Longtime San Francisco archdiocesan social justice director dies at 70
Catholic News Service
SAN FRANCISCO — George Wesolek, a man whose life was marked by a passion for social justice that included protection of the unborn, Catholic principles of marriage, refuge for undocumented immigrants and healing violence, died of cancer April 28. 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 first 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 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 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 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, participating in a peace march 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 persuaded 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 in a city where support for abortion is among the strongest in the U.S. persuaded the Catholic hierarchy to join the effort, Evans said. "George had vision, took chances, because it was right," she said.
"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 where threatened," said Meehan, recalling how, at a 2012 rally for religious freedom, Wesolek led the crowd in a chants of "Unbelievable" even though he needed help walking to the platform because he was weakened by cancer.
In the early 1990s, Wesolek served as overall planner and coordinator of a four-year pastoral planning process in the archdiocese, 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.
He is survived by his wife Geri, four daughters and four grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian burial was held May 1 at St. Francis Solano Church in Sonoma.