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St. John’s students watch pope’s election closely, reverently

Published 5:10pm Monday, March 18, 2013

MADISON – The election of Pope Francis I has been an exciting time for students at St. John the Baptist Catholic School.

“It was a great day to be in a Catholic school,” principal Sherry Lewis said. “We prayed and cheered during the event.”

Teacher Brenda Villarreal said her sixth-graders “felt very much a part of this universal church when the pope asked them to pray for him.” Student interest has given “the catalyst for studying the papacy.”

Pope Benedict’s resignation “generated … compassion and prayer,” Villarreal said. Students’ curiosity prompted questions about the papacy but also led to curiosity regarding the people involved in this historic event. Their faith led them to pray for cardinals and the Pope Emeritus.

Students asked about “the process and logistics rather than any concern that God would not provide the best solution to this unexpected turn of events,” Villarreal said. They understand St. Francis’ mission, choice of name and the Jesuit order.

In Villarreal’s class, Matthew Do asked how officials made black and white smoke. Classmate Michael Colsch said, “If the vote is inconclusive, the cardinals burn the ballots. Burning paper creates black smoke.” When the pope is elected, “ballots aren’t burned. Water (extinguishes) the fire, resulting in steam, which is white.”

Villarreal’s class read from Pope Benedict’s “Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, God is Love,” including this excerpt: “… If in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be ‘devout’ and perform my ‘religious duties,’ then my relationship with God will also grow arid.”

The study brought students “closer to understanding their faith and fully understanding how that faith permeates their lives,” Villarreal said.

Most St. John’s classes watched live video of Pope Francis’ first address to the world. “Because we integrate our faith into the curriculum, student interest in our new pontiff has naturally led discussions related to the man and the event,” she said.

During Mass, Father Philip O’Kennedy offered insight into Pope Francis’ life.

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