It is 13 March 2013. I am parish priest in Matero, a sprawling poor neighborhood of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. More than 10,000 kilometers away in Rome, the cardinals are in conclave.
I have just celebrated evening Mass and I am chatting away with parishioners as they are exiting the church. Suddenly someone shouts, “we have a new pope!” I rush to the presbytery, turn on the television, and... “he is a Jesuit!” A Jesuit??? What does it mean for the Church and the Society of Jesus? I didn't see it coming.
He has chosen the name Francis, it is announced. My first thought is “The Poor Man of Assisi”. And I am right. Perhaps that’s because I am living and working in a poor neighborhood. After Mass the next day, after I had mentioned “Francis our Pope” for the first time in the Eucharistic prayer, an elderly woman approached me after Mass and smiling said to me, “He is my pope too.” I knew at that time that the Holy Spirit had spoken.
I’d later meet Pope Francis on a number of occasions when I worked in Rome. A Jesuit, with a Franciscan name, in a Dominican habit. A pope for everyone. God’s gift to the Church. He is the Pope the Church needed at this time.
Patrick Mulemi, SJ
Lusaka - Zambia