By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Pledging “with all my heart” his “complete and unequivocal obedience to our Holy Father Pope Francis,” Bishop Robert W. Finn celebrated two Masses in thanksgiving to God for the election of the first pope from the Americas and the first pope from the Society of Jesus.
On March 13, the conclave of cardinals surprised the world with the election of Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio who then became the first pope to choose the name Francis.
Bishop Finn the next day celebrated the first Mass of Thanksgiving at the Cathedral before scheduling the second celebration for the following Sunday, which was also St. Patrick’s Day.
At both Masses, he told the congregations of his immediate reaction as he watched with chancery employees in the Cardinal Baum Room at the downtown Catholic Center.
“We applauded, and we prayed with Pope Francis, and knelt to receive his first blessing to the City and the World,” Bishop Finn said.
“A little later when I went to my office, I made a call to Father Douglas Marcoullier, the Provincial Superior of the Jesuits of this province,” the bishop said.
“I offered him my congratualtions on the selection of his confrere, the first Jesuit pope. He was appreciative and we pledged our continued mutual support between the diocese and the Society of Jesus.”
He later spoke with two Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist, whose home is in Independence. They were Sister Connie Boulch, who serves as director of the diocesan Office of Consecrated Life, and Sister Gracileia Alves, who cleans the bishop’s residence.
“They told me of the excitement of the sisters over the new pope’s choice of names,” Bishop Finn said.
“Sister Gracileia is from Brazil, and she enthusiastically shared with me her joy that the Holy Father is from South America. She confessed how she had hoped for such an outcome,” he said.
“To all of you whose heritage is in the Latin American countries: congratulations,” the bishop said. “Your faith, your noble heritage and perseverance has given the world a pope. We thank you.”
Bishop Finn also noted that the secular media in the United States has been filled with speculation since the election how this historic new pope will “clean up the church.”
“I hope a lesson that we will have learned is to wait a while, to listen and to watch. And what else? To pray for him,” Bishop Finn said.
“Friends, I do not yet know, I dare say, we do not yet know the personality and strengths of our new Holy Father,” he said.
“It is not so important in my mind that I speculate about what his priorities will be and how he will change the church and the world,” Bishop Finn said.
“Rather, let us love him. Let us make many little acts of love for him in our hearts. Let us be faithful to the church and to Christ’s Vicar. Let us hold him in intense and continuing prayer,” he said.
“Once again, God has given us a shepherd who will lay down his life for the sheep,” Bishop Finn said. “We must listen for his voice and follow Him to Jesus.”
Bishop Finn also noted that Pope Francis asked for prayers for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, as the new pope entrusted the retired pope into the care and protection of Mary.
“So also do we pray for the Pope Emeritus, and we entrust Pope Francis as well to Mary, the Mother of the Church, the Mother of us all,” Bishop Finn said. “Mary, keep him safe and give him strength to carry out this work for which the Holy Spirit has chosen him.”