Long before Pope Francis so insightfully described an evangelizer as a "missionary disciple," the person who lived this reality to the full was called home to God today. Cardinal Francis George was, in every fiber of his being, a missionary disciple and evangelizer.
He answered God's call to be a priest as a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a religious institute founded precisely to evangelize those who are truly poor and at the peripheries, both materially and spiritually. As an Oblate and later as a Successor of the Apostles in Yakima, Portland (Oregon), and Chicago, Cardinal George was unfailingly zealous in his efforts to lead people to Jesus Christ, the one Savior of the world.
A missionary disciple and evangelizer seeks always to understand more fully and to proclaim more clearly the Truth, which, in the end, is a Person: Jesus Christ. Cardinal George was gifted with an intellect that constantly probed, so that he could share with others the profound richness and power of the Gospel.
He served the people entrusted to him with a shepherd's compassion and loyalty. He knew how to blend firmness with kindness, to proclaim the truth with crystal-like clarity yet within the context of pastoral understanding and care. His service went beyond the borders of his religious community and arch/diocese; it had an international outreach as he collaborated with three Popes in his responsibilities as Cardinal. In all these arenas, his was the heart of a missionary disciple and evangelizer.
Cardinal George understood so clearly that a deeply personal union with the Lord Jesus, and in some manner or other, with His salvific suffering, lies at the core of a missionary disciple and evangelizer. He bore the cross of illness from his youth and so much markedly in his terminal illness. He did so with persevering patience, deeply-rooted trust in Jesus, and joy-filled yet quiet resignation.
We give thanks to the Lord for Cardinal George's presence and ministry, which has enriched so many of us, and we pray for the consolation of all the members of the Archdiocese of Chicago. We accompany Cardinal George with our continued prayers and heartfelt affection to the House of the Lord, where he shall be given that reward promised to good and faithful missionary disciples and evangelizers.
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