TAMPA — While the election of Pope Francis was celebrated by Catholics worldwide, it was a particularly joyous morning Thursday at Jesuit High School.
School leaders believe the new pontiff's Jesuit background will provide solid leadership for the Catholic world.
In his homily at the Thursday morning Mass, Father Richard Hermes recalled Pope Francis looking out on St. Peter's Square, speaking plainly and openly.
"He asked us to pray in silence for him," Hermes said. "He said it seemed that the cardinals went to the end of the world. That is, they went to the new world."
As hundreds of high school boys looked on, Hermes explained that the new pope had become a Jesuit in his 20s.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected the first Jesuit pope after a two-day conclave, filling a spot left open when Pope Benedict XVI resigned in February.
It wasn't the robes or the title or the religious power of the newly elected pope that struck leaders at Jesuit High School.
It was how he spoke.
Father Matthew Gamber, a theology teacher, said Pope Francis attended a Jesuit school.
"He knows us, and we know him," Gamber said.
About 750 boys attend Jesuit High.
Alec Kamaris, a 16-year-old sophomore, said the pope is important to him because of the example he sets.
"When you're watching him on TV, he's an inspiration, and you can apply those things to your life," he said.
Gamber said high school students may not be the first people you'd expect to be excited about a pope, but they've been talking about it in class and seeing the importance of the event.
"We try to stress that the next time this happens, you'll be an old man with kids," he said.
Even for his nonreligious students, Gamber said, there is a willingness to learn.
"Even the ones who are not interested, they're willing to talk about it and discuss it."
It helps that the news about the pope is everywhere.
Kamaris said Facebook lit up after the white smoke blew. Friends posted CNN screenshots. Families held parties.
"It was all over Facebook," he said. "All over Twitter. All over Instagram."