Not Your Ordinary Roman Holiday
Three Fairfield University students from the Class of 2014 — Lauren Birney, Laura Ballanco, and Krista Charles (pictured l-r, at right)—were at the scene last week for the announcement of the election Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope. The three, all communication majors studying abroad in London, were visiting Rome over their spring break and happened to be at St. Peter's Square at the momentous occasion.
Here are some excerpts of their impressions.
Krista Charles ’14
"My friends and I had just toured St. Peter’s Basilica that evening, and decided that we would wait in the square to see the black smoke we were expecting. Because it was only the second day of the Papal Conclave, I was certain the decision would not be made that day. In search of a better view of the chimney, we made our way to the front of the crowd, only feet away from the barricades…
I was in disbelief when the white smoke appeared from the chimney and the bells rang out in celebration…Excited and overwhelmed by the news, I ran and hugged Lauren, who shared the same reaction, and asked repeatedly if I was imagining things. I’m had never been one to cry at emotional moments, but my eyes welled with tears at the scene, and I couldn’t comprehend witnessing such an historical moment…
The crowd burst into cheers and celebration when Cardinal Bergaglio’s name was announced. Many were chanting his Italian name — Francesco — while others were praising God with their hands outstretched towards the sky… Despite the mix of languages and backgrounds of the people in the crowd, “Viva il Papa” was on the tongue of every person in the audience…
To my left, the priests from Mexico swayed back and forth and embraced one another. To my right, priests from the United States had their hands outstretched towards the sky, smiling with their eyes closed in prayer. An older man from New Orleans, who travelled specifically to Italy for this event, grinned as he told us that witnessing this moment had been his dream since childhood.
I remember thinking how lucky I was to be at the Vatican that day, and how proud my family would be… Because of this experience, I definitely have a special connection or 'soft spot' for Pope Francis. I feel as though my Fairfield education came full circle with the election of the first Jesuit pope, and it was inspiring to see the Jesuit values personified…I am hopeful for Pope Francis’ tenure and how he may implement the idea of “men and women for others.”
Lauren Birney ’14
"We were all cold, wet, and tired, but that all changed when we saw the smoke. We were in complete disbelief! I think it took a second for it to sink in that it was actually white smoke. We all turned to each other with our jaws dropped and the biggest smiles… Everyone started screaming and hugging… I was in awe looking around at the crowd of thousands of people and flashing lights of cameras going off…
One of my favorite moments was right before the Pope was announced when the crowd started singing and it was completely silent amongst the thousands of people besides those singing, it was really beautiful. Everyone was just so happy, and the energy was so high and exciting!
Looking at that little chimney for two hours in the rain was absolutely worth it for even a minute of that excitement. It was definitely one of the best moments of my life and I will remember that feeling forever… I never knew how important it really is to me until I was there. It definitely made me closer to my faith."
Laura Ballanco ’14
"The atmosphere felt as if I was at a really big rock concert waiting for a band to appear before the crowd. There was a lot of buildup and anticipation. Everyone surrounding us was waving flags, chanting, and singing. There was a real sense of community especially when everyone around us started talking about where they were from and why they were there while we were waiting for the Pope to be announced. After we heard the name of the new Pope there was lots of whispering and curiosity and everyone was saying, 'Who is he? Where is he from?'
Fortunately, I texted my Mom because she was watching it on TV, and she told me he was a Jesuit from Argentina.
As a practicing Catholic, it was a life-changing experience. This is something I never thought I would ever witness or experience in my lifetime… It was truly a sublime experience to be to be standing in the fourth row of a crowd with thousands of people with God’s chosen leader of the Catholic Church…
I really like the fact that he [Pope Francis] is so humble and takes public transportation to work. In addition, the fact that he is a Jesuit elates me. I have gotten so much out of my education at Fairfield University since it is deeply rooted in Jesuit traditions. The fact that Pope Francis did not want to do his first homily in Latin suggests that he will give a fresh perspective to the Catholic Church."
Click here for a statement from University President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., about the announcement of the new pope.