March 15, 2013

Area Catholics respond with surprise and hope to election of Pope Francis

Pope Francis addresses the world for the first time from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 13. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected the 266th Roman Catholic pontiff. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Newly-elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, waves after praying at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome March 14. Joining the pope are Cardinal Santos Abril Castello, archpriest of the basilica, left, and Cardinal Agostino Vallini, papal vicar for Rome. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

By John Shaughnessy

Franciscan Brother Moises Gutierrez felt goose bumps rising on his skin as he watched the television on March 13 and learned the news that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected as the new pope.

“This is very emotional because I wasn’t expecting this,” said a beaming Brother Moises, coordinator of Hispanic ministry for the archdiocese and a native of Mexico. “I was talking with people from different countries, and I knew how exciting it would be to have a pope from a different continent other than Europe. But I wasn’t expecting someone from Latin America.”

Brother Moises’ smile grew even broader as he added, “I had goose bumps when I heard he was from Argentina. I think it will be beautiful for Latin America and the Americas in general. It will create a great enthusiasm for the Church. Now that this is real, I feel so much excitement and hope.”

Catholics across the archdiocese greeted the news with a similar combination of surprise, excitement and hope. (Related: More coverage of the papal transition)

The Franciscan sisters in Oldenburg were especially touched and thrilled that Cardinal Bergoglio chose the name of Francis as pope.

“Since he’s the first pope to ever choose that name, we are very excited because St. Francis means so much to us,” said Franciscan Sister Maureen Irvin, congregational minister of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in Oldenburg.

“The fact that he took the name Francis shows he seems to value humility, concern for the world and concern for the poor. St. Francis was told by Christ to rebuild his Church, so it makes us wonder if he feels the call to strengthen the Church—and what God may be asking the Church to be in this age we live in.”

The new pope’s behavior when he first appeared on the balcony of the Vatican after his selection impressed Sister Maureen.

“He seemed very humble, and I was impressed that he asked the people to pray for him before he gave his blessing,” she said. “We all need to be praying for him.”

Jesuit Father Jack Dennis of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis also expressed his enthusiasm for the new pope.

“Brebeuf Jesuit is thrilled to have the first Jesuit pope,” noted Father Dennis, the school’s president. “The Brebeuf Jesuit community promises our prayers and support.” He also added that it’s “wonderful to have a pope from Latin America.”

At 15, Erin Weaver witnessed history unfold as she and 35 other students at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis watched the introduction of the new pope on the Internet in a religion classroom.

“It was pretty cool to watch it live and experience seeing the new pope,” said Erin, a sophomore and a member of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis. “It’s cool because we never have had a pope from Argentina, and it shows how diverse the Church is—that the pope can come from anywhere.”

Cyndi Poe felt a spiritual bond with Catholics around the world as she watched the announcement of the new pope in the offices of the Richmond Catholic Community.

“I love the fact that there were all these Catholics united around the world today,” said Poe, the secretary at Holy Family, St. Andrew and St. Mary parishes in Richmond. “That’s awe-inspiring to know we’re all praying for the pope. We all want the same thing—moving the Church forward. I pray that God grants him the wisdom to do that.”

When Father Kenneth Taylor learned the news about the new pope, his first reaction was “Wow!”

“The fact that he’s from Argentina is really shocking,” said Father Taylor, pastor of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis and director of the office of multicultural ministry for the archdiocese. “The fact that we have our first pope from the Western Hemisphere is a great sign for the future of our Church moving forward. We always talk about ourselves as the universal Church—all nations and races, peoples and tongues—and now we have a visible sign of that in our leadership.”

That sentiment was echoed by Benedict Father Denis Robinson, president-rector of Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.

“The exciting and revolutionary choice of a Latin American pope demonstrates the real catholicity of the Church,” Father Denis noted. “It is an amazing day in the world mission of our Church. He has already spent a lifetime working for the marginalized. We pray for his ministry and for our new pope to speak the message of Christ to a world that longs to hear it.”

Providence Sister Denise Wilkinson also viewed the selection of Pope Francis as a sign of hope for the Church.

“I’m very positive and very hopeful for all of us,” said Sister Denise, general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in St. Mary-of-the-Woods. “I hope that people worldwide in the Church will feel that the Church is alive, well and will listen to the concerns of the people. I hope he feels one with us, and we feel one with him.”

Benedictine Sister Juliann Babcock is touched by the new pope’s grace and humility.

“As Benedictine women during this historic time in our Church, we recommit ourselves to prayer, work and hospitality in service to God and the people of God,” said Sister Juliann, prioress of the Sisters of St. Benedict at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove. “The Holy Father can depend upon our prayer as he leads us into a future Church that exemplifies the message of Jesus.”

The election of Pope Francis is another memorable moment in the history of the Church, according to Little Sisters of the Poor Mother Mary Vincent Mannion.

“It was such a wonderful experience to see people waiting in the rain at the Sistine Chapel, and to have seen their joy when Pope Francis was announced,” said Mother Mary Vincent, superior of St. Augustine Home for the Aged and the Little Sisters of the Poor in Indianapolis.

“We shared that joy with them here. We have such a beautiful gift in our Church. Jesus Christ is the center, and all love flows from him. We will pray each day that Pope Francis is supported by Jesus and constantly inspired by the Holy Spirit.” †

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