Cardinal John Foley was in town for the commencement ceremony at Franciscan University of Steubenville, my alma mater. My experience there is one of the reasons I’m Catholic today. Cardinal Foley is another reason.
Twenty years previously, my Dad, a Presbyterian minister at the time, visited the Vatican for a week. His “FindIt Bible” European distributor had gained him an audience with Pope John Paul II. One of the unexpected surprises of the trip: discovering a profound holiness among the people he was privileged to meet. People like Cardinal (then Archbishop) Foley.
During my Dad’s visit, the two became fast friends, and kept in touch over the next twenty years. Of course, Cardinal Foley was known for his extraordinary talents and accomplishments over a long and grace-filled life. This is quite right, of course, yet it wasn’t what the Cardinal did that impressed us, as much as who he was. To our family, he was always Dad’s good friend, one of the most gracious men he had ever met. Stories of Dad’s meeting with Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Foley were told and re-told, until the time of the Cardinal’s visit arrived, and we had the great privilege of meeting him in person.
On the appointed day, all eight of our children (rather miraculously), Kathi and I, along with my Mom and Dad, had the honor of spending time with Cardinal Foley and his assistant, Msgr. Hans Brouwers. Later, we were thrilled to provide a slightly unruly family escort to the commencement ceremony in Finnegan Fieldhouse on the Franciscan campus. All Dad’s stories, it turned out, were true. Cardinal Foley was a holy, kind, and gracious man.
Cardinal Foley died yesterday, at the age of 76. As my Dad says, his friend in a high place is now in a higher place. We are eternally grateful for his influence upon – and his friendship with – our family. May he rest in peace, and enjoy eternal happiness with our Lord.