The Catholic University of America

March 15,2013

CUA Students Rang Chapel Bell on News of Papal Election


Students rang the bell over Caldwell Chapel for a half hour on Tuesday, announcing to the campus that a new Pope had been elected.

Students across Catholic University’s campus were glued to TVs, computers, and even cell phones on March 13 watching coverage and live streams of the Vatican chimney.

For several students who happened to be in the Campus Ministry office that day, the excitement of the announcement of a new Pope multiplied as they ran up three flights of stairs to the top of Caldwell Hall to ring the chapel bell to celebrate the election of Pope Francis.

“How many chances do you get to announce to the world that there’s a new Pope?” says senior politics major Kevin Dawson from Northridge, Calif.

“Excitement cannot describe my feelings,” said Ajani Gibson, a sophomore theology major from New Orleans.

After David Pennington, associate campus minister for liturgy, announced in the office that there was smoke coming out of the chimney, Gibson says, “I looked down at my phone — where I had the chimney live-streaming — and I saw it for myself. I yelled ‘It's white. ... wait IT’S WHITE! HAPEMUS PAPAM!’ [We have a pope!] I was confused, excited, emotional ... I was just in shock.”

Rev. Andy Santamauro, OFM Conv., associate campus minister, pointed at Dawson, Gibson, and another student and yelled, “It’s white! Go ring the bell!”

The students ran out of the office so quickly they knocked over chairs in the process. As they bolted through the halls and up the stairs of Caldwell Hall, they yelled “Habemus Papam!”

“Pulling on that rope to my heart's delight was a joyful experience,” Dawson said. “I called my younger brother, Brian, a freshman, and he made it to Caldwell in two minutes — straight out of taking a nap — to help us ring the bell. For half an hour, we got to announce our new Holy Father.”

Kathryn MacMillan, a senior nursing major from Olney, Md., says that ringing the bell at Caldwell Chapel has always been a dream of hers. “I think God was smiling at this little desire I had to ring the bells by letting me be in Caldwell when the white smoke went up,” she says. “I heard the bells ringing, and I ran up the stairs of Caldwell with a huge smile on my face and joined a few other students in helping proclaim the good news to all the campus.”

As he took his turn ringing the bell, “I was in tears,” Gibson says. “After I tired myself out, I found the nearest TV and I was glued. The anticipation was killing me. When the curtains of Central Loggia [in St. Peter Square] opened [and the new Pope was announced] I screamed. I tweeted. I cried.” 



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