Letter from the Editor: Where were you when the white smoke came?


It seems like all Franciscan students remember where they were on March 13, at 2:05 p.m. eastern time when white smoke came out of the Vatican chimney. I know where I was. I was trying to work on my senior thesis when something told me to watch the live stream of the chimney. I thought to myself, it’s still too early but I needed a break so I decided to watch it anyway. I pulled it up a minute or two after 2 p.m. For some reason I was getting excited and I didn’t know why. All of a sudden I saw the smoke. I couldn’t tell if it was white or gray but the sound of cheering confirmed that it was white. I started crying. I ran to the TV and turned it on. My Facebook was flooded with “Habemus Papam,” and “White smoke!” It didn’t matter where they were, they posted it almost faster than CNN and EWTN could broadcast it. Franciscan students were having “pope parties” across the United States.

Shelby Veale, a sophomore majoring in Catechism and theology, was at her home in Florida talking to a lifeguard at the YMCA about a possible summer job when her “pope alarm” went off on her phone. She said she was so excited she jumped up and down saying, “We have a pope, we have a pope!”

Fellow student Nathan Houbein was watching “Arsenic and Old Lace” with his girlfriend when his phone went off. He decided to ignore it. After the movie ended, his girlfriend’s mother called her to tell her the news while Houbein checked his phone to see that his mother had texted him about the pope.

“The funny thing is that my mother is Lutheran, yet it seems she pays more attention to the papacy that I do,” said Houbein.

Freshman Melanie Williams was in Disney World for her family’s spring break vacation trip. They were on a bus and she said it just so happened that there were other Catholics on the bus that were talking about the new pope. They all huddled around her iPhone and watched the live stream on her conclave app. They were able to see his first appearance and his first papal blessing.

“It was so awesome to just randomly meet other Catholic people on a bus in Disney World,” said Williams.

Franciscan alumni Brooke Yessa was getting back from noon Mass when she got a text message, “habemus papa.” She tuned in to EWTN and watched until she had to go to work. She said she had a rush of tears and joy.

“I have been going through kind of a rough time these past weeks so the joy, comfort and intense love I felt knowing we had a pope was such a gift and a blessing from God,” said Yessa. “He is such a strong, gentle, beautiful leader and I’m praising the Lord for the gift of Pope Francis.”

Sophomore Sidney Johnson was also getting out of mass at St. Louis Cathedral with her roommates in St. Louis, Mo. She said a reporter ran up to them and asked them what they wanted to see in the new pope that was elected. They then tried to run all over St. Louis looking for a working TV to see the pope’s first appearance. They eventually rushed home in time to see the new Holy Father.

I heard that my brother, who travels with National Evangelization Team (NET), was on the road in the middle of Illinois when they heard about the smoke. They pulled over to a hotel and watched in the lobby for the new pope.

Even President Barack Obama, who was in the middle of the meeting with the Republican Party, paused and acknowledged the white smoke.

Needless to say, I didn’t do much more work on my thesis that day. It was a historical moment and that called for a celebration. God Bless Pope Francis.

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