By Fr. Jim Allen, OMI, National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows
Because of the connections Cardinal Francis E. George, OMI, had with Belleville, IL, and with the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in that same city, it was appropriate that on April 14, 2023, Michael R. Heinlein, (left the author of a biography of the late Oblate Cardinal, came to the Shrine for a “book signing” program. The hour-long program included comments by the author, as well as by others who knew him as a fellow Oblate and as a bishop. Speakers were Bishop Michael McGovern of Belleville, who was a diocesan priest in Chicago during the tenure of Cardinal George; (via Zoom) Archbishop-emeritus of Anchorage, AK, Roger L. Schwietz, OMI, who was a close friend of the Cardinal, as well as a fellow seminarian in Ottawa, ONT; and fellow Oblates Frs. David Kalert, Allen Maes and James Allen.
Michael Heinlein is editor of Our Sunday Visitor’s SimplyCatholic.com and a regular contributor to OSV’s periodicals. He earned a degree in theology from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He finds great inspiration in the lives of the saints and the spirituality of the Pauline Family, and often is found using whatever spare time he has for genealogical research. He is married and the father of three children.
Heinlein spent many years of research to produce a well-written and very readable biography of a man who overcame tremendous health problems to become a priest, a professor, a Vicar General of the Oblates, and then a successor of the apostles as Ordinary of Yakima, WA; Portland, OR; and his own home town of Chicago. Pope St. John Paul II recognized George’s many gifts and appointed him to the College of Cardinals in 1998, one of only five Missionary Oblates who have worn the red hat of a cardinal. His own peers in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop elected him President in 2007.
Heinlein’s research took him, not only to the archives of the dioceses which the Cardinal led, but also to those of the Oblates, both in Rome and in the USA. He spent time with Oblates who knew “Frannie George” as a young seminarian on crutches after a bout with polio. He got to know the Cardinal’s family and close friends.
In his book signing presentation, Heinlein focused on the role that the Oblates played in shaping the life, ministry and spirituality of Cardinal George. The biography shows Cardinal George, not only as a prophetic voice in the Church and as a bishop. Those who knew him personally will smile at times to say: “Right on!” One of his dying wishes was that the “Salve Regina” be sung by those around his bedside, just as had been done at the bedside of the Oblate Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod.
The book is available through Our Sunday Visitor, Amazon, and other purveyors of books.