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Selection of new pope brings excitement to local Catholics

By Nathan Vine
Stevens Point Journal Media

Sister Mary Ann Stotlz said she and others were watching a video in the television lounge at the St. Joseph Motherhouse when they heard the news.

"Someone came running in and said they had selected a pope," said Stotlz. "When we saw he had chosen the name of Francis, there were tears."

Cardinals elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the 266th pope Wednesday. He is the first pope from Latin America, the first Jesuit pope and the first non-European pope of the modern era.

He also is the first pope to take the name Francis, taken from St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order.

For Stoltz and other Sisters of St. Joseph Third Order of St. Francis in Stevens Point, the occasion was especially memorable. After hearing the news, she said she wanted to ring the bells at the Motherhouse.

"We don't ring them a lot, but everyone said to do it," said Stoltz, who serves as coordinator of personnel at the St. Joseph Motherhouse. "I can tell you we'll never forget today."

Assisi was an Italian born into wealth who later gave up his possessions for a life of service. Stoltz said the new pope has followed a similar path in his previous role as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Stoltz pointed out that during that time, Pope Francis had lived in a small apartment, took public transportation and cooked his own meals.

"Even when he appeared today for the first time, he was wearing a simple cross, and he asked people to pray for him," Stoltz said. "I was thrilled, and I think it sent a message."

Across the street, things were quiet at Pacelli High School after a previously scheduled half day of classes. Chris Bankie and Lorie Liss, both religion teachers, still were in the school and watched as the new pope was announced.

Bankie said his students on Wednesday were looking at possible candidates and choosing who they thought would be the most likely pope. He said he was thrilled with the selection of the name Francis, pointing out it was the name he had chosen when he received the Catholic sacrament of confirmation. Bankie also displays a small statue of St. Francis in his classroom.

"He is a person I very much admire, and he is one of the most beloved saints in the church," Bankie, who is in his first year at the school but has been a religion teacher for 22 years. "It's very exciting to see this pope take that name."

Liss, who has taught at the school for 26 years, said she believes the new pope will put an emphasis on service and unity going forward.

"I think right now, our church is very divided on many fronts, but I think this will be a time where we get back to basics," Liss said.

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