Area Catholics say Pope Francis brings joy

Area Catholics say Pope Francis brings joy

Monsignor Gregory Ketcham, director and head chaplain at St. John's Newman Center on the University of Illinois campus, said his first reaction when he learned about the selection of a new pope was a feeling of joy.

"There is a great deal of joy in knowing that the Holy Spirit has brought us this individual who will provide everything our church needs," he said.

Ketcham said his first impression is that Pope Francis is a humble man who will be a great spiritual leader for Catholics around the world.

"When he made his first public appearance, the first thing he did was to ask the people to pray for him before he made his first blessing to the people of the world," Ketcham said. "Pope Francis is obviously a man of great humility."

He said the pope's decision to take the name of Francis affirms his humility since St. Francis of Assisi was a humble man.

"A lot of people can identify with how gentle St. Francis of Assisi was," he said.

Ketcham said he believes Pope Francis will inspire Catholics around the world to grow in holiness.

"The pope needs first and foremost to be a holy man who encourages others to draw closer to the Lord in holiness," he said.

Ketcham said the election of a pope from Argentina will be especially popular for Latin American Catholics.

"One of the most beautiful things about the election of Pope Francis is that it provides affirmation to Latino Catholics," he said. "The church is thriving in Latin America.

"And by taking the name of Francis, the pope is providing affirmation to the Italians at the same time since St. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of Italy."

Ketcham said the biggest challenge facing the new pontiff will be to counter a trend toward secularization around the world. Ketcham said it is also significant that the cardinals elected for the first time a member of the Jesuit order.

"The Jesuits are a very intellectual religious order, so Pope Francis follows in the footsteps of both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict, who were both very intellectual popes," he said. "I suspect we may sense the spirituality of Jesuit founder St. Ignatius of Loyola through the new pope's ministry."

Retired Monsignor Albert Hallin, 84, of Champaign, said he wasn't surprised by the selection of a pope from outside of Europe.

"He certainly was among the group of possibilities. I think it's a tremendous outreach to the New World," said Hallin, a priest for 52 years who retired in June 2012 after being at the helm of Holy Cross Church in Champaign from 1997 to 2005 and later at St. Boniface in Seymour and St. Joseph in Ivesdale.

"I think it's long overdue. I'm absolutely convinced this is no doubt the work of the Holy Spirit," said Hallin.

Hallin said it helped the selection process that the cardinals were not also burdened with the funeral of a pope.

"That's why they could speed up the process," he said. "In my circles, everyone seemed to think it (the selection) would be in the first day or two."

Father Joe Hogan, vicar of the Champaign Vicariate, which includes the 18 Catholic parishes of Champaign, DeWitt and Piatt counties, said he was overjoyed to see Francis appear on the balcony to speak to the people of the world.

"I love his holiness, which I think is the most significant virtue for any leader," Hogan said. "During the conclave, I was thinking, 'I would like to see a pope from Africa or South America,' so having a pope from South America is going to be wonderful."

Hogan, pastor of St. Patrick's Church in Urbana and St. Mary's Church in Champaign, said the 300 to 400 persons who regular attend Spanish Masses he celebrates on Sunday afternoons at St. Mary's Church are likely "jumping for joy" at the prospect of a pope from Argentina.

Hogan said he believes Pope Francis will be a reformer who inspires Catholics to work more fervently for social justice.

"I'm impressed with his work with people with AIDS and the poor and the uneducated," Hogan said. "I like the idea of a pope who emphasizes social justice, and I think he is going to inspire people in that direction."

Hogan said there never before has been a pope named after St. Francis of Assisi.

"St. Francis was called by God to reform the Church, and I believe that is part of the reason Pope Francis chose that name," Hogan said. "He is looking to reform the church in a wonderful way."

Kenneth Howell, the former adjunct professor of Catholicism at the University of Illinois, said he was surprised to learn the cardinals had elected someone from the Western Hemisphere.

"It think it was surprising, but in a very happy way," Howell said. "This is the first pope ever elected from the Americas, and it makes sense given the pervasiveness of Catholicism in South America."

Howell described Pope Francis as a very learned man, saying he has a degree in theology and a doctorate in chemistry.

"It is also good that he is multilingual, since I think it is important to select someone who knows at least five or six languages," Howell said. "He is an articulate man who can speak on behalf of the church."

Howell said one priority for the new pope will be to reach out to young people.

"I would say if he continues to reach out to the entire world, especially to the youth of the world like Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict did, it would be a positive sign," Howell said.

Howell said the pope needs to reach out to both Catholics and non-Catholics.

