EC priest saw new pope in Rome
By Teresa Auch Schultz email@example.com/648-3120 March 19, 2013 8:56PM
The church's youth mariachi musicians play as Fr. Steve Gibson begins a mass in celebration of the Feast of St. Joseph at St. Mary Catholic Church in East Chicago, Ind. Tuesday March 19, 2013. Fr. Steve Gibson just returned from Italy Monday where he spent time during the selection of Pope Francis as the new leader of the Catholic Church worldwide. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 21, 2013 6:52AM
EAST CHICAGO — Freshly returned from his trip to Rome, the Rev. Stephen Gibson celebrated the Feast of St. Joseph with his congregation at St. Mary Catholic Church Tuesday night, on the same day Pope Francis was inaugurated as the head of the Catholic church.
The connection between the two, Gibson said, is great. He pointed to the fact that about 100 of his parishioners, almost all who speak Spanish, came together to celebrate the day and their new pope on a Tuesday night. Few if any other churches in Northwest Indiana could expect to see such a turnout on a weekday, he said.
“Just the fact that Pope Francis was named pope opens people’s minds to the church,” Francis said during a speech to his flock, speaking almost entirely in Spanish.
Gibson traveled to Rome last week when a group of people made arrangements for him at the last minute. He arrived just hours before the new pope was elected, joining about 100,000 people gathered to await the white smoke in St. Peter’s Square. When Pope Francis was announced, Gibson said, most people didn’t know what to think.
“There was a hush on the square because no one knew him,” Gibson said.
Gibson knew him, though, and told the crowd around him that they should be excited about Pope Francis’ election. The priest watched as the pope made his first remarks and saw him again during the pope’s first Sunday prayer.
But Gibson said it was important to him to be back with his own people Tuesday, which was a celebration of Joseph and how he protected Mary and the baby Jesus. The church was ready for Gibson, including a banner proclaiming “Thank you God for Pope Francis.”
The people of St. Mary were joyed to hear the news of Pope Francis’ election, Gibson said, and to know that the leaders of the Catholic church realized Latin America, although far away from Rome, is becoming one of the largest groups of believers.
“It was a great moment for them,” he said. “The Hispanic world has a face in Rome looking at them.”