Kent Catholics celebrate their new spiritual leader


Reese Thompson, a student studying metallurgical engineering at Colorado School of Mines, receives communion from Father Steve Agostino during a mass celebrating the election of Pope Francis at the Newman Center on Wednesday evening. Photo by Melanie Nesteruk.

Father Steve Agostino presided over the first mass after the election of the new pope at the University Parish Newman Center Wednesday at 8:15 p.m.

The center incorporated aspects to honor the new pope into their regularly scheduled mass such as saying the “Our Father” prayer in Spanish and singing a song based off the Prayer of Saint Francis, said Mary Lynn Delfino, pastoral associate for campus ministry.

Delfino said this is a very exciting time for the Catholic Church and its 1.2 billion followers. She said the wonder and anticipation of who will lead all those people is finally over.

For Delfino, her feelings are “hard to put into words.” She said she was filled with joy and had tears in her eyes because it’s important for the church and for her as a Catholic.

“Hopefully our pope will lead us,” Delfino said. “[We are] looking to him to be our spiritual leader.”

During the time of the announcement at the Newman Center, Delfino said the atmosphere and energy levels were high with everyone gathered in a lounge watching the announcement from the Vatican City.

“To be gathered as a family of faith, it’s kind of like a family event,” she said. “[It’s] just like expecting the birth of a child or the arrival of someone who’s been gone a long time, you just feel that anticipation, and you can’t wait.”

Pope Francis, previously known as Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, was elected pope Wednesday, becoming the first pontiff from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium.

Delfino said it’s surprising the pope is from South America.

“We are enthusiastic that the new pope is from Argentina representing where the Catholic population is very large,” she said. “Two-thirds of the world’s Catholics come from the global south, so now we have a pope who comes from the global south.”

Francis waved to the crowd of more than 100,000 people who packed a rain-soaked St. Peter’s Square for the announcement.

St. Francis Xavier from Assisi, the pope’s namesake, was a missionary who spread the faith as far as India and Japan — giving the new pope’s name selection possibly further symbolic resonance in an age when the church is struggling to maintain its numbers.

“His choice of name of course sends a strong message to the world,” Delfino said. “Pope Francis taking after St. Francis of Assisi who was a great advocate for peace and justice and simplicity and the poor. So it will be very interesting to see what Francis’ papacy will be.”

Before the celebratory mass at the Newman Center, Katherine Paydo, freshman early childhood education major, said she likes the pope’s name selection.

“I was really surprised that we’ve never had a Francis before, so I’m really excited for that because Francis of Assisi is one of my favorite saints, and I’m really excited he took that name,” Paydo said.

In choosing a 76-year-old pope, the cardinals decided they didn’t need a young pope who would reign for decades but rather a seasoned, popular and humble pastor who would draw followers to the faith and help rebuild the church.

The cardinals overcame divisions about the future of the church to select the 266th pontiff in a remarkably fast, five-ballot conclave. A winner must receive 77 votes, or two-thirds of the 115, to be named pope.

The longtime archbishop of Buenos Aires is the son of middle-class Italian immigrants and is known as a man who denied himself the luxuries that previous Buenos Aires cardinals enjoyed.

“From what I’ve heard, he’s a very humble man, and he’s really set on helping the poor,” Paydo said. “I think that’s an incredible issue that we need to work more towards and I think he’s the man to lead us in the right way.”

Francis, Thursday morning, planned to visit predecessor Benedict XVI at the papal retreat in Castel Gandolfo south of Rome.

The visit is significant because Benedict’s resignation has raised concerns about potential power conflicts emerging from the peculiar situation of having a reigning pope and a retired one.

Francis will celebrate his first Mass as pope in the Sistine Chapel Thursday and will be installed officially as pope on Tuesday, according to the Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

Despite the excitement and joy of having a new bishop of Rome, Delfino said she isn’t sure what this will mean for the Catholic Church. Pope Francis comes into the papacy at a time of dissatisfaction and scandal amid the Vatican.

“We’ll have to see what ideas Pope Francis has and what direction our church needs to go,” she said. “His life is rooted in prayer and his own lived experience, so I don’t know what it means for our church. It means we have a leader again, which is great. All of us have a role to play in the church, we will just look to the pope for guidance and direction.”

Contact Maura Zurick at [email protected], Jessica Djukic at [email protected] and Lyndsey Schley at [email protected].

The information is by The Associated Press.