St. Pascal shares memories of Cardinal Francis George
by SEAN KEENEHAN
Saint Pascal Parish is mourning the passing of its "Favorite Son," Cardinal Francis George, who died at the age of 78 on April 17 after a 9-year battle with cancer.
George grew up on the Northwest Side and attended grammar school at Saint Pascal School, 6143 W. Irving Park Road. He was ordained a priest at Saint Pascal Church, 3935 N. Melvina Ave., in December of 1963.
Cardinal George was appointed by Pope John Paul II the archbishop of Yakima in 1990, the archbishop of Portland in 1996 and the eighth archbishop of Chicago in April of 1997.
"Cardinal George became a very important part of our history, and he became a central figure and, really, the identity of the parish," said Saint Pascal pastor the Reverend Paul Seaman. "There’s probably only been about a hundred cardinals in the history of the United States, and one of them came from our parish. For one of our own to come home as our cardinal bishop is a very unique and tremendous honor for our parish to carry."
George served as Chicago’s archbishop for 17 years, and he became the first Chicago archbishop to retire in November of 2014. Seaman said that George exhibited an outward affection toward the Saint Pascal community throughout his life.
"He loved Saint Pascal’s," Seaman said. "If you ever wanted to get a rise out of him or if you wanted to get a laugh out of him, just tell him you were from St. Pascal’s. He loved it because this is where his family lived, it’s where his faith developed, and it’s where his vocation developed."
Seaman said that George’s ability to joke and laugh was an element of his personality that often was hidden from the public eye.
"Francis George had a wonderful sense of humor," Seaman said. "I mean, he really loved a good laugh, and that’s something that in his public position he wasn’t often able to project. He was very funny, and in his own way he could be very affectionate towards people."
Seaman recalled George’s last visit to the parish in March of 2014 when the cardinal was asked to discuss his experiences growing up at Saint Pascal as a grammar school student.
"He could name every teacher he had from first to eighth grade, and I think that was more than just an exercise of memory for him, I think it was a reverence of the people who really helped him to learn the faith and develop his vocation, and he was always grateful for that," Seaman said.
Visitation services and prayer vigils are scheduled for Wednesday at Holy Name Cathedral, 735 N. State St., and a funeral mass will be held at noon Thursday at the cathedral.
While the Saint Pascal community is saddened by the loss of Cardinal George, Seaman spoke of the support and unity of a parish that has grown stronger.
"It brings us together first and foremost in prayer, it brings us together in memory, and it brings us together in respect," Seaman said. "There’s sadness and there’s also a sense of relief that his suffering has ended, but the people of Saint Pascal have the same faith that Cardinal George had, which was that we’re a people of the resurrection and we believe that God has so much greater in store for us after the fight."
The church will broadcast the funeral on Thursday in Heimsath Hall. The doors will open at 11:30 a.m., and admission is limited to 300 people.
For more information, visit www.stpascal.org.