March 7, 2014

First year as universal shepherd marked by humility, compassion and love, readers say

By John Shaughnessy

Gary Taylor smiles when he recalls hearing people around him cheer as the election of Pope Francis was announced on television a year ago.

Taylor’s cheers for the pope have been increasing ever since.

“At the very moment he was announced pope, God’s presence, power and providence could not have been more real for me. Immediately, the spirit moved me to seek out every word and thought Pope Francis proclaimed,” noted Taylor, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Salem. “He became for me the soulful manifestation of the Church. What a human, simple, caring, common-sense and spiritual man.”

Taylor is among the readers who responded to a request by The Criterion to share their thoughts about the impact that Pope Francis has had on their faith and their view of the Church.

The pope’s focus on “the poor, the lost and the misguided” has been a blessing, according to Taylor.

“He represented to the Church a man who loved the sinner, offered them reconciliation, and challenged the Church to do the same. He has challenged me to love, to see the good, and to open myself to encounter the joy of the Gospel—and to bring the joy of the Gospel to my neighbor.”

Dee Enrico-Janik feels a sense of hope in the way Pope Francis leads the Church and views women.

“These first words of Pope Francis—‘Bueno sera’ (‘Good evening’)—were words of joy and hope to a waiting world,” notes Enrico-Janik, a member of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Indianapolis. “His first year as leader of the Church continues that hope. Who can doubt the sincerity of one who refuses the pomp of the papal palace, the red shoes and goes out to the people, embracing the sleeping infant as well as the child with cerebral palsy?

“What has provided increased hope for my faith is Pope Francis’ acknowledgment of the ‘feminine intelligence,’ words that say that the role of women in our Church is not only of importance, but is a role that may change.”

For Lisa Roever, Pope Francis’ first year as pope has reminded her of “the way faith was demonstrated to me as a child and teenager growing up in the New Albany Deanery.”

“Pope Francis has certainly brought me back to a connection with the Church I have not felt since I was young,” says Roever, 46, now a member of St. Michael the Archangel in Indianapolis. “He’s made me hopeful for the Church’s future for the first time in many years.

“For a Jesuit leader to take the name Francis was a powerful message, signaling either a sea change in how the Church would operate that would strengthen it, or an escalation of the fracturing politics that would lead to its collapse.

“We have been blessed with a true father, a compassionate leader willing to demonstrate his humanity and, at the same time, urge the faithful toward holiness.

“He is living the message of Jesus as described in the Bible, reminding us continually that if we focus on the ‘greatest commandments’ [love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself] then we will be able to live the life Jesus asks us to live.” †


Related story: St. Anne parishioners savor conversation with Holy Father during papal audience

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