Aussie volunteer lunches with the Pope

World Youth Day volunteer Josephine Yustira, from Western Australia, was one of two pilgrims chosen to represent Oceania at a private lunch with Pope Francis during the celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, reports the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.

A relaxed intimate lunch with the Holy Father for 12 WYD pilgrims is a traditional feature of World Youth Day. This year the six men and six women were selected from among the young volunteers who had worked so tirelessly to help make  WYD in Rio such a success.  Each of those invited represented one of the world's five great continents, two came from host nation Brazil, and two each from the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

The once in a lifetime opportunity to dine with the Pope and be part of such a small group came as a huge surprise for Josephine who admits she had no idea when she left Australia in early July to begin working as a volunteer at the WYD's Rio Information Centre that she would be one of those lucky enough to be selected to be a guest at the Papal Lunch.

After attending WYD in Sydney five years ago, the 28-year-old Perth-based university graduate says the dedication and helpfulness of the volunteers during those unforgettable six days had inspired her to offer her services as a volunteer at future World Youth Days. 'I wanted to do the same for others and help them the way the volunteers in Sydney had helped me,' she says. 

But with so many across Europe applying to be volunteers for WYD Madrid 2011 her initial application was unsuccessful. Then came the news she had been accepted as a volunteer at WYD in Rio.

Over the moon her application was successful, Josephine had no idea when she packed her bags for Rio that just under a month later she would be one of those chosen from the millions who attended World Youth Day to be among the 12 invited to share lunch with the Holy Father.

The other pilgrim volunteer chosen to represent Oceania was Thomson Philip, a 27-year-old India-born New Zealander who back home five days later ould still hardly believe he was invited to the Papal lunch and not only that, but be placed next to the Holy Father.

FULL STORY Aussie volunteer's private lunch with Pope


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