Sunday, June 9, 2013

When Life Gives you Lemons . . . You Might Run into a Good Friend!

Friday afternoon I experienced a brief but meaningful encounter.  I had lost my voice and was feeling a bit under the weather, so I left El Arca a few hours early.  When I got home, it occurred to me that I could prepare myself chamomile tea with honey and lemon to help my throat heal.  Fortuitously, I had bought honey the day before, and although I had not bought lemons, one of the perks of volunteering at Santo Sacramento is access to the lemon tree in the courtyard.  Fortunately, the lemons are currently at the end of their semiannual cycle and are thus ripe for picking!  

I climbed the tree in my quest for the perfect lemon, and as I perused the selection, I saw Claudio (member of Santo Sacramento and friend of El Arca) come out of one of the classrooms where alternative primary school sessions take place during the week (Santo Sacramento provides space for government-paid classes directed toward students who could not finish primary school the first time around).  I waved to him and got down to say hi.  He asked me “what were you doing up there?” and gave me a big bear hug.  I explained that I was picking out a lemon, and when he heard me talk he asked “what happened to your voice?”  I laughed, because he was the third person to make fun of my silly laryngitis voice that day, but of course in good sport.  I told Claudio that his friends at El Arca sent him greetings as always and had just asked me if he was doing well.  He responded in the affirmative, so I have good news to bring back to El Arca on Monday.  
Claudio then returned to his studies and I went off to make my tea.  It was a brief encounter, but so delightful and unexpected, as if it were a surprise arranged for Claudio and me by God.  I think the simple moments such as this one will be among the most memorable when I look back on my year as a YAGM. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Photo Updates from the last two Months!

Hey readers, long-time no write!  

As inevitably happens each time I keep a blog, I have lost my initial enthusiasm over time and have started to slack on keeping my blog updated.  For that reason, I have a lot to catch up on!  Here's an overview of the last two months in bullet points and photos.  I hope you enjoy!

  • March 29th: David H. (not to be confused with David R.), one of the new El Arca assistants, arrives from Bogota, Colombia.  David worked as a musical therapist in Bogota for two years before joining El Arca.  Here he is (center) with Julio (left) and Maxi (right) at the April El Arca spiritual gathering.

March 31st: Easter! Santo Sacramento offers a special Easter breakfast complete with Easter crafts made by the kids.  Here are some of my “students” playing outside after the breakfast: Camila, Selena, Aymara and Yamila.

  • April 6th: Katrin, the other new El Arca assistant, arrives!  Katrin is from Germany, but she spent the last six months volunteering at a school in Brazil!  Katrin worked in a hospital in Germany for three years, and this experience has really come in handy in the home!  Here she is with Yanet:

  • April 13th: El Arca celebrates Osvaldo’s 65th birthday!  Here he is with his best friend, Dani Guerrero. 

  • April 19th: El Arca participates in the Special Olympics at Colegio Newman, a private school in the neighborhood with which El Arca has a special relationship!  Here’s Maxi competing in the long-jump.  He won third place and is so proud!

  • April 26th: El Arca visits an educational farm with lots of cute animals!  Here are Dani and Julio with a friendly and energetic goat! 

  • April 30th: El Arca celebrates its favorite artist Yanet’s 21st birthday.  

May 1st, Labor Day: The El Arca home enjoys an excursion to Temaikén Zoo.

  • May 4th: I visit “Teatro Ciego” (Blind Theater) for the second time, this time accompanied by my El Arca friends Kait, Katrin, David and Belen.
  • May 5th:  Gabriella, a student from the United States who contacted me expressing interest in getting involved with Santo Sacramento, comes to Villa Ballester to participate in Santo Sacramento’s weekly worship and activities. 
  • May 9th: Maru Botana, a locally famous chef with her own cooking show, came to El Arca to teach a cooking class!  We made chipas (a Paraguayan baked good made with yucca flour, butter and cheese) and scones.  It was quite the event!
  • El Arca celebrates the inauguration of its Spirituality Center,  located in a former convent in the partido of Olivos, not far from the home.  Dozens of friends, sponsors, and volunteers join the El Arca acogidos for a celebratory mass presided by not just one, but six priests as well as the Bishop of San Isidro.  Sandra read the scripture, Dani and Yanet collected the offering, and Maxi proudly and enthusiastically sang alongside the guitarists.  Afterwards we all viewed the 2012 Institutional video: and sang the Community Song, which has become a classic at El Arca gatherings complete with hand motions:

