St. Louis Hispanics Celebrate First Latin American Pope

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ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) – Any disappointment over St. Louis native, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, not being named Pope, seemed to be outweighed by what was a day of historic firsts for the Roman Catholic Church, around the world and here in St. Louis, with the election of the Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Bergolio, of Argentina, the first Latin Pope.

They certainly celebrated at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in south St. Louis.

St. Cecilia is the official 'seat' of Hispanic ministry in the St. Louis Archdiocese.

'Una misa de celebracion...para Francisco,' declared Fr. Anthony Ochoa, St. Cecilia`s pastor, as he began a special mass of celebration for Pope Francis.

Upon learning the Cardinal of Buenos Aires had become Pope Francis the staff at St. Cecilia was overjoyed.

'Everyone on the staff just erupted in this great cheer, hugging, and applause.  They were very excited and I was completely shocked,' Fr. Ochoa said. 'It`s one of us. Especially for the people who are here in St. Louis, far from home.  Any sort of sign of connection with the universal church brings a lot of joy, a lot of great hope to people.  So it`s not just `thanks be to God from all the people from Argentina`. '

At St. Louis University, the Jesuit university in an area that is a stronghold of Jesuit education and tradition, there was also great joy:  the first Jesuit pope - bringing the Jesuit mission into worldwide focus; as one SLU Vice President of Mission and Ministry, Fr. Paul Stark, S.J., put it, a mission of 'getting into the gritty reality of the world'; serving one`s fellow man wherever needed.

'I think it`s a great thing, as a Jesuit but also because he`s in real service to the church.  Clearly from everything you read about him, his interest is not really himself, his interest in the Jesuit adage, `for the greater glory of God`,' Fr. Stark said.

For an O’Fallon, Missouri, woman from Argentina there was a feeling of immense pride; pride in her country, her church, and its new pope, who is a new symbol of a new day for her church in St. Louis and around the world.

She said the news trickled into her through text and phone messages.

'A friend of mine said we have a Pope from Latin America and I said, `ok, well cool`,' she laughed. 'Then my sister called me and said, `oh he`s from Argentina.  I said, `are you kidding me?`  It is a big joy.  It is a big joy!  'We are one church, one whole family.  I think now probably Catholic people thin ` yes, we are part of the church`.'

'It`s a huge first in a lot of ways.  It`s a great opportunity for all of us.  A great breath of fresh air for the church,' Fr. Stark.

Baez`s 6 year old daughter said simply, 'I love him, and I am proud.'

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