WILMINGTON — Joan Burge and two other local women — one a Baptist — are going together to Philadelphia next week to see Pope Francis when he visits the United States.
A lifelong Catholic, Burge said she is “excited, excited” about the “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
“I’m so glad he’s our pope. He’s so good for our church; he’s made a difference in the Catholic Church and the world,” added Burge.
She anticipates she’ll do a lot of walking to get to a public Mass and plans to travel light: She said she’ll probably just tote a small back pack.
Deacon Bob Baker of the St. Columbkille Catholic Church in Wilmington said he would like to hear the pope address the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity of life while in America.
Baker’s question for Pope Francis would be, “What can we do as individuals to achieve peace? There’s so much anger in the world, or it feels that way.”
Of the pope from Argentina who carries his own luggage, Baker said, “I’m like everybody else. Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air; he’s so lovable. He’s so real, and he’s so humble for being the pope.”
Rita Butcher of Wilmington said she thinks it would be very exciting to see the pope in person and she would make the trip if she were younger and more carefree about a crowd.
She said she does wish the Catholic Church could reach more middle-age Americans.
If Butcher were to meet the pope, she said she might say, “Pope Francis, do you think it is time for women to be allowed to become priests in the Catholic Church? If not, do you see women becoming priests in the future?”
A 1993 convert to Catholicism, Wilmington resident Bud Lewis said Pope Francis’ message is “so beautiful” when it speaks of God’s mercy. He also thinks the pope is somebody who Catholics and non-Catholics alike find appealing.
“He lifts up the poor so much and speaks so beautifully of the poor — the poor who live in our neighborhoods,” said Lewis. Lewis’ wife Margo is director of faith formation at St. Columbkille.
Raised a Lutheran, Lewis attended the Catholic Church for 11 years before joining. He described the process Friday as a “very gradual but meaningful conversion.”
Lewis spoke about the Catholic Church’s tradition of papal succession.
“This is not to say there haven’t been bad popes. We have humans as popes, but there’s a beautiful tradition that comes along with that,” he said.
The pastor at St. Columbkille, Michael Holloran, said one thing that’s striking about Pope Francis is he seems to have an immediate appeal for many people with his personal, gentle approach. The pope is also a humble man, said Holloran.
“He’s not impressed with his office,” Holloran said.
The local priest hopes Francis during his trip will give support to those who need support, and be open to learning about the United States.
Holloran said the pope seeks “to enable people to thrive,” and to encourage “proper values to help people find happiness in this life.”
Phyllis Kemper, the congregational minister for the Ursulines of Brown County at nearby St. Martin, said she is grateful for Francis’ challenge to everyone to be people of the gospel, to live with joy, and to be merciful.
She also appreciated what the pope said several weeks ago when he thanked religious women for all they have done for the church and the people of the United States. There are 26 nuns at the convent in the northern tip of Brown County whose mission is to “demonstrate Christ-centered responsiveness by our presence in daily ministry.”
One thing Kemper hopes the pope talks about is “the evils of human trafficking and its prevalence throughout the world and also in our own country.”
If she had the opportunity, she would ask Pope Francis to talk about the importance of preserving U.S. agricultural lands for future generations of farmers.
St. Columbkille Catholic Church member Joyce Noland said, “I’m just proud he’s coming to America, and I think he’ll be safe.”
She said a Catholic publication expects Francis to speak about the need for sharing worldwide, as well as the importance of family life.
“Our family life in this country is pretty sad,” said Noland.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.