It’s me, it’s me, it’s me who builds community (3x)

Chorus: Rolling over the ocean, rolling over the sea, everywhere I go I build community (2x)

It’s you, it’s you, it’s you who builds community (3x)


It’s us, it’s us, it’s us who build community (3x)


It’s God, it’s God, it’s God who builds community (3x)


May 11th: The day Maxi had been eagerly anticipating for months arrived: his 21st birthday!  We decked the house in River colors (red and white) for the occasion and held a birthday bash in Maxi’s honor, complete with pizza, the presence of Maxi’s mother and siblings, and an inevitable performance of “Sweet Maria” (the song written by Padre Dani that Maxi and I always sing together).  I gave Maxi a River-themed card and the DVD of “Hotel Transylvania,” the movie we saw the theater together last year.  

Maxi makes his birthday wish!  That ridiculously rich cake, called a Rogel, was a surprise delivery from Maru Botana's kitchen!  Lots of layers of dulce de leche and an extravagant meringue topping.  Yummmy

Maxi and I performing our "show" with Osvaldo looking on cheerfully

I had the pleasure of bringing a special guest to the party- fellow YAGM Emery from Montevideo!  In fact, it was Emery who took the photos of Maxi’s and my “show.”  It was cool to introduce a fellow YAGM to my volunteer placement and vice versa for the first time.  Maxi’s brother Ariel snapped this spontaneous photo of us at the party, which actually turned out really well!

After the party, Emery and I went to La Boca, a famous tourist destination in Buenos Aires known for its history, colorful houses and tango.  Surprisingly, neither of us had been there yet!  La Boca is an old neighborhood by the port that was settled by Spanish and Italian immigrants in the late 19th century.  Leftover paint from the ships that the immigrant workers painted was used to give La Boca’s houses their signature array of bright colors.  La Boca is also home of the famous soccer team Boca Juniors, of which Osvaldo is a huge fan.  

Emery and I got to watch these tango dancers perform at the cafe where we stopped for cafe con leche an medialunes (coffee with milk and croissants)

May 12th-May 15th: With the expiration of our 90-day tourist visas fast approaching, Kjerstin, Emery and I embarked on a mini adventure in Uruguay in order to get our passports stamped and enjoy some quality YAGM time while at it.  We spent two nights in Las Termas de Dayman, which are hot springs in northwestern Uruguay near the Uruguay River.  Our hotel was really cozy and reasonably priced, complete with a delicious breakfast buffet and soothing hot pools.

Here we are posing by the Uruguay River, the border between Argentina and Uruguay

Oh hot spring-fed pools, how I miss you now that the weather has actually gotten cold!

The resort had a peaceful, luxurious campground (is that an oxymoron?) "onda" (feel)

On Tuesday, Kjerstin headed back to Buenos Aires and Emery and I took a bus to Montevideo so I could visit the city and get a glimpse of Emery’s daily life (Kjerstin has already been).  I met Emery’s housemates, who are all super “buena onda” (good vibes) and even played “manzanas con manzanas” (apples to apples) with them!  On Wednesday, my only full day in Montevideo, Emery showed me his favorite spots around the city, and we tried our best not to get blown over by the intensely strong and cold wind.  

Emery and me at La Plaza de Independencia in Montevideo

The dome of the Montevideo Cathedral

Posing at "La Rambla"- the sea/riverside path that stretches 13 kilometers along the edge of the city

For more details about Uruguay, stay tuned for an upcoming blog post (oh the suspense- now I’ve got you hooked, ha ha!)

May 19th: The residents of the El Arca home, plus Rosi and Dani Guerrero, attend worship at Santo Sacramento!  We had been planning on this for a while, so it was exciting to finally see our dream realized!  It was especially beautiful to witness the joyful reunion between Claudio and his El Arca friends who miss his presence at the workshop so much (Claudio is a member of the church who I accompanied to the taller for a while last year, but extenuating circumstances have prevented him from continuing).  The El Arca acogidos showed him so much love, and vice versa.  As they had done with my Dad during my family's visit, the "muchachos" included Maxi, Dani and David in their weekly soccer game in the mini "cancha."  Maxi had a blast- no surprise there!

