George Harold Clements (January 26, 1932 – November 25, 2019) was an American Roman Catholic priest who, in 1981, became the first Catholic priest in the Chicago area to adopt a child. Through his founding of several programs, including "one church-one child", "one church-one addict", and "one church-one inmate", he brought greater recognition to social problems and encouraged the adoption of African-American children. In June 1969, Father Clements became the first black pastor of Holy Angels Catholic Church on the South Side of Chicago. He is also well known for his involvement in civil rights activities during a period that extended from the late 1960s to present.
Fr. George H. Clements giving Holy Communion, 1973. Photo by John H. White.
George Harold Clements
January 26, 1932
|Died||November 25, 2019 (aged 87)|
Hammond, Indiana, U.S.
|Occupation||Roman Catholic priest, activist|
|Children||Joey, Friday, Stewart, Saint Anthony|
George Clements was born George Harold Clements in Chicago, Illinois on January 26, 1932 to Samuel George, a Chicago city auditor, and Aldonia (Peters) Clements. He attended Corpus Christi Elementary School in Chicago, and graduated from Chicago's Quigley Academy Seminary in 1945. He studied at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sacred Theology, and a Master of Arts degree in Philosophy. Clements became an ordained priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago on May 3, 1957.
Chronological summary of accomplishmentsEdit
- 1945: Became the first black graduate of Quigley Academy Seminary in Chicago, Illinois.
- May 3, 1957: Ordained a Roman Catholic priest in Chicago, Illinois by Cardinal Samuel Stritch.
- 1960s: Marched with Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. in Alabama, Mississippi, and Chicago.
- 1969: Became pastor of Holy Angels Church in Chicago, a position that he held until 1991.
- 1980: Originated the one church-one child program concept.
- 1981: Received approval from the Vatican to adopt the first of his four children, becoming the first Catholic priest in the Chicago area to do so.
- 1994: Started the one church-one addict program.
- 1999: Started the one church-one inmate program.
- May 4, 2007: Completed fiftieth year as a Roman Catholic priest.
One church-one childEdit
Clements started the One Church-One Child program locally in Chicago at Holy Angels Church in 1980. Though the program was started locally in Chicago, it became a national effort in 1988. The goal of the program was to use churches as a recruitment tool to find adoptive parents for African-American children, a demographic group that often has disproportionately long adoption waiting periods.
One church-one addictEdit
After retiring from Holy Angels, Clements moved to Washington, D.C. In 1994, Clements started a program known as "one church-one addict". The goal of the program was to assist churches nationwide in helping recovering drug addicts through job counseling, spiritual consolation, and professional treatment.
One church-one inmateEdit
In 1999, Clements started a program called one church-one inmate, a collaborative effort to help prison inmates and their families. The program was designed to facilitate the transition of inmates from incarcerated life to a life as productive and "spiritually healed" law-abiding citizens.
Sexual abuse investigationEdit
In August 2019, Cardinal Blase Cupich asked Clements to step aside from ministry, while the Church investigates allegations that he sexually abused a minor in 1974. The Chicago Police Department referred the allegation to the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for Child Abuse Investigations, which then reported the allegations to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Cook County State's Attorney.
Clements suffered a stroke on October 12, 2019. He died on November 25, 2019 at a hospital in Hammond, Indiana from a heart attack at the age of 87. Clements' death was confirmed by his longtime colleague and St. Sabina Pastor Michael Pfleger and all of Clements' four adopted sons. Both Pfleger and eldest adopted son Joey released public statements. The Archdiocese of Chicago also released a statement confirming his death.
The Father Clements Story was produced as a television movie by NBC and starred actors Lou Gossett, Jr., Malcolm-Jamal Warner, and Carroll O'Connor. Gossett, Jr. played Father Clements, Warner played Clements' adopted son Joey, and O'Connor played Cardinal John Cody, the Archbishop of Chicago.
Honors and legacyEdit
- 1977: Named priest of the year by the Association of Chicago Priests.
- 1982: North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) Award winner.
- 1987: Named an honorary chief by a Yoruba tribe in Nigeria.
- 1981: Received the Jason Award from Children's Square U.S.A. for his dedication to youth.
- April 11, 2002: The Kentucky State Legislature passed a resolution HR 117A, a "RESOLUTION honoring Father George Clements for his tireless devotion to the human race and adjourning in his honor".
- May 2007: Golden Jubilee marks Clements 50th year as a Roman Catholic priest. Celebrated at Hilton Chicago banquet and Jubilee Mass at Holy Angels Church Chicago.
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- "Rev. George Clements has died; famed Holy Angels pastor was advocate for civil rights and adoption". The Chicago Sun-Times. November 25, 2019.
- "Retired Chicago priest, Civil Rights activist Father George Clements dies at 87". ABC7 Chicago. November 26, 2019.
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