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“Father Bernardin”

During a career as a news reporter that spanned nearly 40 years, I interviewed my share of high-ranking officials.

When I was part of a small group of journalists to meet with President Jimmy Carter, I called him “Mr. President.” At a news conference or in an interview, I called Mayor Richard M. Daley “Mr. Mayor.”

As a good Catholic from birth, I knew that, when conversing with a Cardinal, you addressed the man as “Your Eminence” or, at least, “Cardinal.”

So I was surprised back in December, 1990, when I had my one and only interview with Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.

It was during a period when Bernardin was having to close many parish schools for financial reasons, and he had just appeared on a radio show to talk about some new development.

I was there in the lobby of the radio station with a reporter from another newspaper, and, when the Cardinal was off the air, we sat down with him for 10 or 15 minutes to run some questions past him. Nothing very memorable.

When we were done and he’d left, I started walking back to my office when it dawned on me. For some reason — probably it was his quiet, gentle demeanor, even when acting the bureaucrat — I hadn’t called him any of the fancy names I was supposed to use.

Instead, I had called him “Father.”

Patrick T. Reardon
May, 2010

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