Where were you ten years ago, March 14, 2013?
Reflection by Bishop Jeff Fleming
I remember that day vividly. It was the day that Pope Francis was elected Pope. I remember gathering in the Student Lounge at Christ the King Parish in Missoula. We were watching the television coverage from the Vatican. I remember the excitement and enthusiasm when everyone realized that white smoke was coming from the Vatican, signifying that we had a new Pope. We waited for the words, habemus papam, we have a Pope! Jorge Mario Bergoglio stepped out on the balcony with a new name Pope Francis and a new ministry.
That was a night of firsts. He was the first pope from the Americas. He was the first pope to take the name Francis. He was the first Jesuit to be pope. His first action was also new; before giving his Papal blessings to the city and the world, he paused and asked for our blessing! It was a moving and joyous moment.
These 10 years of his pontificate have been full of many other firsts that have influenced my priesthood and ministry. I remember Pope Francis visiting a prison on Holy Thursday and washing the feet of prisoners and then the next year washing the feet of women. I recall his concern for the poor and for the environment. I am moved by his call to walk with, accompany, and listen to all our brothers and sisters in synodal process. As the successor to St. Peter, Pope Francis has shown us how to follow Jesus with joy.
I also am keenly aware that on April 9, 2022, I received a phone call from Pope Francis’ personal representative to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, informing me that Pope Francis had named me the Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings.
My life and my ministry have been deeply influenced by our Pope and I rejoice on this day as we celebrate the tenth anniversary of his election. Let us hold him in prayer as he ministers to us and the world.