It was September 2014, and Chicago-based Loyola Press was negotiating for the rights to publish the North American English translation of Pope Francis’ second book.
At the same time, the pontiff was announcing his surprise choice of Blase Cupich, then bishop of Spokane, to succeed Cardinal Francis George as archbishop of Chicago.
And that gave Loyola Press an idea, said Tom McGrath, its director of trade and parish life resources.
“We thought, ‘He’s been selected by the pope for this prestigious position for a reason,” McGrath said.
“The more we got to know him, he seemed like someone who shared the vision of Pope Francis. He certainly seemed to get what Pope Francis was trying to get the church to move toward. We thought this would line up very well. He might be able to connect with an American audience.”
That idea worked out: Not only did Loyola get publishing rights to the book, once again beating out some of the country’s biggest publishers, but also it got Cupich to write its foreword.
And, the director said, “I think he did a superb job.”
The book, “Walking with Jesus: A Way Forward for the Church,” officially launches on Easter Sunday, April 5, although, McGrath said, it is available in some stores now.
While Pope Francis’ first book – “The Church of Mercy: A Vision for the Church,” published by Loyola Press in April 2014 – detailed who the church should be, “Walking with Jesus” explains why that church is essential.
In his foreword, Cupich calls the book “important and needed.”
“To walk with Jesus in the company of others describes the very essence of the church. And reclaiming this reality will generate a true renewal of our life together,” he writes.
It’s a timely message, the archbishop writes, for “our cultural moment, which often is marked by a hypercompetitive spirit and is fixated on an unhealthy individualism.”
It also is a timely message for Holy Week, McGrath said. Maundy Thursday remembers Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples, when He washed their feet and asked them to eat and drink in remembrance of Him in the Eucharist.
“That’s the epitome of why we need each other. You can’t go to Communion on your own. . . . Whose feet will you wash if you’re all on your own?” he said.
“When we walk with Jesus, we walk with others.”