Above: Cardinal Bernardin
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JOSEPH LOUIS BERNARDIN (APRIL 2, 1928-NOVEMBER 14, 1996)
Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago
It has been a great privilege to know a very great man.
–Retired Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, 1996
Joseph Bernardin was a famous and respected cleric. Shortly before he died, he spoke with the President of the United States. The Governor of Illinois and the Vice President of the United States attended his funeral Mass. Bernardin had made quite an impression.
Bernardin rose from humble origins. His parents were poor Italian immigrants; his father earned a modest income working in a quarry. Our saint, born at Columbia, South Carolina, on April 2, 1928, grew up in a predominantly Protestant culture of that state. In 1946 his family was still so poor that his mother made the suit he wore to apply to study for the priesthood. Bernardin studied theology at Baltimore and at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. Our saint, ordained to the priesthood in 1952, served as a priest in Charleston, South Carolina. During 14 years he rose through the ranks in the diocese, serving in administrative posts. In 1966, at the age of 38 years, Bernardin became the Auxiliary Bishop of Atlanta and the youngest bishop in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.
Bernardin’s rise through the ranks continued. From 1968 to 1972 he served as the General Secretary of the National Council of Catholic Bishops. Subsequently he was the Archbishop of Cincinnati (1972-1982), the President of the National Council of Catholic Bishops (1974-1977), Archbishop of Chicago (1982-1996), and a member of the College of Cardinals (1983-1996). Our saint took his faith into the public square. He, among other actions, opposed President Nixon’s bombing campaign in Vietnam, articulated the theology of the Seamless Garment of Life, and worked on The Challenge of Peace, the National Council of Catholic Bishop’s 1983 pastoral letter declaring nuclear war morally unjustifiable.
Bernardin had to endure public humiliation and suffering in the 1990s. In 1993 Steven J. Cook sued Bernardin for sexual molestation that allegedly occurred 17 years prior. The following year Cook dropped the lawsuit, citing unreliable memories. Bernardin, who had always insisted upon his innocence, stated publicly that the matter had proven humiliating but that he harbored no ill feelings toward Cook, who stated that he wished the Cardinal the best. The following year Bernardin received the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. He followed the advice of Pope John Paul II:
Offer your suffering to the world.
Bernardin ministered to other cancer patients and made himself vulnerable to the public. He died on November 14, 1996, aged 68 years.
Bernardin was certainly a man of God.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
FEBRUARY 12, 2017 COMMON ERA
THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A
THE FEAST OF ABSALOM JONES, RICHARD ALLEN, AND JARENA LEE, EVANGELISTS AND SOCIAL ACTIVISTS
THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREER ANDREWS, ANGLICAN PRIEST
THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPH CARL LUDWIG VON PFEIL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER
THE FEAST OF MICHAEL WEISSE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR; AND JAN ROH, BOHEMIAN MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER
Almighty God, you have raised up faithful bishops of your church,
including your servant Joseph Cardinal Bernardin.
May the memory of his life be a source of joy for us and a bulwark of our faith,
so that we may serve and confess your name before the world,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35
1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21
John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47
–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60