Even by the time of his inaugural Mass held on March 19, the newly-installed Pope Francis had signaled in no uncertain terms that he would continue his reputation for simplicity and identification with ordinary people.
In a number of appearances prior to his inauguration, Francis abandoned prepared remarks to speak extemporaneously at Masses and audiences, waded into crowds of admirers, and eschewed the usual trappings of the office (whether it was safe to do so or not ... after all, Popes have been the targets of assassinations in the past).
Despite it only being a brief couple of weeks since his election, it seems that the former Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio fully intends to continue the life he led in Argentina, one that resisted being removed from the people he served.
It was an attitude that has been noticed and well received by local clergy including the Rev. Terence Kilcoyne of Holy Trinity Parish in Harvard.
"I think it's a great thing," said Kilcoyne of the election of Francis as Pope. "It was quite a turnaround. I was very excited. I didn't really know anything about Francis but when I did some background checking on him, I was very impressed with his abilities especially as a pastoral person. Benedict was an academic but Francis was a parish priest in Buenos Aires, he ran the largest diocese in Argentina. I like his simplicity. He lived in his own apartment in Buenos Aires and did his own cooking. He appears to be very approachable. I'm also impressed with his background. I believe it is important to be approachable. The last two Popes we had were kind of distant figures, especially Pope Benedict. This fellow has a genuine feel for the poor and for economic justice and that's something we really need to go after."
Kilcoyne's opinion was echoed by fellow pastor the Rev. Edmond Derosiers of Shirley's St. Anthony of Padua Parish.
"I think the election of Francis is marvelous," said Derosier. "I think he's a man who will restore the Church to its early works, caring for the poor, and the environment."
Care of the poor and the natural world that is one of God's greatest gifts should certainly be areas of concern for the new leader of the Earth's 1.2 billion Catholics, but as one of the few people on the planet with a global influence, the Pope by the very nature of his position, must keep many balls in the air at once.
"I think taking care of the poor should be at the top of his concerns," Kilcoyne reiterated. "Certainly, it's said that the Vatican is in disarray so he needs to get that settled. But he did something of the sort as Bishop of Buenos Aires and apparently did it very well. He's not an insider in the curia but he's one of the people who can take it on."
"I think he has to restore confidence in the Church," said Derosiers more sweepingly. "We still have the issue of sexual abuse to deal with but more importantly, I think we need a man that is going to reflect the Gospel in his life, living a simple life dedicated to the precepts of Jesus Christ."
But the two men were heartened by the fact that the former Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio has chosen the name of Francis as the name by which his pontificate would be known. St. Francis of Assisi, a saint that has remained popular with people for centuries, is noted for having given up his inherited wealth to live a life of poverty, as close to that of Jesus as possible while being a friend of all God's creatures.
"I think his choice of the name Francis tells us exactly what he is trying to accomplish," said Derosiers. "Francis was called to rebuild the Church and I think this present Pope feels the same way."
"His choice of the name Francis is great," said Kilcoyne. "They tell the story that when the votes were counted and he was elected, a buddy of his, a cardinal from South America, hugged him and said 'Don't forget the poor.' Right then, he thought immediately of taking the name of Francis of Assisi. It was kind of an inspiration to pick that name. That's the first new name a Pope has taken in over a thousand years."
But beyond the immediate concerns of the day, the election of Pope Francis is a cause for new expectations and renewed energies to a Church entering its third millennium since the birth of its Founder.
"I think that like any new beginning, the election of Pope Francis will be a time of rebirth in a sense," mused Kilcoyne. "He may be guiding us in a different direction than we've been led before. This Pope appears to be quite different from Benedict who had his own style."
"I think he'll give us back hope," said Derosiers.