As soon as the news came through the school's intercom that a successor to Pope Benedict had been chosen, the children pushed back their chairs and stood in excitement.
More than 100 youngsters from preschool through the fifth grade celebrated the announcement of the new pope by vigorously ringing tiny bells they borrowed from music class at St. Michael's School in Grand Forks.
The children yelled a prayer in Italian, then shouted again and again in unison: "Viva il Papa! Viva il Papa!"
The joyous outpouring came just moments after it was revealed in Vatican City's St. Peter's Square that Pope Francis would be the new pontiff.
"This will be a memory for them for the rest of their lives," said the Rev. Gerard Braun, who joined the children and their teachers after setting St. Michael's electronic bells chiming above. The bells also had rung out an hour earlier when white smoke was sighted coming from a chimney at the Vatican, the Grand Forks Herald reported.
Jenny Steele was moved by the reaction of her third-grade class. As soon as the news came through the school's intercom that a successor to Pope Benedict had been chosen, the children pushed back their chairs and stood in excitement, Steele said.
"It was unbelievable to see how much it meant to them as third graders, how they knew what it means even to them to have a new leader of our church," Steele said. "It made me even more emotional than I was."