Local Jesuits look to one of their own: Pope Francis

March 14, 2013

The new pontiff represents many firsts: He's the first South American pope, and the first to be named after St. Francis of Assisi. But it’s his status as first pope from the Jesuit order that’s notable for some local Catholics.

Father Timothy Kesicki, head of the Chicago-Detroit Province, says it's a historic moment for the Jesuits. Through their long history, the order has never experienced a pope resigning, and they've never seen one of their own elected to fill that spot.

Kesicki says he doesn’t expect any special treatment from Pope Francis, but he says the Jesuits may watch Pope Francis a little closer than they would if another cardinal were selected.

"Because he knows us, we may wonder what he asks of us. He may come to us first with a specific need," Kesicki said. "I think we're going to listen to him with a certain attentiveness because we know he comes from our origins."

The Jesuit order was founded in 1540 by St. Ignatius Loyola. Its members take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The order is best-known for its work in academia and higher education.

The pontiff’s Jesuit background could give insight into why he chose Francis as his name. Kesicki says the order’s founder repeatedly looked to Saint Francis for guidance and inspiration.

Kesicki says he thinks the new pope might do the same.