Tuesday marked the start of three days of services for Francis Cardinal George, and many faithful were lined up outside Holy Name Cathedral hours before the doors even opened.
"He stood for the Faith and that just meant a lot to me because I was so anti-Catholic for so long, and so then coming home, and he was so intelligent too," said Cindy Babinec of Arlington Heights.
George, the sixth cardinal to lead Chicago’s 2.3 million Catholics, died Friday at the age of 78 after a years-long battle with cancer.
His family members accompanied his casket as it arrived at the cathedral, at 735 N. State St., in advance of a Rite of Reception and visitation.
"He was probably the most complex and cerebral person I've ever lived with, and I've lived with 36 priests, so I've had an experience of a lot of different priests and bishops and cardinals," said Monsignor Ken Velo.
A Chicago native, George was born on the city's West Side to parents Julia and Francis. He attended St. Pascal before leaving the city to attend seminary in high school and pursue his dream of becoming a priest.
"I'd like to think it was a call from God," George recalled to NBC 5. "I started to think about it when I received First Holy Communion."
Services are scheduled to continue Wednesday and Thursday, culminating in a midday funeral mass. His family held a private wake Tuesday morning at Gibbons Funeral Home near his boyhood home.
In lieu of flowers, the archdiocese requested donations to George's favorite charities: Priests Retirement and Mutual Aid Association and To Teach Who Christ