CHICAGO (CBS) — Francis Cardinal George grew up on Chicago’s Northwest Side and was eventually ordained at St. Pascal’s in Portage Park.
As CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports, parishioners have always felt a close connection to George, who lost his nine-year battle with cancer on Friday.
It was at St. Pascal’s, where young Francis began what became a life dedicated to the Catholic Church and serving others.
“For me personally Cardinal Francis George is a hero, and that’s how I will remember him,” said St. Pascal pastor Rafal Stecz, who fondly remembers meeting the cardinal when Stecz came to Chicago from Poland as a seminary student 6½ years ago.
“When I introduced myself, I said, ‘My name is Rafal.’ He said, ‘I know.’
“That was very amazing because it shows he was very interested in us.”
Stecz said George had a gift for making everyone feel important.
The cardinal’s love of his boyhood parish was not lost on its members.
In the courtyard of the rectory, a brick expresses the pride his parish had in him.
It reads: “Saint Pascal’s favorite son, Francis Cardinal George, Celebrating 50 Years of Priesthood 1963-2013.”
During morning Mass on Friday, Stecz asked the parish to pray for the sick, especially Cardinal Francis George.
“At that time I was not aware that, that would be the last prayer that I would offer to God for Cardinal Francis George.”
Now the church’s members will offer prayers for the soul of Cardinal Francis George, as he’s born into eternal life with God.
Stecz said the cardinal leaves the world a valuable lesson.
“If he who was so sick and weak could continue, we can continue as well and we should,” Stecz said.