By the Most Rev. Louis Lougen, OMI, Superior General, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (Given on April 22, 2015 at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago)
Cardinal Francis George always maintained a close connection with the Oblates. His visits to the provincial house in D.C. were frequent, and, when his health was good, he always stayed with us. He always came to the General House in Rome when he was there. He was a brother among us, and we were accustomed to calling him Francis and to banter and argue with him, especially some of his former students! I don’t think he would want us now to be sitting around singing his praises!
He assisted the Superior General, Father Fernand Jetté, for twelve years as Vicar General. It was a most remarkable and delicate time in the history of our Congregation and Francis supported and collaborated closely with Fr. Jetté. His support for improving first formation and vocations at that critical moment was against the current of the times. Another prophetic act was initiating the Congregation’s efforts for a Justice and Peace Committee at the level of the General Administration. He oversaw a new edition of “Oblate Prayer”, a post-Vatican II reformulation of the “Vade Mecum” of prayer that was used by Oblates. This was done at a time in which traditional practices of prayer were on the wane, and it was a call to all the missionaries to renew their lives of prayer in the spirit of the Oblate charism.
When Francis came to the 2010 General Chapter of the Congregation, he made an important, off the record, intervention. He mentioned how some of those prayers from the Congregation’s past continued to be a part of his spirituality, prayers like that in the morning to the Blessed Trinity, an inheritance we have received from the Sulpician and French school of spirituality. Recently, we read about the testimony of a lay person who said Francis prayed the Sulpician prayer “O Jesus living in Mary” every day. Another important insight he shared with us concerned the Chapter theme, “a profound personal and communal conversion to Jesus Christ”. He said it was truly a courageous theme for a General Chapter. Then he reminded us, “The conversion to Christ that you are being called to live is conversion to Jesus Christ crucified; always keep that in mind.” That points us to Saint Eugene de Mazenod’s experience before the crucifix on Good Friday.
I think the three passions of Saint Eugene de Mazenod, our Founder and Father, were also the passions of Francis. These are: passion for Christ; passion for the Church; and passion for the poor. His missionary vocation as an Oblate shaped Francis’ life, and, as bishop, his “Oblate DNA” guided his heart. Francis was passionate about Christ, and his life as an Oblate, a priest and a bishop was a life in Christ. He saw the world through the eyes of Christ the Savior, a world loved by God who gave his only Son to save it. We know Francis’ passionate love for the Church was unconditional, and he poured himself out for the Church in zealous activity. His passionate love for the poor was always present in his outreach to the homeless, to children, to minorities, to immigrants and refugees. His love was not simply sentimental but concretized in action for justice and peace. His ministry to the poor, and his simple way of being with the poor, were never about attention for himself, but, in the spirit of Saint Eugene, he did it for God’s glory.
With hard work, solid dedication and no fanfare, Francis sought, by God’s grace, to live entirely for the Kingdom, and, as Saint Eugene exhorted his Oblates, he sought to be holy, to become a saint. Again, this was not for show or for applause, but was a personal commitment and a truly interior road in the spirit of Saint Eugene de Mazenod, only for God’s glory.
In the name of the entire Congregation I would like to express our condolences to Archbishop Blaise Cupich and the Archdiocese of Chicago. I also extend our deepest sympathies to Francis’ sister, Margaret, and all the members of Francis’ family. Finally, in a special way, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate express our condolences to Father Daniel Flens and our gratitude to him for his service and watchful care for Francis for so many years. May God bless you, Father Dan!
Francis, our brother, rest on peace!. Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary Immaculate!