Katie Bogner’s new book “We Have a Pope”

Pope Francis is seen on the loggia, or balcony, of St. Peter's Basilica shortly after his election as pope on March 13, 2013. Catholic News Service Photo/ Paul Haring

Reviewed By Matthew Vander Vennet

Habemus papam! “We have a pope!” Those exciting words are waited for each time a papal conclave to elect the next successor to St. Peter takes place in Rome. With those words, the new pontiff emerges onto the loggia (balcony) and takes his place in history. Each papal conclave provides an opportunity to revisit the process of how a pope is chosen. Whenever the next conclave happens, we now have another fun and creative resource to refresh our memories and follow along.

Peoria’s own Katie Bogner has a new book out from Emmaus Road Publishing aptly titled “We Have a Pope” and illustrated beautifully by Kortnee Senn. As a father who strives to impart the Catholic faith to his family at every opportunity and through various means, I can say that this is one of the finest resources to explain what happens at a papal conclave — for children and adults!

Peoria author Katie Bogner’s new book, “We Have a Pope,” helps to break down the process of choosing a new pope for children and adults alike. Provided photo

When I first received the review copy, I could not wait to share the story with my children. We sat down as a family and read it out loud together. The book itself is a good size and is perfect for the scope of the illustrations. The narrative is simple and informative and kept the attention of my 8-and 5-year-olds, while the illustrations conveyed another level of the story to my 2-year-old who enjoyed the color of the cardinals and the pages showing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

The narrative is simple and informative and kept the attention of my 8-and 5-year-olds, while the illustrations conveyed another level of the story to my 2-year-old” — reviewer Matthew Vander Vennet

My wife and I enjoyed reading the final few pages that share a prayer for the pope, glossary of terms, the Veni Sancti Spiritus prayer, biblical references to the papacy, and especially the Latin phrases used during a conclave. There are bonuses that come with the book as well, such as matching, coloring, and activity pages for the kids (or adults) to enjoy.

This certainly will be a go to resource for my family the next time a conclave occurs. I can recommend it wholeheartedly!

In addition to my review, I was able to ask Katie some questions that give a little insight into the genesis of the idea for the book and how it ultimately became a reality — to everyone’s benefit. You can read our conversation below:


Matt Vander Vennet (MV): How did you get the idea for the book?

Katie Bogner (KB): The idea for this book actually came directly from my editor. After the death of Pope Benedict XVI, she encouraged me to consider writing a book about the pope — not a specific pope, but the papacy as a whole, the legacy and leadership from St. Peter until today, as well as how a new pope is elected. It was a huge idea, especially since the goal was to turn it into a picture book!

(MV): What were some of the steps it took to make this book a reality? (How long it took from idea to book)

(KB): This book started with a ton of research. I have pages and pages of notes on papal conclaves — there is so much history. But since this was a picture book I had to synthesize the big ideas and simplify the election process, and got the story down to about a thousand words. Once the manuscript was finalized, I added illustrator notes, sharing ideas for images that would help convey the story and symbols I thought would be important to include, especially to stretch the depth of a book with so few words.

My editor, the amazing illustrator Kortnee Senn, and I shared inspiring pictures and ideas, and then met over video to talk through the book page by page.

The timeline was relatively fast for a traditionally published book. The idea was pitched to me in January 2023, I turned in the manuscript in the early summer, worked with the illustrator during the summer and early fall, and the book released in February 2024 on the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter.

(MV): How did you go about researching for the book?

(KB): I did a lot of reading on the process of the conclave and some of the changes that have happened over time. I also had fun learning about unusual elections (St. Fabian for example). I watched news coverage of more recent elections and videos of the cardinals processing into the Sistine Chapel. I also looked at a lot of photos of St. Peter’s Basilica and photos/paintings of popes.

(MV): Did you already have an illustrator in mind as you wrote it or was a name suggested?

(KB): I have been fortunate that my publisher has asked me to put forth names for illustrators for my books. Kortnee was our top pick — she has a beautiful, whimsical style, and we were hoping to create a book that had the feel of a classic children’s book with a simple color palette and more of a timeless look. I’m so grateful that Kortnee said yes and I continue to be amazed by her illustrations.


