Catholics with a Franciscan tie reflect on pope

Pope Francis is seen as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 3. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis is seen as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 3. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Countless Catholics have approved and shared — via social and traditional networks — Pope Francis’ acts of humility in the five weeks since his election. Catholics devoted to the Franciscan way of life or are simply part of a mission or parish named after the well-known saint have felt an even deeper connection to the new pontiff.

“They are overjoyed that he chose the name Francis. We’re overjoyed even more that he’s a pope of the people,” said Deacon George Koch, who has served as spiritual director of the local San Damiano Paternity of the Secular Franciscan Order for more than 20 years.

“He’s going to be concerned about all the spiritual aspects of life for all people — that is essentially Franciscan,” Deacon Koch said.

He also noted St. Francis Xavier, a great missionary, and can see an important combination in the pope embracing both lifestyles.

Fr. Pat Mowrer, pastor of San Francisco de Asís Parish in Flagstaff, said Pope Francis chose “an incredible name.” It represents high intelligence yet a life of service.

“It’s not look how grand I can be. It’s look how humble I can be,” Fr. Mowrer said. “I love that he’s giving his security people a fright. There’s something greater than security here. There’s people.”

Pat DeVito, a long-time parishioner at St. Paul, became an associate member of the Sisters of St. Joseph-Third Order of St. Francis in 2007.

“Every time I listen to him, I’m just in awe,” she said. “He is spreading a love across all ages and all genres of people in so many different ways.”

Sr. Fran Grzeslo, who inspired DeVito to join Sisters of St. Joseph-Third Order of St. Francis, couldn’t agree more. The first grade teacher at St. Peter Mission School in Bapchule thought about Vatican II after last month’s conclave.

“It was known to the world that the doors would be opened and we would breathe in some fresh air,” she said, noting the new papacy. “Not only the Catholic world but the whole world will be breathing in some fresh air.”

Sr. Martha Mary Carpenter, principal at St. Peter, said all six sisters can’t stop smiling knowing that Cardinal Bergoglio is now Pope Francis. She noted his Franciscan spirit of a life of simplicity, love of purity and approaching life with a joyful attitude.

“He may be Jesuit by order, but he’s Franciscan. He’s living what Francis lived. I think he will change the world,” Sr. Carpenter said.

It isn’t just school faculty excited about Pope Francis. Families on the Native American reservations are too. Deacon Jim Trant, parish life coordinator for several Native American Missions, including St. Francis of Assisi on the Salt River Reservation, said the people were overjoyed about the pope’s reasoning for choosing the name Francis. The saint from Assisi was marginalized very much like them, he said.

Deacon Trant sees Pope Francis teaching through example, “very quiet, very humble.”

“That, too, calls the people of the reservation closer to this pope,” the deacon said.

Local priests are even taking copies of papal homilies to the reservations and the people seem very attentive, Deacon Trant said.

Franciscan Father Vince Mesi, pastor at St. Mary’s Basilica, was struck by the pontiff’s humility and spontaneity. It shows a real Franciscan, Christ-centered approach. He also noted his ecumenical efforts and expects that to broaden the religious dialogue among Christians and non-Christians. Blessed Pope John Paul II started the World Day of Peace in Assisi in 1986.

Fr. Mesi sees Pope Francis fully embracing the papal role of “servant of the servants of God.”