Archbishop John Vlazny, former leader of the Archdiocese of Portland, is a longtime friend of Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C., who was recently named a cardinal.

The two are Chicago priests who were consecrated as auxiliary bishops by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin on the same day in 1983.

“Cardinal Bernardin foresaw that Wilton had lots of talent,” said Archbishop Vlazny. “His becoming a bishop then was not much of a surprise.” Archbishop Vlazny laughed: “I was more of a surprise.”

In 1983, Father Gregory was only 36, a teacher at Mundelein Seminary and the cardinal’s master of ceremonies. In the ’70s and ’80s he wore an Afro hair style and donned blue jeans when off duty.

Archbishop Vlazny said that Father Gregory’s naming as Chicago’s first Black auxiliary was met with joy by most, especially fellow clergy. But some white Catholics on the South Side, where the new bishop was to serve, were not so sure.

“That all ended when they met Wilton,” Archbishop Vlazny said.

“I like him, and I’m happy about this,” said Archbishop Vlazny. “He is not in any way mean. He does not have a mean bone in his body.”

Each year on the anniversary of their Oct. 31, 1983, ordination, now-Cardinal Gregory sends a card. “I always tell him ‘I was the trick and you were the treat,’” said Archbishop Vlazny, who sends his friend Oregon wine for the occasion.

Cardinal Gregory has been known lately for his comments on racial justice, but early in his career was a highly respected liturgist who had earned a doctorate in sacred liturgy from the Pontifical University of Sant’Anselmo in Rome. He and Archbishop Vlazny served together on the bishops’ committee for the jubilee year 2000. Archbishop Gregory would later chair the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Divine Liturgy and serve as president of the conference from 2001 to 2004.

“He is very caring and competent,” Archbishop Vlazny said. “He can be proper and formal but he can be casual, too.”

Cardinal Gregory was a good choice for the Archdiocese of Washington, which is in need of healing, Archbishop Vlazny said.

In 2000, then-Bishop Gregory of Belleville, Illinois, accepted an invitation from Archbishop Vlazny to speak at a Catholic jubilee year celebration at Memorial Coliseum in Portland. More than 10,000 people attended, making it one of the largest Catholic gatherings in the state’s Catholic history.

“The social and moral life of the U.S. may never have known so many distinct reasons for prayer before the Eucharist,” Bishop Gregory told the Portland crowd. “Deep prayer, particularly with the reserved Eucharist, brings an intimacy with God that cannot help but translate into works of social justice and charity.”