They turned up in flip-flops and sneakers, fleece sweatshirts and jeans, several hundred Boston College students, gathered to remember the only pope they had ever known.
As sun wove in and out of clouds yesterday, the Catholic university held a memorial Mass on the steps by the campus library, celebrating Pope John Paul II's public persona, his broad sense of humor, and his work promoting justice and peace.
Some students, who had spent the weekend reflecting on the pontiff's life, said they now were looking to the future, eager to watch the process for selecting a new pope, and curious about how the next pontiff would be chosen and who he will be.
''I've been thinking more about what's going to happen in the church," said Tyler Gaffney, 21, a BC junior who said he admired John Paul but considered him ''a little too strict in his ways."
Church teachings can collide with everyday life, Gaffney said. And after the clergy sex abuse scandal, he said, ''I think a lot of people lost their faith. That's a horrible thing. I think they need to start to change, because a lot of people have turned away from the church and said, 'I don't need that, then.' "
But other students said they hope the next pope will hold to tradition.
Richard Donohue, 19, a freshman, said he expects the next Catholic leader to make more sweeping changes, and he wishes it weren't so. ''I agree with the old conservative views," Donohue said. ''I don't want to see them doing drastic changes."
Liz Carmona, 21, a senior, said she also shares John Paul's traditional values. She said she hopes only that the next pope will be able to relate to younger generations of Catholics.
''It's a discouraging time right now," Carmona said. ''There's got to be a beacon of hope, I think."
The noontime service did not mention John Paul's conservative views on priestly celibacy, birth control, and other social issues, which some American Catholics do not share. Rather, it celebrated Karol Wojtyla's life and his very public papacy: his speeches to teeming crowds; his visit to synagogues, mosques, and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; his work and advocacy for human rights and the developing world.
John Paul's life and death ''invite us to consider how we live as human beings in today's world," said the Rev. William P. Leahy, president of Boston College, who delivered the homily. ''How we respond to those in need. How we use our gifts. How we build up the community around us."
Several students read quotations from John Paul's II's career.
One was: ''Have no fear of moving to the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly, knowing that I am with you." Another said: ''It is unbecoming for a cardinal to ski badly."
At the end of the service, as a small choir sang, students lined up to write inscriptions in a memorial book.
Freshman Kim Brunelle, 18, stood in line with a large, jeweled cross around her neck and tears streaming from her eyes. She leaned on a friend and recalled what John Paul had meant to her.
''He was just an example of everything that we're supposed to be," Brunelle said. ''It's not as much tears of sorrow as tears of joy for knowing he's going up to where he's supposed to be right now, that he's not suffering anymore."
Joanna Weiss can be reached at email@example.com.