'That's our saint'
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ezra Harmon knows he can't be named pope because he's only 7. That's why he plans to wait until he's at least 77, and if he gets the title, he already knows what he'll do.
"If I was pope, I would help the people that are sick and hope they would feel good instead. I'm going to make them feel better," said Harmon, a student at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in St. Albans.
Students at the elementary school will be learning special lessons this week since Argentine cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was named pope on Wednesday, and is the first to take the school's namesake in honor of Saint Francis.
"It's pretty cool that he picked that name because that's our saint here," second-grader Stella Kincaid said.
The students have been watching live footage from the Vatican City in class of the papal election process, waiting for black or white smoke and learning more about the history of the Roman Catholic Church.
"It's so exciting to see it through their eyes. They were cheering and jumping up and down," said Angela Potter, a first-grade teacher at St. Francis of Assisi.
Father Patrick McDonough sat down with students on Thursday to teach them more about the man their school is named after and what he stood for.
"All of the students know about Saint Francis, even the little ones," he said. "For Catholics, he symbolizes simplicity: a simple lifestyle and a love for the poor."
McDonough asked fifth-graders, "What do you think he picked the name Francis for, and not something like Woody or Chuck?"
"Because God told him to build the church," said student Forrest Armstead.
"That's a very good answer," McDonough said.
Harmon thinks the pope chose his name because of Saint Francis' perseverance.
"He was good and loyal, and he helped people and he never gave up. You're supposed to never give up," he said.
Fifth-grade teacher Melissa Arthur said the students have been learning about the importance of tradition, too, throughout this process -- something that's not easy to teach today's students.
"With all this technology, the students were thinking, "Wouldn't it be easier to get the word out with a smartphone or other media? But we explained it's about the ceremony," she said. "Us Catholics seem to be proud of sticking to tradition."
Arthur also is teaching her students how to use the recent worldwide focus on the Catholic Church for good.
"We can do all of those things now even though we're not a pope," she told her students. "We can still spread the word of God and do good because we're Christians."
Reach Mackenzie Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4814.