Fate allows students to experience papal history

  • March 29, 2013

MISSISSAUGA, ONT. - Travelling to Rome under normal circumstances can be a trip of a lifetime, but for high school students Julia Orsini and Aniela Opolski, it gave them the chance to be a little part of history.

Orsini, 15, and Opolski, 16, were in an Italian gelato shop, with 11 other schoolmates and teachers from Holy Name of Mary College School in Mississauga when a fellow student alerted everyone she saw white smoke on the shop’s tiny television. It was March 13, their first of two days in Rome.

“When I saw the smoke, all my emotions were rushing through and my first thought was what my nonna (was) doing at home when she was watching this,” said Orsini. “She’s 87 years old, so this will probably be the last pope in her lifetime.”

Orsini then called her grandmother, who had raised her in a “very Italian religious household.”

Opolski said Orsini teared up at the sight of the smoke.

“At first, it didn’t really hit me. I was just like, ‘oh the white smoke’ and I started realizing what that meant,” said Opolski. “I was just really overwhelmed by the whole fact that we were in Rome and this was happening. It was overwhelming and exciting at the same time.”

Music teacher and trip chaperone Sarah Di Mauro recalls a buzz in the air. They could hear the church bells ring as they stepped out of the shop, she said. They were 15 to 20 minutes away from St. Peter’s Square. Orsini recorded the sound of the bells as a souvenir for her grandmother.

“People from all over the world came to Rome, just waiting and waiting to see the white smoke. I think a lot of people were just excited,” Orsini said.

When she signed up in the fall for this 10-day trip that would take her to Italy and France, she was hesitant.

“I was a little indecisive a few weeks before we left because I wasn’t going with my grade. I was going with the grade above me, the Grade 11s, and then we found out about the conclave and it seemed fitting to go,” she said, adding she believes fate led her to Rome. “It’s the reason why I was supposed to go this year because (of) the conclave and being there to see the white smoke. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do.”

That night, they watched Pope Francis’ speech on a restaurant owner’s laptop.

“We sort of hoped for a Canadian pope just because it would have been cool. But I think I’m really happy with the Pope that was chosen, seeing that he’s really wanting to help the poor and kind of bring the Church back to what it used to be,” said Opolski.

“I wish him the best of luck and I hope his adjustment period is not so rough on him and that he makes the best decisions possible while bringing humility and poverty back into the Church and makes a good influential impact on the youth,” said Orsini.

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