Bishop McDonnell praises Pope Francis for putting the focus on Christ
Story and photos by Rebecca Drake
SPRINGFIELD – Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell stepped down from the altar at St. Michael’s Cathedral and walked past the baptismal font.
Standing next to a statue of St. Joseph, the bishop delivered his homily at the special 12:10 Mass marking the installation of Pope Francis.
“Pope Francis today is following the example of Joseph … asking us to focus on Jesus and Mary, the heart of our faith, and to follow Christ the Redeemer,” Bishop McDonnell told the dozens of worshippers in attendance.
The bishop began the Mass by greeting the congregation in Spanish, in acknowledgement of the election of the first pope from Latin America. He then continued in English, saying, “It is a wonderful celebration today: the feast of St. Joseph, patron of the church … and a celebration of Pope Francis, the beginning of his Petrine ministry.”
Referring to the broadcast of Pope Francis’ installation earlier in the day, Bishop McDonnell described the moment when the pope stepped down from the popemobile and walked over to greet a disabled man. “It was a poignant moment, a telling moment,” the bishop said, as the new pope followed the advice of his patron, St. Francis of Assisi, who told followers “to preach the Gospel always and, if you have to, use words.”
During his homily, Bishop McDonnell paid tribute to the Catholic Church in Latin America. “The Americas for 500 years have known the faith,” he said. “For the first time, they’ve given us a pope.”
The bishop said that the faithful of North America “too often fail to realize the flourishing of faith that takes place in Latin America.” With his style of simplicity and focus on Jesus, Bishop McDonnell said Pope Francis will inspire all Catholics to “be in concert with each other, to be a church that goes out into the world to bring the Good News.”
“The pope will teach us how to be of service, to help us, like Francis of Assisi, to speak volumes by our lives, without having to utter a word,” he said.
Bishop McDonnell also noted that the Bible contains no words spoken by St. Joseph, “yet he is the patron for the entire church. His deeds speak louder than words.”
Before the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop McDonnell asked those present to pray for the new pope. “Please keep our pope in your prayers day in and day out,” he said. “Pray that his joy may increase … and that he may show us more fully how to follow in the footsteps of Christ.”
Some worshippers had begun these prayers before the Mass began, including Grace Quintero, a member of St. Michael’s Cathedral Parish, who is originally from the Dominican Republic. “He’s the best,” Quintero told iobserve. “He is the best thing that has happened to us.”
“A new pope is a cause for celebration. It brings the church together,” said Attorney Devin M. Moriarty, a regular communicant at the daily Mass.
Moriarty, who is a parishioner at Sacred Heart Parish in Springfield, noted that the new pope, who is “slightly younger,” will be able to travel and “continue spreading the goodness” of the faith.
Angel Diaz, a member of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish in Springfield, said that he took time to attend the special Mass to be supportive of the diocese and the Spanish community. But, he said, it is even more important for all Catholics to celebrate Pope Francis, not only Latinos.
“Above all, we are all Catholics so we should be here,” Diaz told iobserve.
Andres Lopez, director of Catholic Latino Ministry for the Springfield Diocese, also believes that the celebration of a new pope is important for all Catholics.
“We always welcome the opportunity to be more united, to worship more faithfully, all of us, as Catholics,” said Lopez.
For Sister of St. Joseph Annette McDermott, the election of Pope Francis has been a sign of great hope for the future of the Catholic Church. “I feel the Holy Spirit has done her thing and I feel so grateful,” she told iobserve after the Mass at the cathedral. “He (Pope Francis) has given me more hope than I have had in years.”
For the church to have a pope who is a Jesuit and embraces Franciscan spirituality “can only mean good things,” said Sister McDermott, who is a chaplain at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley.
And, noting that she had risen very early in the morning to watch the Papal Inauguration Mass on television, she joked, “He got me up at 4:30 this morning – that’s his first miracle!”
Speaking to iobserve after the Mass, Bishop McDonnell said he believes the excitement and celebration surrounding the installation of Pope Francis is occurring because, “It’s a sign of hope for people.”
“He is of the people, from the people, for the people,” said Bishop McDonnell, adding that the sincerity and authenticity of the new pope has made an impression on people. “In everything he does, there is no affectation. He’s real.”
But perhaps the most important quality of Pope Francis, said Bishop McDonnell, is that “he is always pointing out that the focus is on Christ, not him.”