Dousman priest was witness to behind-the-scenes look of pope selection

CREATED Mar 14, 2013

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ROME - A local man has had a peek behind the scenes at selecting the new pope.

A Dousman priest who was just ordained in May is having the experience of a lifetime. He's in Rome studying, and has a front-row seat to history.

Reverend Jacob Strand is from Dousman. He just became a priest last may, and is taking his last few classes in Rome.

“To be here right now is an incredible gift,” said Father Strand. “This is something I will always come back to as a memory and cherish deeply."

Strand was in Vatican City on Tuesday as all the cardinals gathered for mass just before the conclave began.

"It was surreal at first,” Strand said. “I was seated right behind the cardinals. You could see the sea of red. You knew that one of them was going to bear the burden of the papacy."

Strand was also in the Piazza Wednesday waiting for the word if there would be a new leader of the church.

"The expectation and wondering what was going on in the Sistine Chapel, what are the cardinals thinking, how are they voting," he said.

Then the moment came when he saw white smoke.

“It was pure excitement and a lot of expectation about who the next pope is going to be,” Strand added.

Strand explains the hour or so waiting to see who would walk out onto the balcony flew by as everyone made guesses about who would be named pope.

“Being able to be there as this is all unfolding?” he asked. “It's just a huge gift to be honest. “It's a really important historic time in the church."

Strand will be back in June to learn where he will be placed in the Milwaukee Diocese.