The Papal Visit with the CAFOD group was an extremely special time in my life. Having done various local work with CAFOD in Preston, I was honoured to have been asked to represent CAFOD on a national level.
Prior to arriving in London I received an email from Jo Hughes at CAFOD, informing me that I had the chance to go to the Cathedral for the Papal Mass and then join the Pontiff on the steps of the Piazza when he addressed the young people. Naturally I was delighted with this news, but a greater sense of optimism and excitement captivated me before I had even set off for London.
On arriving in London I soon got to know people who had worked for CAFOD in their own communities, and quickly made friends with so many other young people.
On Friday, it gave me a sense of what the weekend would lead up to, a celebration, and reflection, of the Pope’s visit to the United Kingdom.
The sense of anticipation grew on Saturday morning. When I split from the main group to go down to the Cathedral, I knew that I was about to experience something special (if I found my way of course!). I entered the Cathedral at 8.20am and sat with other young people who were representing other charities and dioceses throughout England and Wales.
When we went for a practice on the steps of the Piazza we were greeted by huge applause from all the young people in the piazza (even at this time the piazza was nearly full).
Looking down onto the piazza was nerve-racking for me, seeing all 3000 people who would watch the mass on the big screen and I was so lucky to be sat in the cathedral. My eyes were drawn to the CAFOD group, waving to me from the back. They were hysterical!
The Morning Prayer started at 9 o’clock and quickly 10 o’clock came. As I was sat near the back I could hear the roar of the Piazza and then knew the Pope was coming into Westminster Cathedral.
The Pope came into the Cathedral to this almighty music coming from the rafters. It was an incredible experience when I first saw him as people from the back were getting on their tip-toes to see a glimpse of Pope Benedict.
The mass was in Latin, and was the first Latin mass I had been to. Pope Benedict’s sermon was probably the highlight of the mass. He addressed several issues about our faith.
After I received Communion I then returned to the steps of the Piazza with the others. This was my most nervous time and we stood waiting to a full Piazza which was surrounded by the world’s media. When the Pope came out all I could hear was cheering and ‘Benedicto’. I was standing behind Paschal who made a fantastic speech to the Pope and I don’t think anyone could have done a better job than he did.
After the Pope made his speech to the Piazza he looked and nodded to all the people on our side.
I received a ‘hello’ from Pope Benedict which to me was just surreal. That was my highlight. Even though I didn’t speak to him like some others, a hello was enough for me.
I got some great pictures of the Pope as we surrounded him in a semi-circle on the steps, and was literally about a meter away from him. It was just a once in a lifetime moment that I will not forget.
I got a few texts from friends in the afternoon asking how it was and they couldn’t believe what I had experienced (which is all well and good because neither could did I)
Hyde Park was a great afternoon and the vigil was a great spiritual experience, but for me I was extremely lucky and grateful that I had such a massive opportunity to be with the Pope for a moment.
Finally I would like to thank all who have made it possible to enjoy this experience, as I am very grateful; Rosa, Patrick and Terry (from the Lancaster CAFOD Diocesan management and Preston Impact Group) and Jo, Helen, Martin and all at CAFOD in London.