Early Monday morning, George Wesolek, the longtime Director of the Office of Public Policy and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, went home to the Lord.
George had been suffering from cancer for a while, and in the last two weeks, unfortunately, it rapidly grew much worse. There will be many tributes to George: a man known, as our good Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said, for "his kind and gentle spirit."
That is so true, and George was so kind and gentle that it was easy to forget that he, like his namesake Saint, was a defender of the defenseless, and, if necessary, a slayer of dragons.
His great friend and comrade through many struggles, Vicki Evans, the Respect Life Coordinator of the Archdiocese, remembers George:
George Wesolek died recently. With him died an era. George was the Director of Public Policy and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. When he took over this position more than 25 years ago, the landscape in San Francisco was very different from what it is today with respect to pro-life issues. There was no Walk for Life West Coast. There was no 40-Days for Life. There was little support in the local Church hierarchy for life issues after Roe v. Wade made its "statement" on behalf of
Social justice issues were prominent and embraced and accepted; life issues were
less significant and much less acceptable in polite company. But George
championed both issues equally, a bit of a heresy for his age. He encountered
opposition at USCCB conferences and on the Catholic Charities Board of
Directors when he equated life issues with social justice issues. But his resolve
never diminished. His love for the poor---and he deeply loved the poor---never
eclipsed his support for the unborn, those who had no one except the Catholic Church
to speak for them.
Fast forward 25 years. We now have an Archbishop in
San Francisco who
considers life issues a top priority. Pro-life culture is now more embraced. Today
it is easier to be pro-life because there is more widespread active support from
a greater number of bishops. But it was not always so. Ten years ago when the
Walk for Life West Coast came into being, George Wesolek was the one who
believed in it, sanctioned it, argued on its behalf, sent resources to it and
made it a priority of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. I would venture to say
that the Walk for Life would not exist in its present form had George not stood
with its organizers from day one, convincing the powers that be that it was all
right to be involved with such a radical idea. George had vision, took chances,
because it was right. He was called the "guardian of orthodoxy" in a
derisive tone by some of the more politically correct in local Catholic circles.
Today, the Archbishop of San Francisco and the Archdiocese of San Francisco have an easier road to embracing orthodoxy when it comes to life issues. George embraced it when it was hard. In terms made famous by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, George demonstrated costly grace, not cheap grace. We are where we are today because of his acceptance of avant-garde ideas when they were unpopular---even inflammatory. We shouldn't forget our history or discount those who made the sacrifices which are the foundation of what has been built. In characteristic human fashion, however, George's contributions will be discounted and forgotten by the world in which we live. But I am certain his reward is great in heaven.
I'm sure Our Lord had his arms wide open to welcome George, His good and faithful servant. Our thoughts and prayers are with George's family, his friends, and his many, many admirers.
Rest in Peace, brother!