Le Moyne Jesuits reflect on Pope Francis’ first six months in Rome

Aubrey Zych '14, Editor-in-Chief

When the papal conclave elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio S.J., as the next pope of the Catholic Church on March 13, 2013, many members of the Le Moyne campus ministry were shocked. Bergoglio was a much different candidate than most others, and as a pope, he would be one of several firsts. Bergoglio, who then took the papal name of Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, was the first pope from the Americas, the first pope from the southern hemisphere, and most importantly, the first Jesuit pope.

Despite their original shock, six months later, many Jesuits on campus have grown to love the idea of a Jesuit pope, and are proud to have him as a brother. Francis has led Jesuit ideals by example, inspiring and encouraging others to do the same along the way. And for many Catholics worldwide, including those on campus, Francis is an invigorating change of pace.

“Personally, I find the pope’s example of humble informality and authentic, spontaneous expression incredibly refreshing,” Fr. David McCallum, S.J. said. “And generally, all I have heard from both Catholics and those of other faiths and people of good will is that they find Pope Francis a very inspiring leader who seems to walk his talk in the most genuine manner.”

Fr. Robert Scully, S.J. added that much of Francis’ likability comes from his humility.

“He clearly has a much more humble approach than the traditional church authority would,” he said. “The church has needed to adjust some of its style, and he seems to be a great lead in to that.”

Many Jesuits on campus agree that this humble trait in Francis is exactly what sets him apart. Fr. Donald Maldari, S.J. says this pope treats his position more as a bishop of Rome, rather than a king of the church.

“Pope Francis’ preferred title for his work is ‘Bishop of Rome’ and he uses Italian exclusively for his public talks,” Maldari explained. “He seems to be emphasizing his role as ‘Servant of the Servants of God’ as bishop of a city rich with moral weight and authority, rather than bishop of the whole world.”

Fr. John Bucki, S.J. also added that this pope isn’t about big outfits and the most comfortable accommodations that sometimes come with the position. Like his other Jesuit brothers, he has stuck to his vow of poverty, even when given the highest human role within the church.

“What’s great about this pope is this spirit of humility, and not pomp and circumstance and big flashy things,” Bucki said. “He wears the simple, white robe, and lives simply. There’s no pomp and circumstance. He preaches humility, and he walks the talk.”

Along with this humility, Francis has also become somewhat famous, sometimes criticized, but most often applauded for his openness and slightly different style of leading the church.

In his first six months, the new pope has made some bold comments and statements, which have caught the eyes and ears of Catholics and journalists worldwide.

Last July, when speaking of gay clergymen [and homosexuals on a general level], he said, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge them?”

On the first Holy Thursday following his election, Pope Francis continued his tradition of washing the feet of the less fortunate. This year, he visited a jail in Rome, where he washed twelve inmates’ feet. Among the 12 were two women, one of whom was Serbian Muslim.

Pope Francis has also made more explicit statements regarding the church’s open arms to atheists, those of other faiths and others that may usually feel neglected from Christian teachings. Last May, he said anyone of good will, despite religious affiliation, would be redeemed by God.

According to Fr. James Dahlinger, S.J., Francis’ ideologies fall right in line with what the church’s teachings have been for hundreds of years; yet his spontaneous style of delivery is what’s changing the tone.

“The only difference between Pope Francis and the other popes on these issues is that he has spoken out [to] these groups in warm and affirming ways,” Dahlinger explained. “But in this, he has just followed the ordinary, affirming teachings of Christian doctrine. There is nothing new.”

“Pope Francis is actually representing authentic church teaching in what he says,” McCallum said, agreeing. “I applaud his pastoral and caring approach.”

Many other Jesuits on campus have also said that Pope Francis’ change of the game in the Vatican has inspired them to do the same on a smaller scale at the heights.

“A lot of what he’s saying, I think are things that are consistent with the values of Le Moyne,” Bucki said. “So we’re kind of in sync with our ways of thinking. Le Moyne is a Catholic school, but in a welcoming and accepting sense. His way of thinking is a lot of what we’re about.”

“Pope Francis’ style of service is undoubtedly inspired by the spirituality of St. Ignatius Loyola, who concludes his greatest work, The Spiritual Exercises, with the appeal to pray for the grace ‘to love and to serve in all things,’” Maldari said. “I see my role as a Jesuit to do the same thing: to love and to serve, in whatever I do.  The pope understands leadership as humble service, which very much encourages me.  I see Le Moyne College as participating in that service.”

“I’ve always felt privileged to live and serve as a Jesuit,” McCallum added. “And if possible, Pope Francis inspires me to feel this even more deeply.”

Moving forward to his next six months and beyond, many Jesuits on campus say they can’t wait to see how he reforms the Vatican. Others are looking forward to his change of vision becoming a change of substance. But for most, what excites them most about the future for Pope Francis is his spreading the powerful teachings of Christianity and his specific Jesuit approach to the world.