Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

George Higgins: Assured a Place in Church History

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

George Higgins: Assured a Place in Church History

Article excerpt

Long before his death, Msgr. George Higgins was assured a significant place in the history of the Catholic church in the United States.

Most notably, perhaps, he is one of the last of a generation of "labor priests" who represented the interests of immigrant Catholic America before the country's economic powers. They joined in the fight for worker rights and living wages, humane hours and working conditions, arguing the inherent dignity of every person. Their arguments and protests were made to those who were not about to improve the lot of workers out of sheer altruism.

Higgins' life and writings should be studied by every seminarian who wants a profound example of a healthy minister whose style was to convince the world with wit, intelligence and love, not condemnations. He was a voracious reader, and near the end of his life, when his eyes failed and he was unable to read, visitors reported that he was still educating himself, self-administering taped courses on church history.

He was revered and esteemed far and wide, not because he wielded power, walked with wealth or had the ear of the influential, but because he knew that the church was at its best when it brought the truth of Jesus to real people in their everyday circumstances. Unlike others who, given his access to power and influence, might have gone a different direction, Higgins never followed the lure of money and power.

If he represents the last of a generation of labor priests, he also represents the diminishing interest of the institutional church in such matters. …

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