Here we all are (missing Katrin who took the photo!) posing in front of Santo Sacramento's "El Arca de Noe" (Noah's Ark- very fitting!) mural.  That's Claudio third from the left, second row giving a thumbs up

Dani, Claudio y Osvaldo en la capilla

Rosi and Claudio in the cancha (soccer field)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

An International Visit Like No Other

Every once and a while, I have a sudden realization of just how incredibly lucky I am.  Most of the time I go through the motions of daily life with a generally positive attitude but without fully appreciating my blessings, or perhaps even complaining or moaning about something I feel is wrong or missing.  But occasionally God sends me a sign that reminds me of how much I have to be thankful for.

My family’s visit during holy week was an example of such a sign.  Their fleeting but meaningful presence in my host communities that week reminded me both of how blessed I am to have my family and how blessed I am to be here in Buenos Aires surrounded by all the amazing people I have met.  My family affirmed how great they are in the gushing way they talked about my facilitators, friends, and the acogidos at El Arca.  Although they were only able to stay for a week, my family left a lasting impression on my host communities, and my host communities on them.  They exchanged thoughtful gifts as reminders of this brief yet heartfelt encounter, and now the people at El Arca and Santo Sacramento often ask me to “mandar saludos” (send greetings) to my family, while my family asks me to “say hi” to the people here. 

I had the unique opportunity to share my daily life as a YAGM with my family at a level that far surpasses what readers of my blog can ever understand.  No matter how descriptive or thorough my blog-writing is, I think my family can attest that there is no parallel to actually seeing, hearing and experiencing Santo Sacramento, El Arca and the city of Buenos Aires.  My mom says that for her, one of the coolest benefits of visiting me is that now when I talk to her on skype about a certain person, activity or place, she knows exactly what I mean and can picture it vividly. 

Mere hours after arriving early Sunday morning, March 24th, my family attended the Santo Sacramento Palm Sunday service.  They didn’t understand much, but they were warmly welcomed by the congregation and got to hold beautiful olive branches.  Despite the language barrier, Mom did a great job singing along to the hymns, at least melody-wise. 

After the service they got to meet the Santo Sacramento youth, who peppered them with questions about their lives in the U.S.  After lunch, when the weekly “futbol” (soccer) game commenced, my Dad and David were invited to join.  Futbol isn’t really David’s things, so he didn’t last long, but my Dad played long and hard, which I found miraculous considering he had just been on an overnight international flight.  At one point, a bunch of the kids started shouting “tu padre hizo cuatro goles!  Hizo cuato goles” (Your Dad made four goals!!  Four goals!!)  Very quickly, my Dad seemed to have won the hearts of the Santo Sacramento boys.  

Here he is in action:

Hernan, Mauro, my Dad, Abigail and Lucas

Hernan, Ivan, my Dad, Celene and Martin

My Dad also won the heart of Eire, Cristina’s granddaughter, who is the sweetest little 5 year old girl in the world.  Eire was a wonderful hostess.  She brought out a little picnic blanket and a basket of toys to share with my Dad on the front lawn.  Eire motioned to me and whispered in my ear “I need to tell you something.  Tell your Dad that I’m going to teach him words in Spanish.  I need you to tell him because he doesn’t understand me.”  Eire says the darndest things!  She seriously brightens my life here so much with her charming, homemade gifts (drawings and ingenious folded-paper creations), her promises that we will be friends forever, and her precious hugs. 

Here’s photo evidence of Eire and Dad’s tete a tete.  

During the week we tried to visit as many points of interest in the capital as time and energy allowed, which involved getting to know the Buenos Aires public transportation system rather more intimately than my family ever wanted.  We spent a lot of time on crowded buses, subtes (subways) and trains, after which my parents understood why I don’t go into the city more often.  I hope, though, that seeing the city was worth the hassle for them!

We visited the cathedral, the Plaza de Mayo, the obelisk, the Recoleta cemetery, the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (MALBA), and the Carlos Thays botanical garden in Palermo.  And on Thursday, Sebastian (a member of the congregation) graciously offered to take us to Tigre in his car.

Here are some photos from our sight-seeing:

David strikes a pose at the Plaza de Mayo (That's the Casa Rosada in the background)

David and I stand outside my house upon arriving.  My family was pampered to 5-star accommodations at the Wilke Home for Señoritas!!

