Opinion by Chris Lowney
(CNN) – Every day, millions of Americans perform a task that epitomizes Pope Francis’ leadership style: They do the laundry.
I came to that somewhat surprising conclusion while talking to Jesuit priests who lived with the future Pope, then known as the Rev. Jorge Bergoglio, during the early 1980s. At the time, they were young Jesuit seminarians, and he was their “boss,” the rector of their 100-member community.
“He was very demanding when it came to studies,” one of them told me. “Do what you’re doing and do it well,” he used to say.
But the rector wanted the budding Jesuits to learn from people, not just from books.
“He used to send us to the opera and also have us clean the seminary bathrooms, because he wanted us to be adaptable to all kinds of situations.”
The seminarians all did volunteer work in poor communities, and one of them remembers Bergoglio telling them that “closeness to the poor is important for the formation of a priest’s heart.”
His mantra at the time was: “You’re going to learn from these people before you teach them anything,” the young Jesuits recall.
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