A bell rang at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish late Wednesday morning, alerting students at the school next door that something important was taking place.
Many weren't sure what to think, which merely added to the excitement surrounding the election of Pope Francis I at the Vatican in Rome.
"When we heard the church bell ring, everybody was guessing," said Hannah Pelland, a Grade 6 student. It wasn't time for mass. Some students thought the church was haunted, others thought the bells might be celebrating the Virgin Mary.
"It was very exciting."
"Everybody was jumping up and down," added Desiree McQuarrie, another student.
At the point, school principal Chris Yuen figured he'd better not wait to assemble everyone in the gym to experience an historic moment. The white smoke had risen, an announcement was imminent.
"With the largest religion in the world, many, many people are watching it like you," he told the assembly.
Bishop David Monroe, who works in the chancery office next door, was perched before a computer terminal in the school office, watching intensely. He joined the students in the gym.
"It's amazing how so many cardinals can come together in that way," the bishop said. "And after four votes. Only they will know what it is like in there." Two-thirds of the 115 voting cardinals must be in favour of the choice, he noted.
A figure appeared behind a curtain on the papal balcony. The Pope's entourage stepped forward, surrounding the former cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Cheers of excitement reverberated through the gym.
"They'll tell you his official name and the name he will take," Monroe said, offering some running commentary.
Between the gym's reverb, the Italian commentator's voice resonating in St. Peter's Square and the CNN commentator, it was almost impossible to hear the name. The words "Francesco" and "Latin America" filtered through, though. Still wondering, the bishop returned to the school office to learn that critical piece of information.
The students, though, were excited just the same.
"I thought this was a wonderful opportunity to have this as a current event at a faith-based school," Yuen said. "They're part of history."
The choice of a Latin American as Pope presents the opportunity for new insight, ideas and direction, he said.
"I think, overall, we're very excited about the opportunity to have the first Pope from the Americas. It speaks volumes in terms of where the faith needs to go," he added. "I think that ties in beautifully with the whole message," one of unity.
"I like that he's from Argentina," said Katerina Loschiavo, a student whose family hails from the Latin American country. " 'Cause my grandma's probably watching."
After absorbing the news, Monroe pointed out that Bergoglio is the first Jesuit pope and brings strengths to the role — compassion for the poor — that should in turn enable him to strengthen the faith.
"His is one who is sensitive to the people," Monroe said. "Before he was a Jesuit, he was a science teacher, which would also reach out to certain elements of people."
Many who have left the faith through its challenges and scandals may return.
"I think a lot of people will. He can be the real catalyst for it. He has been a person who gives counsel and his writings are on spiritual life …"
Chuck Bishop, a local Catholic parishioner, didn't recognize the name of the new Pope at first. After a little research, he's confident Pope Francis I will prove to be a good choice.
"He sounds like a good man," Bishop said. "He's got his work cut out for him, but I'm sure he'll do well."