Rev. George F. Pope, C.S.C.

Rev. George F. Pope, C.S.C.
July 17, 1929 – April 22, 2018

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Rev. George F. Pope, C.S.C., 88, died at Holy Cross House, Notre Dame, Ind., on April 22.

Watch Fr. Pope’s Funeral Mass via YouTube

He was born on July 17, 1929 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. to Dr. Charles E. Pope and Mrs. Julia F. Pope. He attended Holy Cross Grade School, Deerfield, Ill., and Highland Park High School, Highland Park, Ill., before entering Holy Cross Seminary at the University of Notre Dame in 1948. He joined the Holy Cross Fathers there in 1951 and made his First Vows at Sacred Heart Novitiate, Jordan, Minn., on August 16, 1952. He then returned to Moreau Seminary at Notre Dame and graduated from the University in 1954. Following his graduation from Notre Dame, he was sent to Holy Cross College, Washington, D.C., where he completed four years of theology. He was ordained a Holy Cross Priest on June 4, 1958.

Fr. Pope attended the coronation of Pope John XXIII in Rome, and afterwards headed to Dhaka. His first 18 years in Bengal were in parish work – he spent 12 years with the Garo tribals along the Indian border in the Mymensingh District. He was fortunate to be chaplain to the Poor Clare Sisters at St. Michael’s Monastery, his work consisting of visits to Christian villages spread out for 50 miles in all directions, where he heard confessions, celebrated Mass, performed baptisms and marriages, as well as made sick calls. He also spent six years in traditional Bengali parishes in the Dhaka District.

From 1977-1980, Fr. Pope studied psychology and hospital ministry at Loyola University in Chicago, Ill. Upon completing his graduate studies, he returned to Dhaka where he worked for the remainder of his ministry at the Nevin Clinic and Sick Shelter on the Notre Dame College campus. Fr. Pope also taught counseling in the Major Seminary and served as spiritual director for hundreds of seminarians and many priests. He was assigned to Holy Cross House in 2014.

Preceding him in death are his parents, Dr. Charles E. Pope and Mrs. Julia F. Pope; his sister, Julia Joyce (Jack) Riggio; his brother, Cmdr. Charles E. Pope, USN; and a nephew, John David Clem. He is survived by his sister Ellie (Dave) Clem, as well as several nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 at Moreau Seminary, Notre Dame, Ind., where there will be a Wake Service at 7:30 p.m. The Funeral Mass will be at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the Notre Dame campus on Thursday, April 26, 2018 at 3:30 p.m. Burial will be in the community cemetery at Notre Dame. Kaniewski Funeral Home, South Bend, is in charge of the arrangements.

Memorial contributions in support of the mission and ministries of the Congregation of Holy Cross can be made to: United States Province of Priests and Brothers, Office of Development, P.O. Box 765, Notre Dame, IN 46556-0765 or online at

Wake Eulogy by Br. Rodney Struble, C.S.C.
Apr. 25, 2018

With heartfelt sympathy to the immediate family of Fr. George Pope, his sister Ellie and her husband David Clem, along with all here present (at Holy Cross House), I wish to recall some of the personal memories of Fr. Pope’s 55 years of ministry and life in Bangladesh. When I arrived in 1985 at Notre Dame College, Fr. George was a member of the Holy Cross Community at Notre Dame College engaged part-time in teaching Pastoral Psychology at the Major Seminary for the Archdiocese of Dhaka, also performing regularly Holy Mass and the Sacraments for the CSC Brothers in Old Dhaka, and above all, overseeing the Outreach Programs at NDC for the street people and slum dwellers near NDC. In the afternoons, he was especially engaged with the Clinic set up for the sick and poor, especially women and children in need of medical assistance or referrals to the government hospital. Along with his staff, the clinic would see 50 or more walk-in patients daily. At times when I was with him on motorcycle or in the car, and we were approached by beggars at the crossroads, he usually engaged them in conversation, giving advice or referrals to the College clinic. In other words, the College was known locally not only for its high standard of education, but also for the outreach projects for the poor. Besides the clinic, there were the literacy schools, the trade school, the orphanage, piano project, plus the women’s sewing project that the late Fr. Jim Banas along with Fr. George Pope maintained together.

I first came to know Fr. George when he was on home leave during my years teaching Religion at Notre Dame High School from 1966 to 1974. He came around to speak about the Missions in Bangladesh. He was very generous with his time and I found the interest for my class picked up after Fr. George regaled them with his stories about seeing the world, and especially Bangladesh. Afterwards, I accompanied him to his home in Evanston to visit with his parents. Since his father was a family doctor and surgeon, I could realize later how he was so dedicated to supporting the outreach projects that developed after the famine of 1974, when thousands of villagers came to Dhaka to get relief and camped out on NDC’s campus.

