The suspense of selecting a new Pope captivated Catholics around the world and caused a lot of stress for a Washington mother.

“It was maddening,” Shirley Dolan, mother of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Friday. “All I can say is I’m so glad it’s over.”

Shirley Dolan said the days leading up to the selection of Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, last Wednesday was one of the most exciting albeit stressful periods of her life.

“I felt like I went through the wringer, she explained. “I was on pins and needles the whole time. The thought that I could have been the mother of the Pope was overwhelming. I think it would be for any mother. The whole thing was unbelievable.”

Mrs. Dolan said her son called her last Thursday morning the day after the announcement and admonished her for worrying about the outcome of the papal selection. He reminded her of their previous conversations where he maintained he wasn’t in serious contention.

“When he called he said, ‘Mom, why are you all worked up about this? I told you there was no way I would be picked,’ ” she said. “He said the same thing to me right before he left for Rome. He said he wouldn’t be picked first because he is American and because he hadn’t been a Cardinal for that long. He knew all along he wasn’t going to be in the running.”

Mrs. Dolan said the media buildup about her son’s chances started immediately after Pope Benedict XVI announced he would resign on Feb. 28. The last time a Pope stepped down was in 1415.

Mrs. Dolan said she learned of the resignation from a television reporter who called her at home at 5:30 a.m. in the morning wanting to know her reaction and what she thought of her son’s chances. She said the media attention contributed to her anxiety.

Speculation that Cardinal Dolan was a long shot candidate to replace Pope Benedict continued to build in news accounts. Many papal observers felt the New York Cardinal had a chance in what was considered a wide-open field because of his popularity and his conservative views.

Shirley Dolan said she received interview requests from over 20 different media outlets, including the New York Times and that she spent much of last week staying with her daughter to avoid reporters, some of whom had been staking out her house.
“A classmate of Tim’s called and wanted to know if I had made security arrangements,” Mrs. Dolan said. “He suggested that if by some chance Tim were to get it, I would need some help. Up until that time I hadn’t really thought of that and I didn’t really know what to do. Father Mike (Boehm, pastor of Our Lady Lourdes Catholic Church) asked me if I wanted to stay with him.”

Mrs. Dolan said she was relieved her son wasn’t chosen, acknowledging her reasons were selfish.  

“He would have been a great Pope but he would have no life, at least not the life he has now,” she said. “We are a tight-knit family and Tim comes home a lot for baptisms and other family events. I don’t know if he would be able to do that as Pope. Plus, there is a lot of pressure being Pope.”

Shirley Dolan moved to Washington in the late 1970s after her husband died to be closer to her two daughters who live here. She is a member of Our Lady of Lourdes parish and once worked as a cook at the St. Francis Borgia parish rectory.

Cardinal Dolan visits Washington frequently and stays with his mother when he is here. He has been the commencement speaker at St. Francis Borgia Regional High School and often says Mass while he is here, including at Our Lady of Lourdes six weeks ago when he was in town visiting his mother.

When he is in town, Cardinal Dolan often ministers to the sick and spends time ministering with people he knows in area nursing homes.

“That’s who he is. His ministry comes with him. I’m proud of him. I’m proud of all my children,” Mrs. Dolan said.