Bishop Jenky reflects on his first meetings with Pope Francis

Photo Caption: Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, meets Pope Francis for the first time after the pope’s general audience Jan. 29 at St. Peter’s Square. Bishop Jenky was in Rome with a University of Notre Dame delegation.

By: By Tom Dermody

His first encounters with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Jan. 29 and 30 provided Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, with first-hand evidence of what the world has come to know about the Holy Father in the past year.

“He clearly has a common touch with the people,” said Bishop Jenky, who met the pope following his Jan. 29 general audience and again the following day as part of a delegation from the University of Notre Dame.

The bishop told how Pope Francis begins his audiences by visiting pilgrims around St. Peter’s Square, sometimes even playfully taking their cellphones to snap photos of them.

At their first meeting after the general audience, Bishop Jenky said Pope Francis asked him to “pray for me.”

The bishop replied that he would, adding “Please pray for me, your holiness.”

As a trustee of the University of Notre Dame, Bishop Jenky traveled to Rome with about 130 people representing the university for the inauguration of Notre Dame’s new Rome center.

On Jan. 30, Pope Francis gave a “wonderful address on Catholic education” to the group at Clementine Hall. (A Catholic News Service report on that address is found here.)

“I thought the pope would just come in, wave at us, give a blessing and go out,” Bishop Jenky told The Catholic Post. But even after the talk, the pope remained for individual photos with “every single member of the party.” At that meeting, Bishop Jenky was introduced to the pope by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, who told the pope in Italian that the bishop was from Peoria and is also a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross and a member of the Notre Dame board.

“He gave us a lot of time,” said Bishop Jenky. “Everyone was quite thrilled, including me.”

There were also frequent lighthearted moments. “He cracks a lot of jokes,” said Bishop Jenky of Pope Francis. “He reminds me in that respect of Pope John Paul II, who in my experiences with him would constantly joke.”

Among the many other spiritual thrills Bishop Jenky experienced during this trip to Rome was being the principal celebrant and homilist at a Mass for the Notre Dame delegation at the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

“It’s huge and it’s awesome,” said the bishop, who acknowledged that “my hands were shaking a little.”

Bishop Jenky said he and other accompanying diocesan leaders prayed for the Diocese of Peoria throughout their visit, including at St. Peter’s tomb, St. Paul’s tomb, and other pilgrimage sites.

Others making the trip to visit Vatican offices included Patricia Gibson, chancellor; Msgr. James Kruse, vicar general; and Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation.

Bishop Jenky said that during a visit to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints he was given “great encouragement that the Sheen cause is marching right along.”

The group also visited with two priests of the Diocese of Peoria serving in Rome, Msgr. Jason Gray and Msgr. Richard Soseman.

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