News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

March 14, 2013

Terre Haute Catholics optimistic about future

TERRE HAUTE — Terre Haute Catholics greeted news of the new pope Wednesday with a clear sense of optimism.

“I’m elated about it,” said Jerry Mooran, pastoral associate at St. Margaret Mary Church on South Seventh Street. Mooran, who studied under Jesuits, said he is encouraged that the new pope is from that religious order, whose members take a vow of poverty and are known for scholarship.

Mooran is also encouraged — as are other Catholics — by the new pope’s selection of the name “Francis” for St. Francis of Assisi, who lived a life of poverty.

“He chose the name ‘Francis’ because he really has a compassion for the poor,” Mooran said.

Sister Denise Wilkinson, general superior for the Sisters of Providence in St. Mary-of-the-Woods, said she was encouraged to hear the new pope mentioned women — in addition to men — in his opening remarks. That showed he recognizes the important contributions of women in the church, she said.

“I think it will be fascinating to watch” as the new pope brings a new, non-European perspective, tradition and culture to the Vatican, Wilkinson said, adding Francis I probably will bring a global view to the papacy, “because the Jesuits have that.”

Kymberli Payonk, a teacher at St. Patrick’s School, said she was excited to learn the pope had chosen the name Francis — a first for a pope. That signals the new leader of the catholic church may be a forward thinker, she said, adding that she is also encouraged by reports he lived very humbly in Argentina.

“I’m pleased for the people in Latin America,” Mooran said, adding the new pope reminds him of Pope John Paul I, known as the “smiling pope” or the “30-day pope” for his brief time in the papacy in the 1970s.

As for the rifts in the catholic church over subjects such as the ordaining of women and same-sex marriages, Wilkinson said she is hopeful the new pope will bring an open mind to those debates and that he will at least listen to other views, especially in regard to ordaining women as priests. Mooran said he hopes for a stronger dialogue on those and other subjects within the church.

“It’s a heavy role,” Wilkinson said of the papacy, noting that just leading a relatively small order of 350 Sisters of Providence is no easy task. “We certainly are with him in prayer.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or


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