LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- After Pope Benedict's resignation, Mr. Brueggen's honors religion class at Aquinas High School put regular lessons on hold and focused on the conclave and the process of electing a new Pope
When the cardinals cast their fifth ballot electing Cardinal Bergoglio the next Pope, Mr. Brueggen's class watched the white smoke rise from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.
"All of a sudden there was screaming and people jumping around and screaming and I was afraid other teachers were going to come into my room," Mr. Brueggen said. "It was great to see the students react in such an enthusiastic manner."
"Some smoke came out and it looked black at first and we were like darn it, but when it was white we all got really excited and like some of the guys ran out into the hallway, it was really exciting," said Anna Schuttenhelm, a senior in the class.
And after the smoke-- a tweet on the official Vatican twitter account, @Pontifex; the first message since the resignation of Pope Benedict. Whether or not the tweeting continues is now up to Pope Francis, but students hope he continues to engage them through social media.
"Being on Twitter is something that's really cool, ‘cause I think a lot of young people fall away from the church and if we can get more togetherness, I think that'll be really great," Anna said.
And her classmate, Sam Steingraeber, agrees.
"I think it's a great idea to have the Pope in social media, being the shepherd to lead the youth in the right direction," Sam said.
"They wouldn't go on the Vatican website and see what the Pope had to say that day but now that's something that's already integrated into their life and being able to read it that way, it works very well," Mr. Brueggen said.
So Far, the Pope is one of firsts: the first Francis, the first South American, and he's also the first Jesuit.
"Being a Jesuit he's going to be stuck on the traditional theology of the Catholic church, so it's going to be interesting to see where it goes, but I have great faith in him," Mr. Brueggen said.
The students also have faith and hope that Pope Francis finds ways to modernize tradition.
"I think some people see tradition as like, 'Oh that's old and that's not cool anymore,'" Anna said. "But I think there are ways we can take tradition and make it modern and make it understandable for kids my age."
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