From Rome, Cardinal McCarrick talks to students about new pope
Friday, March 15, 2013 4:38 AM
From the Vatican, less than 24 hours after the election of Pope Francis, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the archbishop emeritus of Washington, "skyped" with elementary school students from St. Francis International School in Silver Spring, relating his own personal account of the historic event.
Speaking via a Skype connection from Rome, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick talks about Pope Francis with students at St. Francis International School in Silver Spring. The students in the foreground were dressed as cardinals for an upcoming school play about the conclave.
St. Francis International School cheers pope named for their patron saint
By Maureen Boyle
For the community at St. Francis International School in Silver Spring, the election of Pope Francis - the first Holy Father from Latin America - holds very special meaning, as students erupted in loud cheers when the pontiff's new name - that of their school's patron saint - was announced yesterday from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.
"When we heard his name, some of the kids were saying, 'He chose us, he chose us!'" said Matt Aujero, the development director at St. Francis International School. "We were just elated. It's a home run...St. Francis is alive!"
"It is very exciting. I was hoping and praying he would be an Hispanic pope," said Elena Visoso, a sixth grade student at St. Francis School. "I love the name he chose because our school is named St. Francis. That means so much because he helped rebuild the Church."
The 482 students from 57 countries gathered together at the end of their school day to watch the events live on television after white smoke began billowing from the Sistine Chapel chimney signaling the election of a new pope.
"I think it's time (to have a pope from Lain America). His name too is a good thing because I think it fits his personality, a Jesuit who has a vow of poverty," said eighth grader Megan Dass.
Principal Tobias Harkleroad said about 25 percent of the student body is first generation Latin American, which made the election of Pope Francis especially meaningful for them, as it points to the universality of the Catholic Church.
The name Pope Francis chose is also a momentous and significant moment of grace for the entire school, which is at its heart "a Franciscan community," said the principal. "We started cheering and suddenly we realized we have connection with him - he knows the same saints we know," he said.
"(The pope) chose the name for the same reason we chose the name St. Francis. He's such a universal saint and a renewing saint," said Harkleroad. "At the time of Francis, the Church was in decay and secular forces were running the culture. (St.) Francis was this happy-go-lucky rich boy who found real happiness by embracing the Gospel and understanding God."
Fifth grader Yasin Abdulla said of the new pontiff's election, "I was really happy he was named and for the name Francis he chose. He's the first pope with that name. I like how St. Francis always cared for the poor."
Harkleroad added that the new pope will draw the world to look closer at St. Francis' faithfulness, "We need to embrace the poor and rely on God's providence not our own providence. Our new pope is someone who believes that...A pope who will reignite from the base the truth of Jesus's Gospel."
Students were able to ask questions of Cardinal McCarrick, who at 82 was not eligible to vote in the conclave, but was in Rome during the papal election and the days leading up to it. Cardinal McCarrick voted in the 2005 conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI.
When asked what kind of leader he believed Pope Francis would be, Cardinal McCarrick said, "The Lord will use him in many ways. He loves God and loves people...He is not afraid. He worries about the poor and will make sure the Gospel is heard by everyone."
He said the new Holy Father will take the lessons he has learned all his life - just as the students will take the teachings they learn in school - and use those lessons to help others.
"Because he's learned them well," the cardinal said.
Looking back to 2005, the cardinal was asked what he took from the experience of electing Pope Benedict XVI eight years ago.
"It was a great opportunity to see the Church working together. We all came together to see who will be the best man. We talked to each other. We prayed with each other and great things were learned from that," the cardinal said.
He said the cardinals prepare for a conclave with much prayer. "We pray, pray a lot," said Cardinal McCarrick, adding that the new pontiff will rely on the prayers of the faithful too. "He has to look at the whole world and see where he can help. If there is a war, an earthquake or (famine), the pope is a great help" and leads people to God.
A group of 13 fifth grade boys were dressed as cardinals, in red cassocks (borrowed from Sacred Heart Parish, Bowie) and red zucchettos (which were actually Jewish bar-mitzvah yamakas that school principal Tobias Harkleroad had ordered from Brooklyn) for a "conclave play" they plan to stage on Friday.
"You look much younger, and I bet you're better athletes than we (the real cardinals) are," Cardinal McCarrick joked to the boys in his video chat.
Before saying goodbye to the 482 students at St. Francis International School, the cardinal said he hoped he could encourage Pope Francis to visit the school "one of these days."
He also asked the students to pray for the new pope, telling them, "How can you make this a better world is the most important job of the pope. You don't do it alone, you do it with God's help."