March 22, 2013

Monk, seminarians in St. Peter’s Square to see new pope

Seminarian Matthew Tucci, left, transitional Deacon Martin Rodriguez, seminarian Anthony Hollowell and transitional Deacon Douglas Marcotte pose on March 12 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. It was the first day of the conclave that elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as pope. The seminarians, who are receiving their priestly formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, were in the square the next night to see Pope Francis introduced. (Submitted photo)

Seminarian Matthew Tucci, left, transitional Deacon Martin Rodriguez, seminarian Anthony Hollowell and transitional Deacon Douglas Marcotte pose on March 12 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. It was the first day of the conclave that elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as pope. The seminarians, who are receiving their priestly formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, were in the square the next night to see Pope Francis introduced. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

On the evening of March 13, seminarian Anthony Hollowell was doing homework in his room at the Pontifical North American College (NAC) in Rome when he glanced over at his computer monitor that showed a live video feed of the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.

The previous day, Hollowell had proclaimed the first reading at the Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica just prior to the start of the conclave to elect a new pope.

When he looked at the monitor, he saw what millions of Catholics around the world had been waiting for during the previous 24 hours—white smoke.

“I yelled ‘Habemus papam!’ and sprinted out the door. I was in the square in three minutes,” said Hollowell, a member of Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Parish in Indianapolis.

The NAC is built on a hill overlooking the Vatican. About an hour later, Hollowell and some 200,000 other people filling and overflowing out of St. Peter’s Square heard French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran say the same words that Hollowell had shouted in his room, which are Latin for, “We have a pope!” (Related: More coverage of the papal transition)

Also in the square that night were three other archdiocesan seminarians receiving their priestly formation at the NAC—Matthew Tucci and transitional deacons Douglas Marcotte and Martin Rodriguez.

Also present to witness the historic moment was Benedictine Father Paul Nord, a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad who is doing graduate studies in Rome.

All of them shared their experience of the papal election in e-mails sent to The Criterion.

As Hollowell made his way to the square bursting with excitement, he saw lots of people doing the same.

“There were many people running to the square, and there was so much energy and excitement,” he said. “People kept coming in from all sides, and there was singing, praying and laughing. It was a beautiful sight.”

While Hollowell saw the white smoke on his computer monitor, Deacon Rodriguez was in the square watching it in person.

“When we first saw the white smoke, I felt something inside me,” said Deacon Rodriguez, a native of Mexico. “I felt so much energy like I wanted to run and scream ‘Es blanco!’ [‘It’s white!’]

“In fact, I did scream a lot and cheered for the new pope. It was something that was just indescribable.”

He was also excited because the cardinals had elected a Latin American like himself as the new bishop of Rome.

But Deacon Rodriguez’s pride extended beyond his ethnicity when he saw fellow Catholics from around the world surrounding him in the square.

“There were people from the U.S., from France, from China, from Colombia and from India,” said Deacon Rodriguez, a member of St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis. “The whole Church was represented at the square and we were there for the same reason—to welcome our new shepherd.”

Deacon Marcotte shared that excitement and pride as well.

“It was easily the most exciting night of my life, a time of great joy and a time to celebrate with the whole Church,” said Deacon Marcotte, a member of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield. “It was as if the whole world was gathered in the square to celebrate.”

The appearance of Pope Francis on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica had a positive effect on Tucci. And like his fellow seminarians, he was impressed by seeing so many Catholics from around the world.

“This experience has shown me that the Church is very alive throughout the world,” said Tucci, a member of Holy Family Parish in New Albany. “The Holy Father even said that the cardinals went to the end of the world to find him. Christ goes that far.”

Although the pope is the shepherd of the universal Church, he is also bishop of Rome.

Father Paul got an appreciation of how Pope Francis is trying to make connections with Romans when he spoke with a taxi cab driver the next day.

“He pointed out that Pope Francis’ first words were ‘bona sera’ (“good evening”), not “buona sera”, which is standard Italian,” Father Paul said. “The taxi driver said that Romans say ‘bona sera,’ and that he thought the new pope was intentionally using Roman dialect to appeal to the people that he will serve.

“Pope Francis has shown an informal, humble style. The fact that his first public words were a simple ‘good evening’ in the Roman dialect seems like the perfect start.”

The new pope demonstrated his humility shortly after stepping onto the balcony when he asked the crowd and people around the world to pray for him, and then bowed down.

Deacon Rodriguez was impressed by how the people in the square, who had been screaming moments earlier, all stood silent in prayer for the new pope.

“In that moment, I realized that we have a new Holy Father and his first commandment is to pray,” said Deacon Rodriguez. “I actually got goose bumps when the entire square, and many people in their homes, remained in silence. It was truly a beautiful testimony of ecclesial prayer.”

Father Paul called the pope bowing down “a very profound moment.” But he was also moved by him leading the crowd in prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

“It seems simple, but that is really the pope’s primary role, to lead us all in prayer before God,” Father Paul said.

Deacon Marcotte is scheduled to be ordained a priest, along with Deacon Rodriguez and transitional Deacon John Kamwendo, in about two months.

Deacon Marcotte said that Pope Francis’ humble gestures and simple prayers on the night of his election are good examples for him to follow.

“Pope Francis practices what he preaches,” Deacon Marcotte said. “As a future priest, I know my actions will be just as important as anything I could preach from the ambo. If my life as a priest is one lived in relationship with Jesus Christ, my joy will be what ultimately draws many to hear the Good News.”

After racing to St. Peter’s Square at the first sign of white smoke, Hollowell eventually made it back up to the NAC where he and the other seminarians prayed before the Blessed Sacrament in gratitude for the new pope. Then they had a celebration and watched cardinals from the United States be interviewed after the cardinals made their way back to the seminary.

“[The papal election] has impacted my soul and my vocation in a serious way,” said Hollowell. “I am still processing so much of it. If it doesn’t make me into a holier, more loving person, then it was all a waste of time, so I hope that it bears much fruit.” †

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