Jack Egan (he was always Jack, despite his respect for the church
which named him monsignor) called me quite a few weeks ago,
before his latest, and last, health woe. He wanted to get together,
and we made a date.
He had to reschedule, and we did. But I made the mistake of picking
a date I couldnt keep and we had to cancel. He never said what
he wanted; that he had some wisdom to impart to me was enough.
He was hardly shy about offering advice, encouragement or, when
Now Ill never know just what he wanted.
Jack Egan died May 19. He was, because of that honest, take-it-at-face-value
behavior, a Chicago Catholic icon. Egans storyits certainly
more than an obituaryappears elsewhere in this issue.
There is no lack of Jack Egan stories. Certainly no one in this
towns media crew should be without one. He was always available
with wisdom, an insiders view, a challenge for a reporter to
follow up on, a good story waiting to be told.
I cant recall when I first ran into the good monsignor. Our paths
certainly crossed numerous times over the nearly three decades
Ive been writing Chicago stories. While I knew the backgroundyoud
have to be living in Chicagos Deep Tunnel not to know the backgroundI
didnt truly appreciate it until I came to work for the church,
and saw him from that perspective.
Jack Egan did it all.
Yes, he marched for racial equality, decades before his church
became even marginally comfortable with it. For the effort he
did not gain personal honor, only epithets and a label that still
applies: liberal. Unabashedly liberal is more like it. And rightly
proud of it.
Beyond racism, which would have been for a lesser person more
than enough for one lifetime, there were any number of social
justice crusades: concern for the poor, the marginalized, the
disenfranchised, the outcasts, the left-behinds.
Though he never told me so in so many words, I suspect he would
have simply said that was the Gospel was for.
This column could go on, but I think you get the picture. Egan
was an original: priest, prophet and never, never the pollyanna.
I only wish I knew what he wanted to tell me.
Editor and General Manager
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