When Pope Francis I emerged onto the balcony of St. Peter's in Rome Wednesday, it created an awe-filled moment for Catholics worldwide. But many local Chicago suburbanites felt an instant connection with Francis, the first Jesuit pope, because they have attended Jesuit schools.
The Jesuits, the world's largest order of Catholic priests, are known for intellectual curiosity, social justice and founding and operating schools and colleges, according to International Business Times.
Many north suburbanites have attended Loyola Academy in Wilmette and Loyola University of Chicago, both named after the order's founder, St. Ignacius Loyola, who lived in 16th century Spain.
Rev. Patrick McGrath, president of Loyola Academy, said Wednesday afternoon that even though he knew Argentinian (former) Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio had a strong reputation and had been considered "papabile" (Italian for "pope material"), he was not prepared for what ensued.
"I think I would have been excited no matter who was chosen," he said. "When it became clear this was going to be the first Jesuit pope, I was more stunned than anything," he said.
Jesuit training will likely help the new pontiff, McGrath said, saying that while he makes decisions in an astute, intelligent way, they are also informed with spirituality and humanity.
"Jesuits have a very positive view of God's presence in all things and a discerning heart that makes decisions prayerfully," McGrath observed.
"We make our decisions in the context of a lifelong conversation with God. I think you saw that even in his brief appearance today in St. Peter's Square. Before offering his blessing, he asked the people for their blessing.
"He wanted to be with people in dialogue. He isn't afraid of the conversation."
Following are reactions to the naming of Pope Francis I from others with a Loyola connection.
Les Seitzinger, principal gifts officer at Loyola Academy and Morton Grove resident:
"Being a graduate of Loyola Academy and having worked there for the last 20 years, I'm thrilled.
"I hope he can lead the Catholic church with the same type of vision and professionalism that his Jesuit brethren use in running their high schools and colleges throughout the world."
Christopher Zalinski, 1982 graduate of Loyola Academy and local business owner from Niles:
"I know the Jesuits are very intellectual and very well-known for their educating and humbleness. So I think that would be great for where the (Catholic) church needs to go."
Charlie Kuhn, senior at Loyola Academy and Park Ridge resident:
"I think it's a good choice. From what I heard he's a people person. He can relate to people in the church he'll be representing. He relates to young people, too--he'll be able to relate to the next generation, which will better prepare them for the future."