The news of a new pope reached Father Enrique Sera of St. Joachim Catholic Church in a 21st-century way.
While in a prayer session with about 100 other people over the acquisition of the Crystal Cathedral, the Costa Mesa clergyman received a text message from someone in a charismatic prayer group that read: "We have a pope. Thanks be to God."
Jorge Mario Bergoglio became the 266th pope Wednesday. He will go by the name Pope Francis, the first use of the papal name.
Earlier, Bishop Kevin W. Vann of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange had told the group that he had an app that would notify them when white smoke left the Sistine Chapel, a signal that a decision had been reached.
"My charismatic beat your app," Sera joked with the bishop.
The group streamed the naming of the pope onto a screen from a laptop while they waited to hear who was selected.
"It was such a surprise when it came out," he said.
The choice of a Latin American pope, Sera said, is an important one.
"I think having a Latino pope is going to allow people to understand the dynamics there," he said of the struggles facing many parts of Latin America. Many other countries, including some in Africa and the Middle East, are facing similar strife, and this new pontiff will have to tackle it all, Sera said.
"He's going to have a lot on his plate," Sera said.
Vann said Pope Francis' arrival comes at a time of change for the church faithful in Orange County with the Crystal Cathedral move and on a larger scale.
"It's a new beginning for us and a new beginning for the church worldwide," Vann said.
Of the South American selection, Vann said it just another surprise from Rome.
Jennifer Clark at Our Lady Queen of Angels in Newport Beach got teary-eyed when talking about the Catholic church's new leadership.
"I just feel really giddy," said Clark, the coordinator of parish life there. "I just can't believe it. I think it's wonderful."
Clark said she loved Bergoglio's selection of the papal name Francis.
"I just feel his choice in that name is monumental," she said. "It's very symbolic, very meaningful."
Catholics weren't alone in their happiness at the choice of a South American to serve as pope. Argentinian transplants also rejoiced.
Claudia Reese of Newport Beach was born in Buenos Aires and said that although she isn't Catholic, she felt pride in knowing one of her countrymen would serve as pontiff.
"Oh my gosh, it's really exciting. We're so proud," she said. "I still have such a connection to Argentina. Any time I run into anybody from Argentina, it just gets me right in the heart."
She said her late father would be glad that Argentina was so profoundly connected to the Vatican.
"He would be so happy right now," she said. "It's a proud moment."