ROCKFORD (WIFR) The election of Pope Francis has excited many of the nearly half a million Catholics in the Rockford Diocese.
A late afternoon PA announcement broke the news of a new pope to students and teachers at Boylan Catholic High School. Teachers say the conclave to replace Pope Benedict XVI added a unique dimension to their everyday lessons.
"You get so many wonderful questions from the students, ’Why is it secretive?’ ‘Why do they have the traditions they have?’, and I think that really is an essential moment for the kids to understand their faith," says Father Matthew DeBlock, assistant principal and Spiritual Director at Boylan.
Freshman students were only in 1st grade when the last pope was elected; they say this time around, they're excited.
"It shakes things up a bit, the usual school routine, and just to have this extra excitement is fun," says freshman religion student Erica Sreenen.
“Now that we're older we got a chance to learn about it and understand it better and so that was really interesting," adds freshman Ben St. John.
The Bishop of Rockford, Bishop David Malloy offered his own prayers for the new Bishop of Rome.
“There are so many, so many different concerns that the Holy Father is going to have on his plate that we simply need to be praying for him and standing with him joyfully as he begins to confront them," says Bishop Malloy.
Those challenges include declining mass attendance, a lack of interest from young people in the church, and the priest sex abuse scandal in the Unlisted States.
Julia Schwartz is the director of religious education at Holy Family Church; she says she got Goosebumps when the new pope gave his first address at the Vatican. Schwartz draws hope from the pope's choice to be named after St. Francis of Assisi.
“God spoke to him and said, ‘Francis rebuild my church’ which meant the community of church. So I think that is very significant because he is rebuilding our church for the future," says Schwartz.
A future that the students at Boylan and in Catholic schools across the diocese will no doubt be a studying in the days and weeks to come.