Janet Bedin said. “He knew what it was like to be old and thrown away, so he was really a champion of that.”
Fighting tears, Elena Kociolek said she had met George several times before her own cancer surgeries.
“He always was nice to talk to,” she said.
Still, for Kociolek not everything is mournful about George’s passing.
“He went to the Lord, so he’s not suffering anymore,” she said.
Bunting outside Holy Name Cathedral on Sunday, April 19, 2015. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun-Times