On Monday, George Wesolek, a wonderful man and early supporter of the Walk for Life West Coast, passed away. Our thoughts and prayers are with George’s family, friends, and many, many admirers. From today’s issue of  Catholic San Francisco:

Longtime archdiocesan social justice director, advocate dies
Valerie Schmalz

George Wesolek, a man whose life was marked by a passion for social justice including protection of the unborn, Catholic principles of marriage, refuge for undocumented immigrants and healing the violence in our streets, died April 28 of cancer at home in Sonoma. He was 70.

Wesolek was the director of public policy and social concerns for the Archdiocese of San Francisco since 1985, a position he held at the time of his death.

Wesolek’s life was fi rst and foremost infused by his love for his wife, Geri, their four daughters and their families, said Vicki Evans, respect life coordinator for the archdiocese and his friend. “He loved them so much,” she said.

“George understood and advocated for the full range of Catholic social and moral teaching, knowing that only this comprehensive, inclusive teaching will lead to the flourishing of the individual and society as a whole,” said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, the last of four archbishops Wesolek served.

“We will all remember him for his gentle spirit and his kindness, as well as his dedication in serving our archdiocese for nearly 30 years,” Archbishop Cordileone said.

George speaking at the 2012 Rally for Religious Freedom in San Francisco

George speaking at the 2012 Rally for Religious Freedom in San Francisco

“George is a man of faith whose entire life reflected the depth of commitment to God which marks the true disciple of Jesus Christ,” said Auxiliary Bishop Robert W. McElroy, who worked with Wesolek as a pastor and priest and as bishop. “He is a man of hope who witnessed powerfully to the church’s teachings on life, justice and peace, and never wavered in his understanding that that witness can transform our world. He is a man of love who cherished his family profoundly, and he proclaimed in action the sacred reality of family life.”

Whether lobbying state lawmakers or San Francisco supervisors, organizing a rally at Mission Dolores for undocumented immigrants, participating in a peace march through the Mission District or leading chants at a 2012 rally for religious freedom, Wesolek brought the Catholic Church’s commitment to social justice from conception to natural death to the public square. His commitment to advancing ecumenical cooperation was constant.

Wesolek’s backing of a 2004 rally for marriage in San Francisco convinced then-archbishop, now-Cardinal William J. Levada to support the public demonstration, said Dolores Meehan, co-founder of the Walk for Life West Coast. Wesolek’s support of the walk– what appeared a harebrained idea to hold a public demonstration for life in one of the most pro-abortion cities in the U.S. – persuaded the Catholic hierarchy, Evans said.

“George had vision, took chances, because it was right,” said Evans.“George loved the church and served her faithfully. He was a quintessential gentleman but could also muster fiery righteous anger when the rights of the poor and vulnerable were threatened,”said Meehan, recalling how at a 2012 rally for religious freedom Wesolek, who needed help walking to the platform because of his weakness due to cancer, led the crowd in chants of “unbelievable!”

Known for his incisive opinion pieces, one of his last essays, published July 3, 2013, in Catholic San Francisco, lamented the lack of outrage over abortion and the slaughter of babies in Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s clinic in Philadelphia. “Sometime in the future, people will look back at this time in history and be amazed and horrified at the legal slaughter of so many millions of human persons,” Wesolek wrote.

“They will marvel at the fact that the political establishment supported and paid for this death dealing. They will ask, ‘Where was the outrage? Where were the believers? Where were the Catholics?’”

In the early ‘90s Wesolek served as overall planner and coordinator of a four-year pastoral planning process, culminating in the plan “A Journey of Hope Toward the Third Millennium.” He developed programs to educate lay leaders through leadership formation programs and conferences on social justice, affordable housing, life, human rights and peace. Wesolek also served the archdiocese as a director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and was the archdiocesan representative to Catholic Relief Services.

Wesolek was educated in Michigan and Rome, receiving advanced degrees in theology and a graduate degree in clinical psychology. Wesolek is survived by his wife Geri; daughter Brienne (husband Greg Fabella) and grandchildren Xavier and Grace Victoria; daughter Noelle (husband Steve Andres) and granddaughters Georgia and Juliette; daughter Stephanie (husband Jay Grimes); and daughter Leah.

A Mass of Christian burial is to be held May 1 at St. Francis Solano Church in Sonoma. The family asks that any donations in his honor be sent to Catholic Relief Services.