Fifth graders at Holy Family School were taking state assessments Wednesday afternoon when word came that white smoke was coming from the Vatican.
The white smoke signaled a new pope had been named to replace Pope Bennedict XVI after his resignation. The school doesn’t have cable television and everyone was busy with school work, but someone called the office to alert staff about what was happening. Principal Karen Moeder told students it was time for a break from the tests. They watched the unfolding news together over the Internet.
“We knew there was a new pope but didn’t know who it was,” Moeder said. Students watched in their classrooms and the school computer lab until they learned that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina had been elected pope and had chosen the name Francis.
“We said a prayer and went back to the state assessment,” Moeder said.
This will be the first change of popes that Holy Family students are likely to remember. Moeder said most fifth graders were 2 years old when Bennedict became pope. “There was a special buzz in the air.”
Many of the students at Holy Family had participated in Adopt A Cardinal, a Vatican-approved website that randomly assigned cardinals to pray for. “We looked up who they were and where they were from,” Moeder said. None of them were assigned Cardinal Bergoglio.
Besides learning some geography and history, Holy Family students got a quick chemistry lesson this week when they questioned how the black smoke and white smoke from the Vatican are created. Years ago, wet hay was used to create black smoke. In modern times, smoke cartridges use chemical elements to create the desired color.