Today we say adieux to Cardinal Egan. While we will miss him greatly, we wish him well in his new heavenly home.
Much has already been said and much more will be written on the occasion of his death yesterday at age 82. Let me share a few items from the perspective of Catholic Charities that may not have been captured elsewhere.
My words are understandably biased. Cardinal Egan appointed me as Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York shortly after the tragedy of 9/11. I was privileged to work together with him. Here are some of the reasons I think he deserves appreciation for the time he served as Archbishop of New York
He visited our Catholic Charities agencies and programs, meeting regularly and consistently with the people we help and those doing the helping. Because he was warm and caring with them, all left feeling uplifted and supported, both with the difficult lives they lived and the difficult work they did. Thank you, Cardinal Egan.
He built the Board of Trustees of Catholic Charities, a dedicated and generous group of New York leaders who undergird and oversee the support we provide New Yorkers in need. To attract these talented individuals he passed on his role as Chair of the Board to John Phelan, the former chair of the New York Stock Exchange.
In multiple ways Cardinal Egan encouraged generous philanthropic support for Catholic Charities. One of his key initiatives involved his own Cardinal’s Committee of the Laity that he intentionally renamed the Cardinal’s Committee for Charity. He directed the focus of this group of New York business and civic leaders to provide Catholic Charities with financial resources and counsel to amplify the services we provide and the number of people we serve.
To support partnership between the government and the charitable work of the Church he interfaced with officials in a quiet sophisticated way apart from the limelight. When issues arose that could have damaged this partnership his efforts were effective in preventing actions that could have hurt poor and vulnerable New Yorkers of all religions.
It is also worth noting on this 50th anniversary of the equal rights march from Selma to Montgomery Cardinal Egan’s presence during the tumultuous sixties in sharing our Church’s vision for the common good. He was a regular participant with clergy in Chicago, one of America’s major urban centers, as they worked to overcome racial and social injustice.
In short, Cardinal Egan effectively supported, blessed and encouraged growth of the fair and charitable work of the Church. During his tenure, the 90 affiliated agencies of the Catholic Charities federation grew from providing $500 million to $750 million of services, support that provides help and creates hope for all New Yorkers in need.
And so, again, adieux, fair well, and thank you. Cardinal Egan, please keep in mind in heaven the needs of those of us still here below – especially, those for whom Catholic Charities provides help and creates hope.
- Monsignor Kevin Sullivan