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Jerry Costello

Walking in the Footsteps of Pope Francis
June 21, 2015

Is there anyone out there who wouldn’t want to get to know Pope Francis a bit better? To know—well, what makes him tick? After all, his view of the papacy seems to be a little different from his predecessors. He’s made quite a hit with just about everyone; they like his words, his teachings, his style. Wouldn’t you like to know just some more about him?

                So did a group of seminarians from New York, and what’s more, they did something about it. They traveled from Douglaston in Queens all the way to Argentina, where the Holy Father is from; to Buenos Aires, the city which he knew so well, the place where he was introduced to the sacraments and ordained a Jesuit priest, and served as bishop before he was elected pope in 2013.

                In all, 12 seminarians made the trip, along with the three priests who accompanied them, and to a man they agreed that it was all worth it. As one seminarian put it, “I was reminded all throughout the trip of Pope Francis’ call for the church to reach out to those who are most marginalized.” 

                They walked the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires the pope had once known as archbishop; they saw the slums that he knew well; they helped build a church atop what had been a garbage dump. “Working with the local people we were in some way able to meet the pope,” said another seminarian. “He was so commonplace, walking the streets, knocking on doors. They knew him very personally. He felt very strongly about the people in those neighborhoods.”

                Seminarian Steven Gonzalez told Catholic New York’s Juliann DosSantos of what was for him a highlight of the trip. “I think that place where I felt really connected to Pope Francis was when we went to the Villas, where the poorest people of Buenos Aires live,” he said. “I was so moved by all the people’s stories about how the pope had in so many ways touched their lives. We could, in almost a tangible way, feel the pope’s enormous impact and presence in that neighborhood.”

                Another seminarian, Ryan Muldoon, described a visit to what had once been the pope’s home parish, Mary Help of Christians. “It’s a reminder that Pope Francis, just like all of us, was initiated with the sacraments,” he said. “He was baptized in an ordinary parish. He had a particularly graced moment, but sacraments are at the heart of the priestly ministry, and that is a point on which I can relate with him.”

                Muldoon also mentioned the priests they had met during their February visit, following in one way or another the example set by Pope Francis: “To see the love and devotion of the parish priests and how they live amongst their people and understand the struggles their people are going through, it was a tremendous model of priesthood.”

                The seminarians kept returning in their comments to the chapel they had helped to build, the one constructed on an old garbage dump. It’s located in Villa Soldati, a mission chapel in Immaculate Virgin parish, financed entirely by the people.

                “St, Francis said, ‘Rebuild my church,’ and they really are doing just that,” said Muldoon. “It certainly was very moving.”

 

For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, POPE FRANCIS: THE ROOTS OF A HUMBLE LEADER, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org