Local Catholics are hopeful for the future under Pope Francis

CREATED Mar. 13, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - The faithful gathered at the Cathedral of St. John to celebrate Pope Francis and the work that lies ahead of him.

It was a small crowd for evening mass Wednesday, but there was no shortage of pride as they celebrated the election of Pope Francis.

"A big day,” said Zach Willard.

"It's a big day," Kathy O'Donnell agreed.

"To me it's like Easter Sunday arrived early," Joelyn Wysocki said. "The experience of our faith and our faith in community, that's why I came here today."

The new pope played a prominent role in the mass.

"We know 'who'," said Father Jeffrey Haines with the Cathedral of St. John. "The question now, I suspect, on most people's mind's is 'what?' What is he going to do?”

Father Haines said the weight of what happened Wednesday is felt far and wide.

"We all feel an attachment to him and he's mentioned in each of our Eucharistic prayers," he said. "Everytime we say the mass, we say his name specifically to show our unity and our bond with him."

That bond is one some hoped might have even closer ties to Milwaukee, as they thought of Cardinal Dolan once walking the halls as Archbishop.

"I couldn't help but think of him as I glanced over to the empty chair, his empty chair, and that he had a part in this and that we knew him," said Joelyn Wysocki.

And now all Catholics will unite behind Pope Francis.

"The Holy Spirit wanted this Holy Father and the Lord needs Pope Francis to lead us," Father Haines added.