Cardinal George's cancer is back.
I've written about this topic once before. In 2012, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago discovered he was again suffering from cancer, after previously undergoing surgery in 2006 and being declared cancer free. Cardinal George says this latest bout of cancer, which has been in remission for more than a year, "is beginning to show signs of new activity". He will now undergo a "more aggressive" round of chemotherapy, after which he'll avoid crowds to because his immune system will likely be compromised.
What does this mean for Chicago's Catholic community? We don't know, since how it will effect Cardinal George's schedule and future is yet to be determined. However, it is certainly serious news. Cardinal George is now 77 years old and believes that his continuing fight with cancer “will most probably eventually be the cause of my death" Reflecting on how bad the current situation is, Cardinal George would only say: "While I am not experiencing symptoms of cancer at this time, this is a difficult form of the disease... chemo is designed to shrink the tumor, prevent symptoms and prolong life... 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.” He concluded: "This treatment will take place over the next two months, when my reaction to the chemo will be evaluated."
As was the case before, Cardinal George has requested that Chicago's Catholic community continue to pray for him, and that's all we really can do at this point. While it's true that he submitted a resignation letter to the Pope in 2012, this is the norm for all bishops when the reach the age of 75, and the Vatican has yet to respond to the letter or open an investigation into any possible replacements. We won't know for several weeks or months how much of the Cardinal's schedule will have to be cut back or canceled, and it all depends on how he responds physically to the treatments.
One local Catholic woman that is taking an initiative to help people with struggles like Cardinal George is Alice Brown of St. James Parish in Arlington Heights. She is a breast cancer survivor, and she has created a special versions of Stations of the Cross to pray for those impacted by cancer. Stations of the Cross is a popular tradition in the Roman Catholic Church, especially on Fridays during Lent. Catholics come together to follow the Stations of the Cross and to pray and reflect on the journey of Jesus' crucifixion – from his condemnation to his death on the cross. Four years ago, Alice Brown wrote a new version of the Stations of the Cross that is done to honor those affected by cancer. In her meditations, the reflections draw parallels between Jesus’ journey and the journey with cancer. These stations were originally presented on March 7, 2010, (the first day of Lent) at St. Mary of Celle Parish in Berwyn. This year, The Stations of the Cross for those Journeying with Cancer will be presented March 14 at 7 pm. at St. Alexander Church in Villa Park; March 28 at 7 pm. at St. Bartholomew Church in Chicago, and April 11 at 7 pm. at St. Cletus Church in LaGrange. Alice Brown, who continues to lead these events, is now a five-year breast cancer survivor.
Whether you are able to attend the The Stations of the Cross for those Journeying with Cancer, or not, we can all follow Alice Brown's example. Let us continue to pray for the health and well-being of Cardinal George, and for all of those affected by cancer.