Father and son bond over Quilmes, Argentine beer at Guido's Bar in Palermo

Mom gets her Starbucks fix

At the MALBA 

An aerial shot at the MALBA

The Carlos Thays Botanical Garden in Palermo

Botanical Garden 

Botanical Garden

Avenida del Libertador in Palermo at night, wandering around looking for the 130 bus stop!

Dad wandering pensively through the beautiful and historic Recoleta Cemetery, where Eva Perón is buried

El Teatro Colon, Where the Opera Takes Place

El Obelisco on the Avenida 9 de Julio

David and Sebastian on a Catamaran in Tigre

And los hermanos!

My family's first Argentine asado at a restaurant in Tigre

On Tuesday, we visited El Arca, where my family got to finally meet some of the “famous” people I have talked so much about on my blog.  The El Arca acogidos had eagerly anticipated my family’s arrival for several weeks, especially Maxi and Osvaldo.  Even before meeting them, Osvaldo said that my parents and brother were “amigos mios!” (his friends) and he told me that my Dad would kill him for being smooth with my Mom (Osvaldo likes all women, and he’s always joking about how some husband or boyfriend is going to kill him).

We started out in the taller, where we were greeted by Maxi, Osvaldo, Noelia, Yanet, Sabrina, Dani, Julio, Barbi, Belén and a volunteer named Sandra (not to be confused with the resident Sandra).  Noelia, Maxi and Dani explained the activities that take place in the workshop, Sabrina taught my mom how to assemble sopapas, and Noelia (inevitably) sang “Celebra La Vida” by Axel to my family.  When Noelia learned that my whole family sings, she asked us to sing for her.  My mom and I pulled out an operatic duet we had sung together several years ago, my brother sang “Beati Quorum Via” from his choral repertoire, and later, at lunch, my Dad sang “Old Man River.” 

Barbi (the administrator of the taller), as any good Argentine host/ess should, offered my family their first mate.  The peculiar flavor of yerba mate has not yet grown on them, but there’s still hope for converting them!  

We joined everyone for lunch at the home, where my family was able to meet Kaitlyn, Rosi and Patricia and share what has become a joyful part of my daily routine: the community-building midday meal.  Here we are:

At the end of the meal, my Mom presented the gifts she had brought for the home: a peeler (for vegetables) that you can slip on your finger like a ring (perfect for Osval!), a dish towel with a map of Minnesota on it, large clothespins in the shape of birds (perfect for Marcos!) and a bag of chocolates (a special request from Maxi).  The El Arca home goes through dish towels at an astounding rate, so that Minnesota dish towel is being put to good use.  It’s a nice reminder of my family’s visit. 

My family took home some sweet reminders of their visit too.  Maxi gave my Dad one of the leather El Arca key-chains he crafts and sells, my housemate Maria (the sweet lady who spoils me to death) gave them a wooden box in the shape of a turtle from Concepción, Chile (her origin), and my housemate Emilia gave them a mate that says “Buenos Aires.”  There are probably more gifts that I am forgetting.  The point is, my host communities were really generous, welcoming and hospitable, and now they remember my family fondly, often asking me how they are doing or commenting on how agreeable they are or how wonderful it was to meet them.  All things considered, reflecting on the experience fills me with a satisfying feeling of warmth and fuzziness.  As for my family, ask them yourselves, but I have an inkling it’s an experience they’ll never forget.  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

¡Otro Casamiento! (Another Wedding)

On Saturday, March 16th, I had the opportunity to attend my second Argentine wedding!  What a coincidence- I don’t attend weddings nearly as often in the U.S.!  Maybe Argentina is a more romantic country, and simply being here increases your probability of receiving a wedding invitation (laugh track). 

This time, I had not just one, but eight wedding dates: Osvaldo, Marcos, Maxi, Sandra, Romina, Kaitlyn and Mirta, all from El Arca!  We attended the wedding of Ana, an occupational therapist and friend of the community who worked with Marcos during his first year living in the home in addition to volunteering in the workshop.  I had met Ana once before, on December 25th of all days, when she visited the home to wish everyone (especially Marcos) a Merry Christmas!

