Canons Regular of St. John Cantius

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The Cardinal & the Canons Regular

“We are a living legacy of this shepherd of souls.”
—Rev. C. Frank Phillips, C.R.

AT HIS FINAL MASS as Archbishop of Chicago, Francis Cardinal George told the congregation packed into the cathedral that he would point to them as evidence of his work: “At some point, Christ will question me: What have you done with my people? Are they holier because of your ministry? Are they more generous, more loving toward others? In short, you are my legacy.

When Cardinal George responds to Christ’s question, he can certainly point to the growing community of brothers and priests of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius as a part of that legacy.


Cardinal George meeting with the priests and brothers

Discerning God’s work in a new community

From the beginning it was Cardinal George who envisioned that a small community of men founded at a run-down Chicago church would become a flourishing order dedicated to the “Restoration of the Sacred.” Thus, it was fitting that the last priests he would ordain (May 27, 2014) were for the Canons Regular.

Not many could have imagined what would become of the meager beginnings of this community. But Cardinal George did.

The Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, Chicago’s first religious community of men, was formally established as a Public Association of the Faithful with the approval of Cardinal George in 1999 (decree).

It was upon the occasion of the ordination of the first priest of the Canons Regular 12 years ago that Cardinal George announced what he envisioned:

“Here are the beginnings of an order, founded to make available to the people of God, the heritage and gifts of the universal Church in all their forms and all their splendor.”

Fr. Dennis Kolinksi has been in the community since its founding. He was one of the first priests ordained for the Canons Regular (2005). Fr. Kolinski recalls: “Although Father Phillips is our founder and the one who received the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, this charism had to be discerned by the bishop.”

In the founding of any new religious order, it is the local bishop who must first recognize the authenticity of its charism. Cardinal George did exactly that.

“Cardinal George said that he saw the work of the Holy Spirit in what Fr. Phillips told him and gave approval for the formation of our community; therefore, we exist because of him,” says Fr. Kolinski.

Reflecting on the death of Cardinal George, Fr. C. Frank Phillips, C.R., founder of the Canons Regular, writes that Cardinal George was “one who listened, directed, corrected, encouraged, and confronted, but always gave hope to this tiny community of men dedicated to the restoration of the sacred.”

Cardinal Francis George Mass Eucharist
Cardinal George celebrates Holy Mass with brother priests at St. John Cantius Church


The Bishop and his priests: a lasting bond

Cardinal George always set aside time to come to St. John Cantius Church to ordain the new priests for the Canons Regular. This special relationship he formed with his priests will not be forgotten.

“Priests are always united in their priesthood with their bishop,” says Fr. Kolinski, “the priests of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius are especially united to him because he ordained all of our priests thus far.”

“The men whom he ordained will always have a special bond to him as they offer offer Mass, hear confessions, and make available the other sacraments to restore broken souls,” notes Fr. Phillips.

Cardinal Francis George
Fr. Phillips and Cardinal George share a jovial moment
during one of his many visits to the community.

Fr. Robin Kwan, who was ordained in 2013, remembers Cardinal George’s fatherly care. The Cardinal would always meet with the soon-to-be priests at his residence in a lengthy personal meeting.

“He was always very cordial even when he was exhausted and tired, and showed to me that he was a man of charity, that no matter how he felt or whatever pain he was experiencing, he would always show receptivity, love, and respect for me personally.”

Fr. Joshua Caswell, Fr. Nathan Caswell, and Fr. Kevin Mann were the last priests he would ordain before his death.

“I had the sense he really knew us individually—that he knew us personally,” said Fr. Joshua.

Cardinal Francis George
Cardinal George embraces Fr. Joshua Caswell as Fr. Nathan Caswell looks on.
Photo by Catholic New World, Karen Callaway


Cardinal Francis George ordination
Cardinal George confers his last priestly ordination in 2014.


Canons Regular strive to fulfill the Cardinal’s vision

In his statement on the passing of Cardinal George, Archbishop Blase Cupich says that Cardinal George’s example is a model for us all: “Let us heed his example and be a little more brave, a little more steadfast and a lot more loving. This is the surest way to honor his life.”

Over the past 17 years, the Canons Regular have been strengthened by the Cardinal’s guidance.

Father Phillips recalls the short directives that the Cardinal would often give them:

“I want you to grow. I want this to succeed. Live your constitutions. Be men of prayer.”

May the Canons Regular heed Cardinal George’s words and example and continue to be an enduring legacy of this great shepherd of souls.


Cardinal George among the faithful
Francis Cardinal George, a shepherd among his flock



Cardinal George asks Fr. Anthony Rice, “Do you promise to obey me and my successors?”

Statement of Rev. C. Frank Phillips. C.R.
Founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius

Canons Regular Cardinal George

Today our spiritual father and founder bishop ended his earthly pilgrimage. For me personally, the loss is something difficult to describe as Cardinal George was one who listened, directed, corrected, encouraged, and confronted but always gave hope to this tiny community of men dedicated to the restoration of the sacred.

The Canons Regular of St. John Cantius is the first men’s community founded in the Archdiocese of Chicago. We are a living legacy of this shepherd of souls.

“I want you to grow, I want this to succeed. Live your constitutions. Be men of prayer,” were short directives he would often repeat to me.

Cardinal George will always be remembered for his annual visit with our community. The men whom he ordained will always have a special bond to him as they offer Mass, hear confessions, and make available the other sacraments to restore broken souls.

Cardinal George is now placed in our daily prayers for the deceased and in our Perpetual Masses. Rest in peace my spiritual father. May the Angels lead him into Paradise.


Rev. C. Frank Phillips, C.R.




Cardinal George presented the Canons Regular with the first copy of the Third Edition of Roman Missal (2012).



Canons Regular and lay faithful rallied for Cardinal George when he was under media fire in 2006



Cardinal George at the ordination of Fr. Brendan Gibson in 2005



Cardinal George speaks with the Very. Rev. Douglas Mosey, rector of
Holy Apostles Seminary where the priests of the Canons Regular received their education.



Cardinal George received the vows of parishioner Marie Beccaloni as a “consecrated virgin”
in December 2013 at St. John Cantius



“Cardinal George listened, directed, corrected, encouraged, and confronted,
but always gave hope,” says Fr. Phillips


We love Cardinal George
We will always love you Cardinal George.


Cardinal Francis George celebrating Mass
Francis Cardinal George celebrating Mass at the high altar of St. John Cantius Church.



“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” (Jn.15:9)
Photo by Chicago Tribune, John J. Kim



Cardinal Francis George Latin Mass
Rest in peace, Cardinal George

Coat of Arms of Cardinal Francis George




Requiem Funeral Mass for Cardinal Francis George
A Solemn Requiem Mass for Francis Cardinal George was celebrated
on Wednesday, April 22 by the Rev. C. Frank Phillips, C.R.

Cardinal Francis George's mitre.
Bishop’s Mitre on display was used by Cardinal George
for the ordination of every priest of the Canons Regular

Special Edition of the Via Sacra