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April 12, 2013

Pope prompts reflections on Jesuit past

LAKE PLACID — Pope Francis touches hearts and minds, Roman Catholic and non-Catholic, as he makes his red-leather-shoes way as the newly elected Bishop of Rome.

The former cardinal’s Jesuit roots link him to the religious origins of this region, which date back to French-Canadian Jesuits founding St. Regis Mission in 1755.

“The foundations of the church in the North Country were supported by Jesuit missionaries,” the Rev. John R. Yonkovig of St. Agnes Catholic Church in Lake Placid said.

“There are no parishes that are presently staffed by them in the North Country.”

Fordham University, the Jesuit University of New York, was founded by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York in 1841. Then known as St. John’s College, it was staffed early on by priests of the Society of Jesus, which is the same order as Pope Francis, who is formerly known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

On March 11, 1958, he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus and was ordained on Dec. 13 1969, by Archbishop Ramon Jose Castellano.

Pope John Paul II made Bergoglio a cardinal and assigned him the title of San Roberto Bellarmino at the consistory on Feb. 21, 2001. 

“There are Jesuit roots here, but you have to dig deep,” Yonkovig said. “Jesuits, usually missionaries, come and establish the faith.”

Such was the case with St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Plattsburgh, where Yonkovig was previously assigned.

“Then, native clergy take over after the church got established. The number of Catholics began to grow, and young men from the parishes were sent off to school and they replaced the original missionaries,” Yonkovig said.

In Plattsburgh, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate arrived from Paris in 1853. The religious congregation was founded by St. Eugene de Mazenod in 1816.

“They followed the French immigrants and established the parish. They left in 1989. They moved on. Their charisma, their ministerial gift, their job description is to plant the seed of God’s word. They’re not the ones that harvest the word. The plant the word of God, and they move on,” Yonkovig said.

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