Although my daily schedule was overseeing the campus maintenance and Martin Hall, which is a residence for village students in a self-help/work-study program, yet there were times when I sought assistance from either Frs. Pope or Banas for Mass and the Sacraments. On one occasion, one of the resident boys became deathly ill with fever after returning from Christmas Break. He was hospitalized with meningitis. One night, I received a phone call from the hospital that his fever was off the chart and he was not expected to live. I went to Fr. Pope’s door to request him to accompany me to the hospital since the lad had been preparing for Baptism. Upon the administration of the Sacrament, I stayed with the boy while Fr. George went on to the Brothers’ House for morning Mass. Around twenty minutes later, the boy’s fever broke and later on he became conscious and survived. This experience for me was much like a miracle!

Fr. George spent his entire years of ministry in East Pakistan-Bangladesh from his Ordination of 1958 until his health deteriorated and he had to return for personal care at HCH. His early years were spent with the Tribal Parishes of Mymensingh with the Garo-Mandi people. He had a near death experience in 1964 when the Pakistan Military Rule caused panic among the tribals, forcing them to flee their homelands north to India. Fr. George sought to stem the panic by seeking a reversal from the local authority but he was nearly killed by a soldier with the bayonet of the rifle. His concern for the tribal people was put to the test, yet by the grace of God, he lived but never was willing to talk much about it.

Upon my return last year, in retirement, I would try from time to time to communicate with Fr. George and with some success at times, by seeing him smile or ask a question. However, one morning in late November, he managed to get downstairs and expressed his feelings to go outside. I happen to be nearby to respond with the nurses, and given the circumstance, an exception was made to allow me to take him outside around the building to the patio before we entered the building. During that short trip, he was requesting me to let him go home! Well, the elements did not allow being November, but I realized his desire was to go home to the Lord! Finally the time has come for him to be received into the Lord’s embrace!

His years of ministry and presence in Bangladesh gave witness to the people of Bangladesh, both Tribals and Muslims alike, and to all of us there that the Gospel Message of Matthew 25 is a fitting precursor to Everlasting Life!

Namely, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me!”

May Fr. George rest in peace in the Lord’s embrace for all eternity!

Funeral Homily by Fr. James Connelly, C.S.C.
Apr. 26, 2018

Gospel: Mt. 25: 31-46

George Pope was ordained in April 1958 and went off to begin 56 years of service in Bangladesh that fall. I was 20 years old and began my novitiate year as Fr. Pope left for Bangladesh. I don’t remember whether I met him, but I certainly heard about him. Then, four years ago he came to live at Holy Cross House where I was living and working. When I heard that he was coming, I looked forward to having the chance to converse with him and hear his stories about life in the Bengal mission. Unfortunately, by the time he reached Holy Cross House, Fr. George’s memory and mind were slipping away from him and I never had the chance to engage in those conversations.

In the Gospel that we just heard, Our Lord lets us know that there is more to attaining salvation than voicing an act of faith and being baptized. His standard for deciding who will be among the sheep and who among the goats is how we responded to Him in the person of those in need. Fr. George Pope understood this very well. In his many years as a parish priest among the tribal peoples, as a parish priest in Dhaka, and as a hospital chaplain, he tended to the needs of the sheep as a good shepherd would.

Did the sick need to be visited, George visited them. Did people need food, George provided it. Did someone need clean water to drink, George tried to get it for them. Did poor people from the countryside need to know how to take advantage of the health service of the government, George organized a ministry to take them in when they came to Dhaka and get them into treatment. Did the sisters need a chaplain, George was their man. Did seminarians need a counselor and spiritual director, George was there for them. Did someone ask for a bit of money for their needs, George gave what he had. Did people need someone of standing to face up to the soldiers who were threatening them, George did it at the risk of his own life. George Pope spent more than fifty years in Bangladesh looking after people.

One can imagine Fr. George Pope at work in today’s Bangladesh, attending to the Ruhinga refugees from Myanmar or comforting the families of the 1,100 workers killed in the garment factory fire. George saw Jesus in all the people who made their needs known to him. He did not write books or letters to the editor. He did not organize protest marches. He responded personally to the needs of those whose lives he shared. That is his legacy to all of us who mourn his passing today.

“I was hungry…thirsty…sick…a stranger…in prison…. When you did it for the least of my brethren, you did it for me.” Lord, may we be not only George Pope’s family and friends, but his disciples in the following of Christ.

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