Red Cloud's Jesuits Reflect on the Election of Pope Francis

posted on April 17, 2013
by Christopher Ives

Source: great surprise and excitement, Carla Jasso, the student activities director at Red Cloud High School, announced the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the next pope on March 13 over the intercom at the High School. Pope Francis, the name chosen by Bergoglio, is the first non-European pope, and also the first pope from the Society of Jesus, a Catholic religious order also known as the “Jesuits.”

The Jesuits’ beliefs are rooted in the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, spirituality ever attentive to the ways in which God is present in all things. The order is currently active in more than 100 countries across six continents and is known for its work in education and the promotion of social justice.

Members of the community at Red Cloud Indian School, an institution co-administered by the Jesuits and Lakota people, found the news of the first Jesuit pope to be a refreshing and positive development for the Church.

“[Pope Francis’s] humility and his love for the poor, rooted in so much of his ministerial experience, will be a true gift,” says Father Peter Klink, S.J., interim pastoral coordinator for the parishes associated with Red Cloud Indian School. “While a Jesuit in the service of the Holy Father is unprecedented, I can only imagine that the Holy Spirit was much alive in the conclave and the prayerful choosing done by the Cardinals. May God guide and may God continue to bless!”

“I think the election of Pope Francis is like a breath of fresh air and a great sign of hope for the Catholic Church,” remarks Sister Connie Schmidt, SSND, an educator in the Spiritual Formation Department at Red Cloud High School. “He is a man who walks his talk and that kind of integrity is what is needed in leading the Church.”  

“With his background, Pope [Francis] gives the face of the Church a look that more closely resembles the makeup of the Church today,” Schmidt continues.  “We are more diverse, more universal, and he brings that to the Vatican through his former appointments and his presence with ‘everyday’ people.  I believe that Pope Francis’s concern for the poor is indeed the Gospel of Jesus and he continues to live it and model it well for all of us.”

Pope Francis, hailing from Argentina, was named as Provincial Superior of the region after the completion in Spain of his tertianship, or third and final stage of spiritual formation in a Jesuit’s education. During his appointment as Provincial Superior, then Father Bergoglio made several visits to Pozo del Tigre, a small town in the Formosa Province of Argentina where Red Cloud Indian School’s very own Brother Mike Zimmerman, S.J. was living and working at a mission’s sawmill as a young Jesuit.

“I had several visits with Bergoglio and I always felt him to be a very good, religious man. I was very happy to know him and to be in his presence,” says Br. Zimmerman. “I found him to be a very easy man to speak with; he was knowledgeable and very interested in the type of work we were doing for the poor in the region.”

Having now been at Red Cloud for more than 30 years, Br. Zimmerman has continued his good work in support of the ideals of the Society of Jesus. When word that a new, Jesuit pope from Argentina was elected, Br. Zimmerman recalled his time south of the equator.

“You know, it was only about six months ago that I found out he was an Archbishop. When I heard that the new pope was a Jesuit from Argentina, I thought, well, it has got to be Bergoglio then. They went to the computer to check, and sure enough, it was!”

“I think it is a good direction for the Church,” Br. Zimmerman continues. He believes Pope Francis’s experience will allow for a more ‘down-to-earth’ approach, allowing members of the Church to better focus on what is most important: allowing for a greater consideration of the poor. “If this is the time the Lord wants us to focus on, then I believe he is the man to do it.”

Red Cloud Indian School was founded with the support of the Jesuits and Chief Red Cloud in 1888. Now celebrating its 125th year, Red Cloud faculty, staff and students continue to work toward a holistic education of the mind and spirit for all people, an ideal upheld by Pope Francis.

 Photo: Pope Francis, ©Agencia Brasil, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Brazil
Original Photo via Wikipedia by, Presidencia da Republica/Roberto Stuckert Filho