While my Wifey was busy taking care of the volunteers at
Until Wednesday, July 16, I was continuing my same job of issuing purchase orders, processing invoices and appeasing suppliers who are calling to seek payment, but now I was stationed in the WYDMOC (World Youth Day Main Operations Centre). This space was set aside to accommodate one member of each department, as well as reps from Police, public transport, and government, so that any issue arising during WYD could be addressed immediately and efficiently. The room looked like the set of the TV show 24, with desks equipped with computers and phones and 3 large projectors projecting media coverage of WYD onto the walls. It was a bustling place during WYD as issues rolled in and were dealt with, while I just went about my job.
Thursday, July 17
I joined the Ancillary Events team, who was responsible for coordinating the smaller events involving Pope Benedict XVI. The first of the events was the Pope’s visit to the Blessed Mary MacKillop shrine in
Friday, July 18
A very busy day for the Ancillary Events team. Morning was spent greeting Ecumenical and Interfaith leaders and showing them to their seats before the Pope came to meet with them. I was running around between venues so I never had a chance to see either of these events, but the best was yet to come.
I was the lone member of our team - along with a few other WYD people - helping with the Pope’s next event – lunch with 12 young (very fortunate) people. How blessed I was to be in the same room when the Holy Father came in to meet these young people and greet them. His humility undoubtedly helped ease the anxiety of these young people because they came out of the lunch room to present their gifts to the Holy Father much more relaxed than they were before lunch (the best gift was from the young American fellow – a stress ball and a
They went back for dessert, and just before they emerged again, the
Next thing I knew, Pope Benedict was facing me.
As I took his hand in my hands, I told him where I was from and that I wanted to pass on greetings from Werner Hulsbusch and Francine Baude (friends of my family who are former students and friends of his). His face immediately brightened up, then changed a bit as he expressed that he had heard they were ill. I was struck by a calm and peace that the Holy Father exuded, this man who is good and humble and trying to follow God’s will for His Church. And that was it … my meeting with the leader of our Church.
Later that evening, I took in the first two Stations of the Cross...
... here is Pope Benedict saying the prayer after the First Station - The Last Supper, set in front of St. Mary's Cathedral. They used the non-traditional Stations of the Cross for this WYD - ones that follow Jesus' Passion.
I then went to the last ancillary event of the day, checking in guests for the Pope’s meeting with disadvantaged youth. This turned out to be a very moving event, with a few youth giving powerful testimonies of their incredibly difficult upbringings, then the Pope thanking them for choosing life (rather than following other false gods) and meeting each one individually, while a beautiful choir sang.
Saturday, July 19
I had the pleasure of accompanying the 50 or so Australian Bishops (a delightful bunch) as they prepared for the Dedication of the Altar at St. Mary’s Cathedral by the Pope ...
... here you can see the Bishops vesting in the beautiful crypt of the Cathedral.
Afterward, the Australian Bishops had lunch with the Holy Father next door at Cathedral House where the Pope was residing.
Here is the dining room all set up before the Pope and Bishops arrived (notice the napkins folded into the shape of a bishop's mitre). Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be in the room while they were having lunch.
A few little tidbits … As we prepared for the lunch, I spoke with some of the staff at Cathedral House where the Pope is living during WYD – they said he was a very gracious guest, and apparently his breakfasts consisted of a glass of orange juice and two pieces of bread (one with cheese, one with jam) … I also enjoyed speaking with the Pope’s security guards (some of whom have been protecting the Pope for over 25 years), who were very friendly, a big contrast to their stern manner when the Pope is around.
So as you can see, WYD 2008 offered me not only an inside view of the workings of the event, and gave me the chance to participate in some of the larger events, I was also blessed with an up-close view of Pope Benedict XVI and some of the more intimate events in which he was involved. These last five months, and particularly this last week or so, have made for some outstanding memories.