The St. John Vianney seminarians’ bells, vuvuzela calls and Latin chants echoed through campus Wednesday afternoon after news of the newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, broke.
White smoke billowed from Vatican City’s Sistine Chapel around 7 p.m. CET, or 1 p.m. CST. The papal conclave began Tuesday, and the cardinals made their decision in the fifth round of voting.
Junior Brandon Miranda, who is studying abroad in Rome this semester, said he arrived at St. Peter’s Square at 5:30 p.m. CET for the 7 p.m. CET burning. He said he was “pretty close” when the white smoke rose and he ran to the front of the crowd when the bells tolled and pope Francis came out.
“The atmosphere was indescribable,” Miranda said. “There were people from all over the world standing in my proximity and I really had a moment when I thought, ‘Wow. This is the universal church. This is our pope.’ The crowd was singing, flags were waving and every person was joyful beyond reason. It was such a blessing.”
Junior Emily Hoffman, who is also studying in Rome, described her experience at St. Peter’s Square as “once in a lifetime.”
“I’m witnessing history first hand,” Hoffman said. “It’s humbling and I know I’m here for a reason. Words can’t describe how truly blessed I feel.”
Because many of the students abroad did not have classes Wednesday night, junior Angela Deeney was able to attend the rainy ceremony. She said she believed each of the St. Thomas students standing in St. Peter’s Square was brought there for a reason.
“I believe that we each have a responsibility to be witnesses to it, to our experiences, and to the truth. Each of us there received tremendous grace to be able to see with such clarity the church as it stands today, in all it’s beauty and splendor. This is not some abstract spiritual moment, this is really a joyous reality that is happening here,” Deeney said.
Junior seminarian Ryan Adorjan was in an Information Resources and Technologies meeting when he heard the yelling from outside.
“Well it’s kind of nuts,” Adorjan said.“I just came back and there were guys hanging outside of the windows … like they took their screens out … It’s incredible.”
Before the name was announced, St. John Vianney students, elated at the wisps of white leaking from the chimney, ran from the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel, genuflecting mid-stride to make it back to the seminary. They were welcomed with banners hanging from windows and deafening cheers.
Staff members from the seminary checked to make sure that no students were on the roof, but it could not stop students such as junior Nathaniel Binversie, who laced up Rollerblades and breezed through the quads, library and Anderson Student Center.
Adorjan said the absence of bias makes this inauguration more exciting than a presidential election.
“It’s not like a presidential election where some people are this way and some people are that way,” Adorjan said. “The pope, you know, he’s the father of the (Roman Catholic) Church. He’s the papa, so this is such a big deal.”
Friar Patrick Tobin said he witnessed a new pope’s announcement when he was three years old, when he was in seminary and again today.
“It’s a very joyful moment. This is a very rare event in the (Roman) Catholic Church,” Tobin said. “We have another opportunity to fall in love with another holy father and to see where our beloved will lead us.”
Junior Lizzy Schmitt said she was also excited to hear the news.
“It just feels really good, as a Catholic, to have a pope again,” Schmitt said.
Sophomore Amanda Branch isn’t Catholic, but thought the excitement around campus was great.
“I think it’s great that there is so much excitement about the new Pope, even though it doesn’t affect me very much personally,” Branch said. “It was really fun to see so many people so excited.”
Before the pope’s name was released, Schmitt said she had a lot of hope for who the new pope would be and what he would stand for.
“I think it will be a pope that will be around for a little bit,” Schmitt said. “We need stability in our church, and in terms of the sex scandals, I know that our Church doesn’t support those priests or cardinals or whomever it may be.”
Also before the name was released, junior Chris Gelke said he he was hoping for somebody who is reform-minded.
“Someone who will be able to clean out housing in the Roman Curia, making the Church a modern Church, focusing on the new evangelization places where it needs revitalization,” Gelke said. “The pope has a lot on his plate, but we need someone who’s charismatic and able to reach the young generation and make substantial changes to the Church’s operation.”
Gelke said taking on modern issues will be a big task for the pope.
“That’s one of the more important things that the new pope is going to have to deal with, is the scandals in the Vatican Bank, the sex scandals, crises around the United States and Europe, and if you know, with the recent resignations of the cardinals from the United Kingdom,” Gelke said. “For the Church to move on and recover, there needs to be a response to the zero tolerance policy.”
Miranda said as a devout Catholic and a Catholic university student, this experience is “beyond words” and he is hopeful with the church’s future.
“I have full faith that our Holy Father will lead this Church in the way that the Holy Spirit prompts him to,” Miranda said. “In terms of St. Thomas, I hope they can grow in faith along with the entire Church with the great Pontificate that I think will be with us for a few decades.”
When Spanish professor and Argentina native Paola Ehrmantraut discovered the pope was from Argentina, she said she wished she was in the streets of her homeland versus her office on campus.
“That’s what I wanted to see, the celebrations in the streets of Argentina,” Ehrmantraut said. “Argentina is such a ‘celebrating in the streets culture’… everything positive gets celebrated out in the streets.”
Tobin said he’s looking forward to seeing what Pope Francis does during his papacy.
“Right now, it’s a world of infinite possibility,” Tobin said.
Kayla Bengtson, Anastasia Straley, Heidi Enninga and Briggs LeSavage contributed to this report.