Cardinal braves poor health to ordain new priests

With hundreds of priests and family looking on, the newest leaders of Chicago’s Catholic faithful were brought into the priesthood themselves. Cardinal Francis George led the ceremony at Holy Name Cathedral for the 12 men who were ordained today.

“I’m kind of blown away,” said Father James Mueller of Most Blessed Trinity Parish in Waukegan. “It’s very unreal, and I’m very grateful and very happy.”

Mueller took note on this special day for him of the cardinal, whom he’s come to know as a mentor.

“I actually told him I couldn’t be more grateful that he was able to ordain us because his health was unsure for a while. And just the amount of love and the amount of energy that he puts into us, it’s unbelievable, and I’m very grateful to him for that,” he said.

In all, the cardinal will ordain 15 new priests this month, which is about the number needed to replace the priests who will leave active ministry this year. Among those leaving may be the cardinal himself.

“He really has been a spiritual father to us, he’s come to visit us very often, he’s invested a lot in us,” Mueller said. “He’s always 110% there mentally, and I pray that the Vatican does give him a chance to retire and a little bit of time to kind of rest and hopefully recuperate, God willing.”

And even as he made his way through the crowd outside, the cardinal’s health was on the minds of so many here. He briefly mentioned his struggle with arthritis today, not the cancer or chemotherapy that has so often been the case in the past several months.

Back inside, it almost seemed as much his day as those just entering the priesthood.

“The cardinal is very dedicated to seminary; he has a very regular presence there, and his mind and his heart have shaped the minds and hearts of these men,” Father Robert Barron, president of Mundelein Seminary, said to the crowd.

“So your eminence, we know it’s a difficult time for you; we’re praying for you on a daily basis in seminary. Many thanks for all you’ve done to shape these men for this day. … God bless you, Cardinal George.”

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