Litany of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin

(1928 - 1996)

Biography as the Call to Holiness (Lumen Gentium p. 39)

Joseph was born April 2, 1928, the first of two children to Joseph and Maria Bernardin in Columbia, S.C. He attended Catholic and public schools there. He began studies for the priesthood at St. Mary's College in Kentucky and continued them at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Charleston, S.C. on April 26, 1952. In 1996 he was made an auxiliary bishop of Atlanta and from 1968-1972 he was the First General Secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. On November 21, 1972 he was named Archbishop of Cincinnati. From 1974-1977 he served as President of the NCCB-USCC. From 1981-1983 he chaired the bishops' committee that wrote the 1983 national pastoral letter, "The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response." On July 10, 1982 he was named Archbishop of Chicago. On February 2, 1983 he was made a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II. Later that year he delivered the first in a series of lectures outlining the "consistent ethic of life" theme as a framework for Catholic public policy in a pluralistic culture.

When a scandal of sexual abuse of minors by priests became public he formed a blue ribbon panel to study the issues and recommend policies. They became a model for other dioceses throughout the country. In November 1993 he was accused by a man with AIDS, Steven Cook of being abused when the cardinal was archbishop of Cincinnati. Less than four months later Cook recanted his accusation and the two were reconciled at a meeting in December 1994. Joseph was widely acclaimed for his grace in dealing with the accusation and later with his vindication.

In his fourteen years as Archbishop of Chicago he wrote five pastoral letters: (1) on Liturgy in 1984, (2) on the Christian Life in 1985, (3) on Ministry in 1985, (4) on the Church in 1989, and (5) on Health Care in 1995. In June 1995 he underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer. In August of 1996 he announced the Catholic Common Ground Project to promote dialogue between U.S. Catholics who disagree on church issues.

Two weeks later he was informed that his cancer had returned. He surrendered his duties as Archbishop and spent the remaining months of his life ministering to people with cancer in the Archdiocese. He presided at public anointing liturgies and spent time praying with people in hospitals. His accepting death as a friend served as an example to many. On September 9, 1996 he received the Medal of Freedom at the White House from President Bill Clinton. He died on November 14, 1996 and was honored with a solemn funeral at Holy Name Cathedral on November 20th. It was a celebration of his life and his passing to eternal life.


God, the Creator..........................................Have mercy on us
Jesus, the Good Shepherd............................Have mercy on us
Holy Spirit, the font of Wisdom....................Have mercy on us

Joseph Bernardin.......proud son and brother, teach us to love.
Joseph Bernardin.......model of charity, teach us to love.
Joseph Bernardin.......model of courage, teach us to love.
Joseph Bernardin.......model of understanding, teach us to love.
Joseph Bernardin.......model of compassion, teach us to love.

Joseph our Brother.......a gentle priest, teach us the gentleness of Christ
Joseph our Brother.......a kind priest, teach us the kindness of Christ
Joseph our Brother.......a humble priest, teach us the humility of Christ
Joseph our Brother.......a trusting priest, teach us to trust like Christ
Joseph our Brother.......a caring priest, teach us to care like Christ

Cardinal Bernardin.......a visionary leader, inspire our imaginations
Cardinal Bernardin.......a servant leader, inspire us to serve
Cardinal Bernardin.......a joyful leader, inspire us to be joyful
Cardinal Bernardin.......a healing leader, inspire us to be healers
Cardinal Bernardin.......a reconciling leader, inspire us to be reconcilers

Let us pray,
Shepherding God, in Joseph Cardinal Bernardin you birthed and formed a man in the likeness of your son Jesus, the Good Shepherd. His life was a psalm of consolation for victims and a song of hope for people of vision. His words were anointed with a prophetic edge that gave new meaning to old issues. His care of souls was transparent to all who hungered for an encounter with your son Jesus, the divine care giver.

Thank you for the seeds of spiritual renewal sown in the Church through his witness and ministry. Bless those who water and nurture them so that wonderful fruits of divine grace will blossom and flourish as a way to honor his legacy and give you glory.

This prayer, fashioned from our heart, is made in memory of one who served your people as a man of love and a shepherd of souls. May we never forget the true meaning of his call to be Joseph, our brother, in the eternal life he shares with Jesus, our brother and savior. Amen.

Composed by: Rev. Paul G. Mast
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