I have many great memories of Cardinal George from my 13 years in the Windy City. He was as available as a Cardinal could be (when we invited him to Evening Prayer and supper with us, we had to schedule it six months in advance!), but despite being so busy, with back to back meetings, appointments, visits (and the occasional trip to Rome), he paid attention to the little things.
I had seen the Cardinal and shaken his hand at a few church-y events when, one evening, I ran into him in the lobby of the Union League Club after yet another church-y event. I re-introduced myself as "Sister Anne Flanagan of the Daughters of St Paul." "Yes," the Cardinal said, "I recognized you."
The same thing happened years down the road when I was appointed to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, a post that involved monthly day-long meetings (yuck!) with the Cardinal (wow!). At my first meeting, the Cardinal came over to welcome me to the Council. He asked a few questions about our Michigan Avenue bookstore's prospects (challenging!) and told me his hopes for retirement: "What I'd like to do when I retire is go down to the bookstore a couple of times a week and just sit there and be available for people's questions." "We're going to hold you to that, Your Eminence," I told him with a serious nod. When I brought a tiny video camera to one meeting, hoping to get a little input for NunBlog readers, the Cardinal stayed a few minutes extra for my sake. (Too bad the batteries didn't last longer than a few seconds.)
|Signing those books for us.|
Right after the Cardinal's book "The Difference God Makes" was published, we were asked to make it available at an Archdiocesan event. The Cardinal arranged to come to our booth at a certain time to autograph copies for those who had purchased it. As the last eager buyer turned away, the Cardinal offered to sign some extra copies for the bookstore. Little did he know. The superior had already called. She wanted him to sign thirty copies. Francis Cardinal George looked at me under deeply, ironically arched eyebrows. "You're going to pay for this!" All I could do was plead holy obedience...
Gratifyingly, he even appreciated my cooking. (For that Evening Prayer and supper arrangement, we had asked his personal assistant if he had any dietary restrictions, and she said no, but he gets served chicken all the time; would it be possible to prepare something different?) The Cardinal had three helpings of my tangerine-rosemary salmon.
You were a good pastor to me, Cardinal George. May you rest in the peace of Jesus.