Monsignor Richard Soseman saw the crowd running in the streets toward St. Peter’s Square.
The Quad-City native, who works in Vatican City, reached the square Wednesday evening just in time to see the last of the white smoke billow out of the smokestack on the Sistine Chapel. The massive bells of the basilica rang.
The crowd filled the square — which normally holds about 200,000 people — as well as the major avenue that runs from the square to the river, the Via della Conciliazione, Soseman said. The crowd waited an hour to hear the news.
“It was raining softly, but then the rain let up, so umbrellas went down and hopes went up,” Soseman said Thursday.
He reflected what he had witnessed as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio, 76, accepted the responsibility of leading the world’s Catholics as Pope Francis.
Soseman said he stood about 50 yards from the front of St. Peter’s Basilica, which gave him a good vantage point when the new pope came onto the balcony. He described the moment as “joyful and hopeful.”
Because Pope Francis is a Jesuit priest, Soseman said that fellow alumni from Marquette University, a Jesuit college in Milwaukee, emailed Soseman expressing their excitement. He also was excited the pope comes from Latin America.
“Since I worked for many years in Hispanic ministry and migrant ministry in the Diocese of Peoria, I am happy that a Latin American has been elected, especially one who has expressed by his way of life our solidarity with the downtrodden,” Soseman said.
Soseman grew up on Campbell’s Island and attended Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy in East Moline as well as Alleman High School, Rock Island. In 1992, he was ordained a priest in the Peoria diocese, with his first assignment at St. Mary’s, Moline.
While in the diocese, he conducted the local investigation to see if Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who was born in El Paso, Ill., might someday be a saint. Soseman went to work for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy in January 2008.
On Easter, he plans to celebrate the 2 p.m. Latin Mass at St. Anthony’s Church, Davenport.
Other Quad-Citians were in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday.
Sixteen alumni, staff and friends of St. Ambrose University, Davenport, including the university’s president, Sister Joan Lescinski, who described the moment as “profound and unforgettable.”
The contingent was led by the Rev. Bud Grant, St. Ambrose professor of theology. He said that hours before they were at the Vatican — before anyone knew who the new pope was or what his name would become — his group had visited Assisi to explore the home of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals and the environment, as well as one of the church’s earliest champions of the poor.