Pope Francis

Pope Francis

BY CHRIS KERRMarch 11, 2014

We didn’t know it then, but the announcement of Pope Francis on March 13, 2013, could not have come at a more perfect time at the ISN office. Kim had just begun one of our first steering committee calls of the year for the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. Initially, I think she was probably a little annoyed when I bounced out of my office screaming, “It’s a Jesuit! It’s a Jesuit!” At ISN this phrase isn’t that unusual so I can see why Kim was a little perplexed as to why I was interrupting her conference call.  But of course this was a very unique “Jesuit” announcement.  The rest of that day was spent learning more about this new Jesuit pontiff and (frankly) basking in the excitement of it all.

Little did we know that as the Teach-In steering committee was planning a theme for the 16th annual gathering of Ignatian family members in the context of faith and justice, our Church would be turned upside down by Pope Francis’ inspiring words and actions that are leading us toward a Church “of the poor and for the poor.” As it turns out, the theme of the 2013 Teach-In, “Illuminating the Horizon of Hope,” was deeply influenced by Pope Francis’ first homily as pontiff where he said:

“To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love is to open up a horizon of hope, it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds.”

The past few weeks I have shared stories with many folks in the Jesuit/Ignatian world about “where we were” when Pope Francis was elected. Jesuits have told me of celebrations of liturgy and libation in residences, students at Jesuit universities talked about skipping class to watch CNN and mothers and fathers (including my wife and I) have shared stories of watching with their children as Francis humbly presented himself to the public that evening.

While it is fun to think about where we were or what we said when Pope Francis was elected, his leadership has focused on the long vision of the Church. In his humble manner, he has invited us to reflect with him about ourselves as sinners, as brothers and sisters of the marginalized, as carers of creation and as a Church seeking to live like Jesus. Our memories of his election will always be wonderful, but our response to his leadership will be what matters in the end.

Prayers for Pope Francis and for all who have been inspired by his leadership over the past year.

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