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Plum's Catholic leaders, parishioners excited for new pope

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Plum Advance Leader
Father Albert Zapf, pastor, Our Lady of Joy Church, officiates at a baptism on Sunday, March 17, 2013. Mother Tara Porter and godmother Ralene Gervinski with baby Kaitlyn, 3 months.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Plum Advance Leader
Father Albert Zapf, pastor, Our Lady of Joy Church, officiates at a baptism on Sunday, March 17 for Ashley Baker, 11 months, and Kaitlyn Porter, 3 months.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Plum Advance Leader
Father Albert Zapf, pastor, Our Lady of Joy Church, officiates at a baptism on Sunday, March 17 for Ashley Baker, 11 months, and Kaitlyn Porter, 3 months.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Plum Advance Leader
Father Albert Zapf, pastor, Our Lady of Joy Church, officiates at a baptism on Sunday, March 17, 2013. Mandy and Dan Baker with their 11-month old daughter, Ashley. Tammy Heeter, center, and Steve Fleishauer, far right, at the godparents.

Dave Goldstein's children were jubilant when they returned home from school one day last week.

The three, students at St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Plum, were happy at the selection of a Jesuit cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina as the 266th pope. For them, he is the first pope they can remember being elected.

The pontiff took the name Francis, the first pope in history to do so.

Bergoglio also is the first pope from Latin America. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the 265th pontiff, resigned last month citing health reasons.

He is the first pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415.

“The kids got off the bus and were so excited they were screaming down the street,” said Goldstein of Plum, a 20-year member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.

Goldstein said the selection of the pope was significant for his family members who are heavily involved in the church. The event was particularly noteworthy for his children who were very young when Pope Benedict was selected in 2005.

Priests and parishioners from Catholic churches in Plum hailed the selection of Bergoglio for his humility and spirituality.

They also are looking for him to provide leadership in the aftermath of the child sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church.

“His simplicity is good,” said Monsignor William Ogrodowski, pastor of St. Januarius Church on Renton Road.

“It's a model of living. I particularly like the way he had Mass with the cardinals. He preached from the pulpit with no notes. He just talked to them (the cardinals).”

Ogrodowski also feels a connection with the new pontiff.

Bergoglio was a Jesuit bishop. Ogrodowski attended a Jesuit high school and university.

“Jesuits are active missionaries and teachers in schools and universities,” Ogrodowski said. “He brings an academic element.”

Ogrodowski also is looking for Bergoglio to restore trust in the Catholic church following the sex abuse scandal.

“Trust is No. 1 in this world,” Ogrodowski said. “You should be able to trust the church and clergymen. The stories sadden you.”

Ogrodowski also said Bergoglio's Latin American background is important to the area because the Spanish-speaking Catholic population in Pittsburgh is growing.

The Rev. Albert Zapf, pastor of Our Lady of Joy Church on Oblock Road, said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the selection of Bergoglio.

“I am delighted to have a pope who is humble,” Zapf said.

The pastor also is impressed that the new pope took the name Francis because Zapf feels a connection to St. Francis.

“I have gone to Assisi (Italy, birthplace of St. Francis), and I have a great devotion for St. Francis and his work with the poor,” Zapf said.

Zapf also is encouraged by the new pontiff's dedication to “new evangelization” meaning reaching out to baptized Catholics who have left the church and encouraging them to return.

“He has a tall order — a lot of work ahead of him,” Zapf said.

Mary Ann Hammill, a member of the St. John pastoral council, also admires Bergoglio's simplicity.

“He is a great intellectual person with a common touch,” Hammill said.

Hammill predicts the new pope will succeed in bringing Catholics back to the faith.

“We are a hopeful people,” Hammill said.

Goldstein believes the new pontiff will rejuvenate the Catholic church.

“There's a lot of excitement,” Goldstein said. “He must be the one. He was chosen for a reason.”

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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