Area Catholics welcome election of Pope Francis
Mar 13, 2013 (The Joplin Globe - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Donna Landrith, a teacher at St. Mary's-Colgan in Pittsburg, Kan., learned about the papal election Wednesday when a fellow teacher came down the hall and announced to her class that white smoke was rising from the Sistine Chapel.
"The children cheered," Landrith said. "I unexpectedly wept and had to explain to my sweet little ones that they are tears of joy."
Soon after the pope made his first appearance, she sent out a message asking for "prayers for our shepherd."
"Such a huge mix of emotions and a sense of connection to Christ as this history is unfolding in our world," she wrote.
"I love that he asked the world to pause and pray for him! I love that he chose the name Francis after St. Francis -- a man known for humility, peace, simplicity and love of our Lord."
The Rev. Paul Tran, a priest with the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix in Carthage, said he thought the new pope might come from a Latin American country, but he did not expect the choice to be Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who took the name Francis.
"I was surprised because his name hadn't been mentioned, but he was the second choice last time," Tran said.
Tran said he was surprised at how quickly the selection was made.
"But that means they were being led by the Holy Sprit, and that's the most important thing," he said.
Steve Kenny, a Neosho Catholic, said the choice of a pope from South America -- the first to come from the Western Hemisphere -- marks a positive shift for the church.
"I think this signals a big change and recognition of the world identity of Catholics," Kenny said, adding that the church in South America is larger and growing faster than the church in Europe.
Kenny said he watched Pope Francis' prayer and speech on television.
"He seems very attuned to the people," Kenny said. "He seems very humble."
The Rev. Henry Grodecki, who serves a large number of Hispanics at St. Canera Catholic Church in Neosho and at Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church in Noel, said the election is significant not just for Latin Americans but for Hispanics everywhere, including those in the United States. Hispanics make up half the Neosho congregation and about 80 percent in Noel.
"I'm sure they'll be very happy with this," he said. "Historically, this is very significant because he (Pope Francis) is the first non-European to be elected since the third century. The Latin American church struggles to be recognized, and I think to have this happen is an incredible positive for them."
The pope's choice of the name Francis also is significant, Grodecki said. "Francis is the saint for the poor, and he has tried to live a poor and simple life," he said. "Just by taking a whole brand-new name says something about how they are going to address their ministry."
The centuries-old ceremony surrounding the election of the pope melded with 21st century technology in the hands of some local Catholics.
Pittsburg Catholic Chris Schremmer said she was keeping an eye on Internet headlines while her son Jeff, a fourth-grader, learned about the election from his teacher, who subscribed to a "Pope Alarm," which sent a text message to her phone when the white smoke rose from the chapel.
"It is a great day to be Catholic, and a reminder of how truly universal the Catholic Church is," Schremmer said.
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