Maggie Contreras, campus minister at Occidental College's Catholic Newman Community and parishioner at St. Agatha, L.A., had heard Sister Dianne Bergant’s talk on “Can the Natural World Afford a ‘Just War?’” March 15:
"Pope Francis has started the conversation with non-Catholics and with Catholics, like my brothers and sisters, who have left and are finding a vocabulary to come back. I'm married to a non-Catholic. We have been able to have more discussions because there is a symbol of the goodness for humanity for the world that everybody can get onboard with. It's an inclusive attitude. My faith is a broad faith and an inclusive faith. Having a leader and a symbol of that faith gives me hope."
Lani Vandehey, pastoral associate at St. Anthony Church, Forest Grove, Oregon, was waiting for the Divine Byzantine Mass March 15:
“I would say Pope Francis has affirmed a hope that he would call us all to service of those who are weak and frail and who need our love and concern. I feel that the leadership has gone to the right place and that I am called to be who I should be.
Jo Ann Gomez, secretary at Holy Redeemer Church, Odessa, Texas, came to Congress with a group of 12, including a parish priest and two religious sisters. Waiting in a Starbucks line at the Hilton, she struck up a conversation with recently ordained Father Cesar Magallon of Los Angeles, who helped with confessions at Congress.
Gomez: “I appreciate how humble and down-to-earth he is, just ordinary, and I think that’s amazing, to be ordinary. Most of us are always looking for titles and something big but to have Pope Francis show us humility is awesome.”
Father Magallon: “He has made my ministry as a priest more joyful, but I think he’s also encouraged people to find joy and meaning in their daily life, which can be lost easily.”
Cheryl Rife, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, Irvine, had attended the “Journey of the Heart” workshop by Ireland’s Deirdre Ní Chinnéide on March 16:
“Pope Francis has made a difference. I think he’s a wonderful example of faith and helping the poor and just different things he’s said that have become public confirm my faith and make it stronger.”
Patty Murillo, St. Michael Church, Livermore, Calif.:
“He is really humble, and that’s what I like so much about him. It just touches me so much to see the way that he reaches out to the poor; he wants to help all people. And when I see him go out into the crowds and hug the people around him, it just makes my throat tighten up and it brings tears to my eyes. It really makes me want to be a more humble and generous person, too.”
John and Lucie Traxler, of St. John Fisher Church, Rancho Palos Verdes, had just heard Father Robert Barron’s keynote talk March 15.
John, a 35-year Congress veteran who cooks for a shelter: "Pope Francis has offered a great hope, a renewed hope for Catholicism. We have to wait and see how it plays out."
Lucie, involved in RCIA and liturgy: “I am very excited about what Pope Francis is giving us. I want to hear him speak all the time because I think he's speaking to us in a realistic manner, in a way that we can live our lives."
Ferd Cacho, student leader at Newman Hall Holy Spirit Church, the Catholic Community at UC Berkeley, as interviewed with his friends coming out of the March 16 keynote on Catholic Relief Services:
“The way the pope approaches the faith — more joyfully — is the most important aspect for me. My faith is not about following rules, it’s about doing it. Our faith is something we should be joyful about.”
Lucia Hong, student leader at Newman Hall Holy Spirit Church:
“Pope Francis has really revitalized the image of humility and he lives it actively and just beautifully and to have a living example of that — and he’s a pope, you know? It’s just a really beautiful example for me and that’s how he’s affected my life.”
Becky Doody, an R.N. from Incarnation Church, Glendale, was on her way to hear John Allen speak March 16 on “The Francis Revolution: The Papacy at the One-Year Mark”:
“I have non-Catholics come up to me at work and say, ‘Wow, how has Pope Francis affected you? Because we hear so many wonderful things that he is doing for the church.’”