Prayers for Cardinal George As His Cancer Recurs – UPDATED

Worrisome news today out of the Archdiocese of Chicago:  Cardinal Francis George writes in his column in the archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic New World, that his cancer has become active once again.

We knew that his cancer–which affected his bladder in 2006 and returned in 2012 to affect his kidney and liver–was not gone; but it’s been in remission for a year.  Now, he writes in his Lenten meditation to Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago, the tumor is showing signs of new activity.  More aggressive (and likely, more debilitating) chemotherapy will be required.

The Cardinal writes:

If I may speak personally, this Lent finds me once again in poor health.  My cancer, which was dormant for well over a year, is still confined to the area of the right kidney, but it is beginning to show signs of new activity.  After many tests, scans, biopsies and other inconveniences, the settled judgment is that the best course of action is to enter into a regimen of chemotherapy, with drugs more aggressive than those that were used in the first round of chemo.  This treatment will take place over the next two months, when my reaction to the chemo will be evaluated.

I was able to maintain my administrative schedule well during that first round, although my public schedule was sometimes curtailed because of lowered immunity.  As I prepare for this next round of chemo, I ask for your prayers, which have always sustained me, and for your understanding if I cannot always fulfill the schedule already set for the next several months.  While I am not experiencing symptoms of cancer at this time, this is a difficult form of the disease, and it will most probably eventually be the cause of my death.  Chemo is designed to shrink the tumor, prevent symptoms and prolong life.

I imagine this news will increase speculation about my retirement.  The only certainty is that no one knows when that will be, except perhaps the Holy Father, and he hasn’t told me.  As required by the Code of Canon Law, I submitted my resignation two years ago and was told to wait until I heard from the pope.  The consultation the pope makes through the Apostolic Nuncio takes a good number of months, and it hasn’t formally started yet.

But as always, His Eminence reaches out beyond his own need and concerns, expressing his hope and vision for the archdiocese which he serves.  He continues:

In the meantime, Lent gives me a chance to evaluate not only my life of union with the Lord but also my life and actions here as Archbishop of Chicago.  Every life is more tactics than strategy, i.e., each day is filled with activities that meet the needs of the hour and that respond to people in front of you.  But behind the daily activities, leadership demands a sense of strategy:  What are the overall goals of the varied activities that fill our lives?

When I returned to Chicago as archbishop in 1997, the goals of the Decisions document, completed under Cardinal Bernardin, gave me a sense of direction that has continued to be helpful.  But I also had a sense, first developed when I returned to this country from Italy in 1987, that the church here was going to go through a period of some institutional decline.  In a period of institutional decline, one saves as much as possible the elements of institutional presence that are necessary for mission — parishes, schools, seminaries, etc. — but one pays particular attention to the formation of people.  No matter how weak an institution might become, if enough people are well formed as disciples of Jesus Christ, the church’s mission is secure.

Consequently, I am especially grateful to those who have helped over the years to reform and renew the various personnel formation programs:  the seminary system, the diaconate preparation programs, the lay ministry programs, the instruction in the liturgy, the catechetical formation programs in three languages and the preparation of teachers and principals, giving them a new sense of their work as ministry.  All the personnel formation programs have been reworked according to the mind of the church, and some have been newly created with the same purpose.  Whoever comes next as archbishop will have people he can trust and depend on.

There’s more.   You can read his full column here.

Prayers for you, Cardinal George, and for all of us who love you.  May God grant you strength and, if it be His will, may the skilled hands of your doctors bring you a measure of good health.  Speaking for ourselves, we Catholics in the American Church pray that we will have the benefit of your leadership and wise counsel with us for many years to come.


Please continue to keep Cardinal George in your prayers.

Following news that his bladder cancer has recurred, His Eminence has been on an aggressive chemotherapy regime.

When he went for his regular check-up on Friday, March 14, and doctors determined that he was  dehydrated and made the decision to readmit him to Loyola Medical Center.  Cardinal George had been experiencing “flu-like symptoms” and is now receiving fluids and antibiotics intravenously.  He is said to be alert and in good spirits.

Colleen Dolan, director of communications and public relations for the Archdiocese of Chicago, reports that the Cardinal is doing well and is even working on paperwork from his hospital bed.

He will probably be released on Wednesday or Thursday, March 19 or 20.


Who Is Father Tolton, and Can He Help Cardinal George?

Who was Father Augustus Tolton?

  • He was the son of poor slaves in the South.
  • He was refused admission to seminary in the United States because of his color, and finally resorted to studying for the priesthood in Rome.
  • He was ordained in 1886, and was believed to be the first black priest in the nation.
  • He first served in the Diocese of Springfield but came to Chicago where he founded St. Monica’s, a black “national parish church” on Chicago’s South Side.
  • He died of heatstroke at the age of 43.

On March 2, 2010, Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, announced that he was beginning an official investigation into Father Augustus Tolton’s life and virtues, with a view to opening the Cause for his canonization.  The following year—on February 24, 2011—the Roman Catholic Church officially began the formal introduction of the Cause for sainthood of Father Tolton.  He is now designated Servant of God; and Historical and Theological Commissions have been established, with the responsibility for investigating his life and teachings.

Bishop Joseph N. Perry auxiliary bishop of Chicago and Diocesan Postulator for the Cause of Augustus Tolton, has said of him,

“Tolton’s story is one of carving out one’s humanity as a man and as a priest in an atmosphere of racial volatility. His was a fundamental and pervasive struggle to be recognized, welcomed and accepted. He rises wonderfully as a Christ-figure, never uttering a harsh word about anyone or anything while being thrown one disappointment after another. He persevered among us when there was no logical reason to do so.”

And now, six years after undergoing surgery for bladder cancer, Cardinal George again faces chemotherapy for the recurrent cancer which has this time invaded his liver and kidney.

As Cardinal George faces this new challenge, the Auxiliary Bishops of the Archdiocese of Chicago have invited the faithful to pray, asking for Father Tolton’s intercession specifically for the intention of Cardinal George’s health and healing as he undergoes chemotherapy during the next four months.

Prayer to Father Augustus Tolton

O God,
we give you thanks for your servant and priest, Father Augustus Tolton,
who labored among us in times of contradiction,
times that were both beautiful and paradoxical.
His ministry helped lay the foundation for a truly Catholic gathering in faith in our time.
We stand in the shadow of his ministry.
May his life continue to inspire us
and imbue us with that confidence and hope
that will forge a new evangelization for the Church we love.

Father in Heaven,
Father Tolton’s suffering service sheds light upon our sorrows;
we see them through the prism of your Son’s passion and death.
If it be your Will, O God,
glorify your servant, Father Tolton,
by granting the favor I now request through his intercession
(mention your request)
so that all may know the goodness of this priest
whose memory looms large in the Church he loved.

Complete what you have begun in us
that we might work for the fulfillment of your kingdom.
Not to us the glory,
but glory to you O God, through Jesus Christ, your Son
and our Lord;
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are our God, living and reigning forever and ever. Amen

You can let Cardinal George know of your prayers on his behalf.  Messages and cards can be mailed to the Cardinal at this address:

Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago
835 North Rush Street
Chicago, Illinois  60611

“The Catholic Church deplores double slavery—that of the mind and that of the body.  She endeavors to free us of both.  I was a poor slave boy, but the priests of the Church did not disdain me.  It was through the influence of one of them that I became what I am tonight.”

Father Augustus Tolton
From a speech given at the
First Black Catholic Congress
Washington, D.C.  1889