Locals embrace selection of pope
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Another hot topic of conversation after the news broke, Heaney-Hunter said, was exactly which Francis the new pope, a member of the Jesuit order, had in mind when he chose his papal name — Saint Francis of Assisi or Francis Xavier, who was a Jesuit missionary.
Heaney-Hunter said that Francis of Assisi was the appropriate choice, because “when he was in prayer, he heard God saying, ‘Rebuild my church.’ He was somebody that was charged with the task of building up God’s people.”
Sommer also said that parishioners were pleased with the new name and the reasons the new pope chose it. “That struck a lot of us that he may have picked that name because the church does need some rebuilding,” Sommer said. “And that’s very encouraging.”
Heaney-Hunter acknowledged that the Catholic Church’s problems have discouraged many of the faithful in recent years. “I think all we have to do is read the newspapers, and what you will see is that the polls, the statistics, are showing that fewer Catholics are participating in the Church,” she said. “But what we hope to do in this diocese, and dioceses all over the U.S., is invite people to be a part of all the good things that are happening in the Catholic Church.”
Other local residents expressed their optimism in Pope Francis. “Hopefully, with all the scandals and less people joining the Church, it can bring more unity as opposed to the many independent movements breaking away from the Catholic Church,” said Timmy Brennan, an East Meadow resident and a St. Raphael’s parishioner.
Carol Gyss Gravely, who has taught religious education at St. Raphael’s for 11 years, said, “Pope Francis is very humble in the means of which he has led his life as the archbishop. He resided in a small apartment, cooked his own meals and used public transportation. He has a devout nature to assist the poor.”