"He needs to stress the distinctiveness of the Catholic faith along with an ecumenical and open spirit to people of other faiths and to people of no faith to dialogue and understand one another," Howell said.

Howell said the new pope can continue to help heal the Church following recent child sex abuse scandals.

"It will take a long time for the church to heal, and we all hope that the sexual abuses are in the past rather than in the future," Howell said. "If he provides leadership as a man of faith, hope and love, he will go a long way to heal the wounds inflicted by deviant practices."

Staff writer Mary Schenk and WDWS radio contributed to this story.

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vcponsardin wrote on March 13, 2013 at 11:03 pm

I think it is more likely the new pope, the first Jesuit to wear the little red shoes, called himself "Francis" in honor of St. Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Jesuits.  But if you prefer to think of St. Francis of Assisi, I suppose that's OK too.  Be grateful he didn't decide to call himself Pope Skylar.

wawa wrote on March 14, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Actually, the Vatican said that he chose Francis after Francis of Assisi.


cretis16 wrote on March 15, 2013 at 3:03 pm

POPE FRANCIS QUOTE:“We should commit ourselves to ‘eucharistic coherence,’ that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments, in particular when abortion, euthanasia, and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated. The responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors and health professionals.”

Yes we have a blessed pope!

EL YATIRI wrote on March 14, 2013 at 8:03 am
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I am in South America and it is evident that the Roman Catholic Church is in an existential crisis here.

Believers are leaving catholicism in droves in favor of pentecostal, evangelical churches. 

The Roman Catholic church is out of touch in regards to liturgy,doctrine, and priesthood issues.  

Sundays find catholic churches nearly empty and devoid of energy while at pentecostal/charismatic evangelical churches it is standing room only with much youth in attendance and abundance of energy and enthusiasm.

I believe this is why a south american pope was elected.  Hopefully he will allow changes in the liturgy, and church doctrine to place the church more in tune with the modern world.  The obligatory celibacy for pastors and allowing women to be pastors is also a must given the sex scandals and woefully insufficient number of priests.

Bulldogmojo wrote on March 14, 2013 at 2:03 pm

If it wasn't for the forced conversion of those indiginous peoples they would still have their own spritual beliefs culturally intact and would not be catholic in the first place. John Paul II formally apologized for this history of coercion in March of 2000 however the catholic church has not pulled back on laying its heavy hand onto other cultures and the very laws that govern other nations.

They are not a friend to the poor they are a friend to poverty which ensures a place for their governance in other cultures they have imposed their will on through fear and credulity.

Sid Saltfork wrote on March 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Thankfully, a pope is not chosen every four years.  If that were the case, this place would be like Northern Ireland.  The Orange would be marching all of the time down Main Street banging their drums.

Tolerance, and forgiveness are not just words.

Bulldogmojo wrote on March 14, 2013 at 10:03 pm


Sid, As an atheist the catholic church owes me nothing but philosophical condemnation which they do not hesitate to give and I readily welcome as a badge of honor out of a sense of respect for my own ability to reason. The catholic church however owes you more than the empty rhetoric that they mock you with as a follower but to actually apologize to you in deeds. * The following inherent contradictions by two famous catholics might help put this into focus. I hope you get the redemption you are seeking for yourself but it seems unlikely it will come from an institution that is currently harboring pedophile conspirators with diplomatic passports in the vatican.

I think Ratzinger refered to us in these terms in a letter preceding his visit to England...

"I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives.As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny”


Now here is an excerpt from Hitler in Mein Kampf.

""I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.."

Ironic since ratzinger was an actual Nazi and the newly appointed "fisherman" has been stopped from his alleged good works in Argentina only to be contained by a core group of cardinals who have been maintaining the status quo that has been going on for centuries.

I don't know that you are carrying your point with reference to Ireland a nation that has spent the last 400 years and more killing each other's children for being the wrong kind of "christian".



SaintClarence27 wrote on March 15, 2013 at 1:03 pm

I disagree that they are necessarily a friend to poverty. Choosing a Jesuit Pope is a step in the right direction. While I don't expect the Catholic Church to allow female priests or reverse their positions on abortions or birth control in my lifetime, a good step would be to focus not on those divisive issues, but instead issues on which we agree - the treatment of the poor, oppression of the lower classes, growing income disparity around the world. Pope Francis is known for embracing discussion and tolerance of other religions, which is also good.

In short, liberation theology should be embraced by the Catholic Church - it's about the only thing I agree with them about. The other stuff is not likely to change in my lifetime.