This was not just any wedding.  It took place in the countryside of Buenos Aires province in a small town called Valdes, a 3 hour drive from Boulogne, and the whole affair had a distinctly gaucho (Argentine-cowboy) flavor.  The ceremony took place in a small, beautiful chapel with a rustic feel, and the groom enhanced the rustic ambiance by dressing like a gaucho himself!  He wore high leather boots with baggy tan pants tucked into them, a red sash for a belt, a white dress shirt with a brown best, a bandana around his neck and a typical gaucho hat, which to me looks suspiciously similar to a French beret.  Here he is with the El Arca caballeros (gentlemen):

Marcos, Dani, Osvaldo, Francisco and Maxi

As guests gradually trickled in and waited for the bride to arrive, an acoustic ensemble of guitar, voice, flute and drums serenaded us from the balcony.  I was happy to recognize a few of the songs from previous masses I had attended with El Arca.  Listening to the drifting, mellifluous music while sitting in that beautiful place made me feel like I was in a fairytale.

Ana, the bride, was the protagonist of this fairytale.  She had a simple (by contemporary standards) yet ethereal look.  Her wavy hair hung loose down her back and her dress was elegantly classic, with lacy cap sleeves and satin buttons.  Here she is with the El Arca acogidos:

Maxi, Marcos, Ana, Osvaldo, Dani and Sandra

The experience felt even more like a fairy tale at the post-ceremony asado when the newlyweds arrived on horseback.  A crowd of cheering friends and family members awaited them as they gracefully slid off the horse and into their celebration.  

Unfortunately, due to schedule constraints, we were unable to stay at the party long.  We stayed long enough to delight in the delectable cheese and bread appetizers and the more-than-filling Argentine asado, though!  Then we headed back to El Arca, cosily huddled together in the van.  All things considered, it was a lovely outing!  I feel so blessed to have shared this day with such a great group of people.  

Here are two more photos from the wedding that I really like:

Marcos, Romina, Mirta, me and Sandra

 Kait and Osvaldo

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lessons in Limosna and Confidence with Maxi

A few weeks ago, on Thursday, February 28th, El Arca held its monthly “encuentro de espiritualidad” (spirituality gathering) in the home, with a focus on the significance of Lent.  We discussed three important liturgical themes during the season of lent: oracion (prayer), penitencia (repentance) and limosna (charity), but we certainly made these serious themes fun!  By Osvaldo’s request, we opened the “encuentro” with an icebreaker to his all-time favorite song, “Bienvenido Amor” by Argentine singer Palito Ortegas (he listens to Palito Ortegas almost every day).  We played a musical-chairs-esque game in which we danced in pairs for a while until the music stopped, and we had to ask each other a question (e.g. what did you do this summer?), and then when the music started again, we switched partners and started over again.  

Later on, we discussed the central themes of lent in small groups, with one group for each theme.  I was in the charity group.  We talked about how charity is much more than just giving alms in church on Sunday; it’s really anything you can offer of yourself to benefit others or to demonstrate love for God.  We created a brief skit to illustrate this concept to the rest of the group.  

Today, a few weeks later, I witnessed a beautiful example of limosna in Maxi.  We were walking to the bus stop on the way to our weekly basketball game, and we passed an elderly man who was struggling to step down from the curb in order to cross the street.  I barely noticed him, my mind having wandered elsewhere as it tends to do.  But Maxi certainly noticed him.  Maxi was so drawn to this elderly man that he offered to help him down from the curb.  The man eagerly accepted his offer and thanked him with a big, somewhat astounded smile.  We said goodbye and continued on our way, and I was overwhelmed with pride of Maxi. I congratulated him for being so considerate and pointed out that it was a perfect example of the acts of limosna we had discussed in the “encuentro.” Maxi was really proud of himself too.  It was a feel-good moment.  
But this wasn’t the first time that Maxi’s compassionate, giving nature had been illuminated to me.  He has a remarkable way of interacting with people, always greeting people even if he doesn’t know them that well, and asking not only how they are but also how their brother, boyfriend, girlfriend, mother etc. are doing!  Maxi inspires me to herd my thoughts back to the here and now so I too can be attentive to the needs and feelings of others.  
I felt proud of Maxi for another reason today.  When we got to the basketball court, unfortunately the regular crew of boys weren’t there to play with us, so we spent the whole time practicing shots.  In the past Maxi has gotten discouraged and bored really quickly when we do this because he struggles to make shots and would rather be playing a game with the neighborhood boys.  But today Maxi accepted the absence of the boys quite maturely and patiently, determinedly practiced shots with me.  His practice must be paying off, because he made about 60% of the shots!  This was a huge increase from past weeks, and much more impressive than my own percentage of successes!

