La Grande Catholics cheer pope selection

By Dick Mason, The Observer March 19, 2013 08:54 am

Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church members applaud pope’s humility

 by Dick Mason/The Observer

Less than a week has passed since Pope Francis was elected the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church but some La Grande-area Catholics speak like they already feel a connection with him.

“He is not pretentious at all. It is like dealing with an uncle or a relative you have great respect for. He is someone you are very comfortable with,” said Jim Wimer, a member of Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in La Grande.

Carol Wimer seconded her husband’s opinion Sunday morning during a coffee following Mass at Our Lady of the Valley. Carol said she is impressed with Pope Francis’s humility. 

“He is very down to earth, he is a people’s pope,” she said. 

Francis, formerly a cardinal in Argentina known as Jorge Marlo Bergolio, was elected the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church Wednesday during a papal conclave at the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. He is succeeding Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned Feb. 28 because of health concerns. 

Tom Dimond of Cove, like the Wimers, is impressed with the humility Pope Francis is displaying now and has throughout his life. While a cardinal, he refused to live in the luxurious accommodations available to him. Instead he lived in an apartment, cooked his own meals and traveled on public buses.

Dimond said Pope Francis’s humility will be necessary to make changes needed to strengthen the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis is the first pope selected from outside of Europe in more than 500 years. Dimond is delighted that he is from Argentina.

“I’m really happy to see that he’s from Argentina. It has such a huge Catholic contingency,” Dimond said.

Dr. Joseph Petrusek, a member of Our Lady of the Valley, said he is impressed that Pope Francis is from the Jesuit order. Petrusek noted that the Jesuit order is one of the most impressive Catholic orders in terms of academic scholarship. Petrusek, an ear, nose, throat and allergy specialist, does not expect Francis to make changes in church doctrine, but he said that things will be different. 

“There will be less pomp and circumstance and more working with the people,” Petrusek said. 

Petrusek also said that Pope Francis’s humility is helping to revitalize the Catholic Church. 

“There is a renewed interest in the faith because of his down-to-earth humility,’’ he said. 

Betty Gannon said she is impressed with the personal qualities of Pope Francis.

“He seems like a beautiful person and very traditional. He seems like a very holy person,” said Gannon, an Our Lady of the Valley parish member.

Dan Pokorney, a permanent acolyte at Our Lady of the Valley, is impressed with the commitment Pope Francis is making to help the poor. One quote made by Pope Francis expressed this commitment perfectly, Pokorney said. 

“He said he would like ‘a poor church to be caring for the poor.’ That really shows what he will emphasize.”

Rev. Christopher Agoha, pastor of Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church, also praises the humility and simplicity of Francis. Agoha noted that the name he took as pope is in honor of St. Franicis of Assisi, an Italian saint who lived in the 1200s and devoted his life to reaching out to the poor.

“He chose his name in defense of justice, peace and the poor,” Agoha said.