Father Andrew Greeley died in his sleep Wednesday night.
Rev. Greeley said he was a parish priest first and foremost. The confidant, outspoken Roman Catholic priest was also a Chicago Sun-Times columnist and best-selling author of more than 100 non-fiction books and 50 novels.
Greeley was a leading religious sociologist at the University of Chicago. The Chicago-area native suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2008 and never regained full cognitive function. His Eminence Francis Cardinal George spent time with him recently at his home in the Hancock building.
"He was a man who lived by the word he wrote, he spoke, he taught. The great tragedy of his final years is that he was silenced. He was a very articulate man, who sometimes, like all of us, did not call it exactly right but he got people's attention. He had a colorful and controversial career because of his commitment as a priest," said Cardinal George.
Although, Father Greeley was an internationally-famous author, he was just Uncle Andy to his four nieces and two nephews and countless of great nieces and nephews.
This morning his family gathered at his home at the Hancock Building to pray for him, when one of his friends said, "I am waiting for Andy to tell us what this means."
"He would tell us not to be sad, he would say that he is in God's eternal love. Uncle is at peace and that is a wonderful thing because the last four years had been difficult for him," said Laura Durkin, Father Greeley's niece.
"He was very much a family person almost like a third parent to us. His generosity was just amazing," said Dan Durkin, Father Greeley's nephew.
Greeley made millions from the sale of his books and donated money to several causes he was passionate about. He was also a professor at the University of Arizona. Although, he was very critical of his church he never wavered in his dedication and love for it.
"The church needs critics to let us know what are doing and how we are doing it to keep us on the straight and narrow. Andrew was one of those- well-loved and respected amongst priests," said Bishop Joseph Perry, assistant to Cardinal George.
Bishop Perry said Father Andrew Greeley was a great man who will be honored and remembered for all he offered under the pen, as well as a sociologist, and a priest committed to his church.