(MV): Bishop Lou gave his Imprimatur, so, of course, he loved the book, right? 🙂

(KB): Ha! Well, I hope so 😉 I’m honored that all of my books have received the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur. As a teacher and catechist it is very important to me to have that reassurance that my words align with Catholic teaching and are clearly conveying the truth. I’m grateful for the time of the Censor Librorum, Msgr. Halfacre, and to be granted the Imprimatur from Bishop Lou and previously Bishop Jenky.

(MV): Who is the intended ideal audience and how should the book be used for greatest effect?

(KB): Picture books are always most appealing for younger audiences, so technically speaking the book is recommended for kids aged 5 to 9. However, picture books can be used in lots of different ways and I absolutely think that it can be read, enjoyed, and learned from by kids all the way through middle school or higher.

I’m actually using it this week with my sixth-grade students during our lesson on the Sacrament of Holy Orders. We also worked together with the illustrator to make a set of bonus activity pages that match the book. Those are available for free with orders from my publisher, The St. Paul Center. We really want to support kids of all ages learning about the gift of the papacy and how a papal conclave works.

One thing that I didn’t plan but that became quite evident during the writing (and then later the illustrating process) is that rather than the pope, the “main character” of this book actually ended up being the Holy Spirit.” — author Katie Bogner

(MV): Why did you choose the popes you chose in the section on the passing of the keys? (Great selection, by the way.)

(KB): The illustrator Kortnee actually chose the specific popes on the papal succession page, but we had discussed starting with St. Peter and stretching through the centuries. We wanted popes that were canonized or at least virtuous examples. Peter, Gregory the Great, Celestine V, Pius V, Leo XIII, and John Paul II ended up making it in that illustration. (An illustration that resembles Pope Benedict XVI can be found on another page since he was the catalyst for creating the book).

The popes are not named in the text of the book, but we share a list in the appendix.  After her illustrations were complete, I created a set of bonus trading cards featuring those popes with stats about their lives and what they are remembered for.

(MV): Anything else you would like to share?


(KB): One thing that I didn’t plan but that became quite evident during the writing (and then later the illustrating process) is that rather than the pope, the “main character” of this book actually ended up being the Holy Spirit.

We wanted to show that the Holy Spirit has been guiding the Church for 2000 years and will continue until the end of time. We shared this by including a Holy Spirit dove on almost every page spread. The dove flies over the nearly empty St. Peter’s Square, leads the Cardinals into the Sistine Chapel, sits on the shoulder of the Cardinal Elector, and waits on the chapel roof for the sight of white smoke.

On the last page of the book, the Holy Spirit dove rests on the railing of the Benediction Loggia next to the newly elected pope as he looks out over St. Peter’s Square and gives his blessing to the people. The Holy Spirit leads us now and will lead the Church during the next papal election!

Michelangelo’s Pietà at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Adobe stock/Didier Laurent

(MV): Can you share any forthcoming books you are working on?

(KB): At the end of 2023, I released a book called All about Advent & Christmas: Sharing the Seasons of Hope & Wonder with Children. It is a fully illustrated informational book that teaches about the big picture of the Season of Advent, but also gives explanations of the traditions and celebrations we share. It was well received, and we were immediately asked if there would be a companion Lent book — so I’m happy to share that I’m currently wrapping up the manuscript for All about Lent & Holy Week, also illustrated by Shari Van Vranken, which will release in time for Lent 2025, God willing!

(MV): Thanks, Katie!

Katie Bogner has also authored, “Through the Year with Jesus” and “Through the Year with Mary.”  She is a junior high faith formation teacher at St. Philomena School in Peoria and a member of Immaculate Conception Parish in Lacon. Her blog can be found at LookToHimAndBeRadiant.com. The site features free lesson plans and other resources for teaching the faith.

MATTHEW VANDER VENNET is Director of Mission & Assistant Professor of Theology at Donnelly College in Kansas City. He was previously director of advancement at The High School of Saint Thomas More in Champaign. He earned his doctorate in Church History from The Catholic University of America and is a member of The Catholic Post’s book review team. He and his wife Liz are parents of Lucy (8), Jude (5), Lily (2), and Jack (1 month).





SPALDING PASTORAL CENTER | 419 NE MADISON AVENUE | PEORIA, IL 61603 | PHONE (309) 671-1550 | FAX (309) 671-1595
© Copyright 2024 - The Catholic Post || All Rights Reserved || Design by TBare.com