“Felicidades al Papa Francisco” was written on the cakes that Dolores Mission parishioners got to taste after each of the five Sunday (March 17) Masses at the Jesuit-administered parish in Boyle Heights, in celebration of newly-elected Pope Francis.Dolores Mission has become a landmark in Los Angeles. When it was assigned to the Society of Jesus in 1980, gang activity was rampant in the area, resulting in crime increases and hundreds of homicides.Today crime has decreased considerably and parishioners believe it was the Jesuits’ presence in the neighborhood that drew attention from local government, politicians and the Los Angeles Police Department.“Our community is now united because of the Jesuits,” said Ana Zarceno, a parishioner for 25 years and Boyle Heights resident since 1984. “A group of parishioners was trained and we went door by door asking residents what were their main concerns.”So for most parishioners, the hope from having a new pope comes more from knowing the Jesuit ministry to the poor than from the pope’s nationality, although they welcomed the fact that he is a Latino.“He looks humble and really nice, considerate of other people,” said Rosa Bonilla, the head of parish religious education, who started attending the church and volunteering 11 years ago after arriving from El Salvador with her husband and their four children.“It doesn’t matter if he’s Argentinian,” she said. “It matters how he is going to take care of the poor; how is he going to work for the people and with the people like they do here at Dolores Mission. He looks peaceful and I’m happy with the words I’ve heard from him.”“He seems to be a good man, and because he’s Latino he knows our traditions and ways of doing things. There’s hope in that he could manage things better in favor of all believers,” said Alberto Hernandez, an auto mechanic from Mexico who lives a few blocks east of Dolores Mission. Hernandez was drawn to the church 22 years ago when he learned about the support provided to Central American refugees during the 1980s civil war in that region. “The priests didn’t charge any rent to the people who stayed here to sleep and every week they fed about 200 to 300 people,” he said. “Here they help those who need spiritual food.”Especially happy was Francisco Reyes. “He chose my name and he is Latino,” smiled the Mexican worker who does not live in the area but attends Dolores Mission because “it’s one of the few churches that has an early Mass (7:30 a.m.). I like it, because there’s something special about coming to Mass before eating your first meal and I always hear a good message. At this church I have learned to become more human, to see things in a more positive way, which in turn increases my faith.”Dora Vega, a parishioner for the last 20 years, said she is happy that the pope is a Latino, “but I need to see results,” she added. “I want to see that he does something significant about sexual abuse within the church and about other issues affecting people. So his nationality is not that important to me.”‘Ignatian spirituality is in our DNA’As he started the mid-morning Mass in Spanish, Jesuit Father Theodore Gabrielli, associate pastor, told the assembly it was a surprise and an honor for a Jesuit to be named pope.“Today we will pray for him, we will pray for the people of Latin America who are joyful of having one of their own at the Vatican,” he continued. “And we hope this is a time of change, and that this is what the Church needs.”“What Jesuits have in common is the Ignatian spirituality that unites us and helps us to discern where God is calling us,” Jesuit Father Scott Santarosa, pastor, told The Tidings. “Ignatian spirituality is in our DNA, a well thought-out and well time-tested spirituality, even by St. Ignatius in his own life, long before it was written down.”Of Pope Francis, the pastor noted, “It remains to be seen what he does, but I’m really moved that the cardinals voted for someone who is not from Europe, and that they voted for a Jesuit because it says to me that people have trust in the Jesuits.”And he welcomed the pope’s concern for the poor. “That’s music to my ears, because that’s what Dolores Mission is,” said Father Santarosa. Union workers’ leader Maria Elena Durazo, a longtime Dolores Mission parishioner, agreed.“The most hopeful sign for me is his deep devotion to the poor,” she said. “I hope that moves him to take stronger, more pro-active statements about things that are happening throughout the world. I hope he helps get people out of poverty, which is not only saying I stand with the poor, but what are the solutions that he is going to support.”The primary work of the Jesuits in Argentina is education, said Father Gabrielli, who as the California provincial assistant of international ministries has had the opportunity to see first-hand the work of the members of his community in South America. Recently, the province of Argentina merged with the province of Uruguay, with whom the California Province has a longstanding relationship.Aside from running top-level universities, the Jesuits operate a federation of secondary and primary schools as well as “Fe y Alegría” (Faith and Happiness), an international school network that focuses on “the poorest of the poor.”“One of their slogans is ‘Fe y Alegría begins where the pavement ends,’” said Father Gabrielli. “They are in other countries, but in Argentina I was surprised to see how they provide quality education for people in great need, being fully aware that education is transformative.“With his statements, Pope Francis is reminding the Church that we are invited to embrace Christ poor, and that the Church is the Church of Christ poor. When you stand with the poor, it is transformative.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0322/popedolores/{/gallery}