As Labor Economics was one of my fields in graduate school, I always look at any hiring process with special interest. I therefore was intrigued at the new job opening I learned of Monday, with the news that our current Pope is resigning. Recalling what I was taught with fervor in the 1970s, that the people of faith ARE the church, I, at some level, consider myself to be part of a job search that will be soon seeking a successor to our current Pope. Recalling many job searches in other departments that I have participated in, I believe that even those who are not Roman Catholic have a stake in this search, and will be watching with interest. With the reminder that my contributions to this committee represent my opinions alone (and not those of IHE or Ursuline College), I begin this search by asking myself what qualities I would like to see in any successful candidate.
I approach this search from several perspectives. The first is from the perspective of an academic who has been part of Catholic Higher Education for all of my adult life. Looking back with fondness on those years, I hope that whoever is elected will support the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, a topic of recent discussion at Boston College. The authors there claim that this tradition may be thought of as including not only Theology and Philosophy, but also music, literature and other forms of art. Obviously, work arising from a Catholic perspective has brought much to the world, and encouraging such creativity is important not only for the Catholic Church but also for humankind in general. I hope that our next Pope realizes this.
I also approach this job search from the perspective of a mother with a young daughter who is being raised in the Catholic faith. I recall the day when I was young and heard the announcement on the radio one morning that “for the second time in thirty three days, the Catholic Church is without a Pope.” With turnover happening so quickly, I never suspected that the Pope that would be soon be appointed would be the same Pope that would be serving when I, with tenure (a word not yet in my vocabulary!), would take my own daughter home many years later. That world, with record players and the fairly new Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, was very different from the world we live in today. I hope that whoever assumes the position of Pope will be someone who will be able to be share wisdom with a world that I can only begin to imagine.
I hope that whoever assumes this job will put the well-being of all of our children as a first priority. I recall a seminar I attended once so I could be involved with parish youth activities alongside my daughter. As I sat in that seminar with other parents, I was brought to tears to learn that one of the men at my table had been a victim of abuse decades before. I hope that the successful job candidate will spend at least one weekend day of their own time to attend a seminar similar to the one that is required of parental volunteers in this part of Ohio.
Further, I hope that the successful candidate will appreciate and honor the contributions of the many women religious who have contributed so much over the centuries. I think of the vowed Religious Sisters, some of whom I work with, who spend their days feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and advocating for social justice, even to the point of being imprisoned or, in the case of one of our alumna, martyred. They are certainly doing the things that some claim will ultimately distinguish “sheep” from “goats”, and I hope that the next Pope will understand what a precious gift they are to the world.
Finally, I hope that whoever is appointed will move our Church in the direction of allowing all members to answer calls of vocation in all forms. I look forward to the day when I don’t have to explain to my daughter why her options are limited by her gender. I recall with sadness the conversation with her that began with her saying “I wish I was a boy, mommy, because then I could be a priest someday.” No mother should ever have to have that conversation with her daughter, and I look forward to the day when neither she, nor her own children, will have to have it with my own granddaughters or great granddaughters.
And so, fellow members of this newly formed search committee, what qualities do you hope to see in the successful candidate for the newly listed position for Bishop of Rome?