I firmly believe that if Maxi can work up enough self-confidence, he is capable of so many things.  If he convinces himself that he can’t do something, he will just get frustrated and give up, but today he was on a roll!  I’ve seen this with reading and writing, too.  Maxi understands Spanish phonetics really well, but he lacks fluidity in processing phonemes and stringing them into words.  Recently, he has started working with Micaela, a new volunteer who is studying occupational therapy, on reading and writing, and he is really enjoying their sessions!  Now when he asks me what something says, I think twice before telling him and challenge him to figure it out himself.  

I could really learn from my own advice to Maxi.  He reminds me of the importance of self-confidence, something that I too struggle with.  But if Maxi has confidence, I can muster up confidence too!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

¡El Papa es Argentino! ¡El Papa es Argentino!

Undoubtedly you have all heard the news about the new Pope, Francisco I, who was previously a Cardinal and the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.  Being in Argentina during this historic appointment has been a memorable experience.  Previously I paid very little attention to the Pope, but now I belong to a Catholic community (El Arca)  which places great importance on the Pope. 

On the day of his appointment (March 13th), I happened to arrive at the El Arca home mere minutes before the announcement.  Maxi ran to the door to let me in and he and Rosi yelled “come Lisa, come Lisa!  They’re going to elect the new Pope!”  I found the two of them plus Osvaldo (whose nap had been interrupted for the occasion and was therefore a bit disheveled) sitting in front of the TV, watching the live coverage of the last few hours of the Vatican conclave.  When they announced the new Pope, Rosi was incredulous.  She kept saying “no, no” over and over again, and when the news had sunk in, she was ecstatic!  Maxi and Osvaldo got excited too, and I tried my best to share in their joy in spite of my lack of investment in the matter.  

Speculators on the papal conclave never predicted that Bergoglio would be appointed, and much less Argentines themselves!  Bergoglio marks a lot of firsts for the Vatican.  He’s the first Pope from Latin America, the first Pope to come from the Jesuit Order and the first Pope to be named Francis (or Francisco in Spanish).  Only Bergoglio knows why he chose the name Francis, but journalists have speculated that he chose it for St. Francis of Assisi or for a different St. Francis, the one who started the Jesuit order.  If so, Francis seems to be a fitting name for Bergoglio by virtue of his consistent solidarity with the poor throughout his career.  Bergoglio spent a lot of time visiting villas (slums), especially the notorious Villa 31, located in the retiro neighborhood in the federal capital, right next door to the train and omnibus stations.  Bergoglio is also known for a lifestyle that challenges traditional notions of church hierarchy.  As a cardinal, he dressed merely as a priest, and he lived in an apartment instead of a palace.  He also always got around using public transportation.  I wonder whether he’ll insist on continuing this habit now that he’s the Pope!  

Padre Pepe, who gives mass at the El Arca chapel about once a month and was the person responsible for introducing Osvaldo to El Arca, received phone calls from journalists last week asking for information about Bergoglio, who was until recently Pepe’s superior.  Even Pastor Angel, the pastor of El Santo Sacramento, was approached by newspapers via email, asking him if he had been friends with Bergoglio.  I suddenly find myself in the unexpected situation of knowing several people who know the Pope personally!  

While the El Arca community rejoices, I’m not exactly sure how to feel. I feel happy and excited for their sake, but because I am not Roman Catholic, the news can never have as much meaning for me as it does for them.  I have also recently learned of a controversial aspect of Bergoglio that detracts from the saintly image the rest of his history paints.  Bergoglio has been accused of not doing enough to save persecuted priests during the fascist dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983) and for taking a generally passive stance toward the human rights abuses of said dictatorship.  It is difficult to know what to believe, however, when the facts are so hazy.  Whether he really “deserves” the appointment or not (and who am I to decide that?), and although I do not personally believe that the Pope is the ultimate Christian authority, Francisco I will undeniably have a huge influence on the world.  For that reason, even as a Protestant, I have no qualms with praying for him as he requested in his first papal address