Benedict XVI Blog

Published on Friday, July 22, 2022

Organizing a Visit from the Pope

“A once in a lifetime opportunity” – I have heard this phrase many times in the last few weeks, as the Archdiocese of Edmonton prepares to welcome Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, to our humble community. There have been many, many hands involved as the clock ticks down to the Pope’s arrival.

We first heard of the Papal pilgrimage in May. Planning had been going on behind the scenes for months. Dr. Topping had volunteered our services to His Grace, Archbishop Smith. But in the Spring our internship team received the official invitation: were we up for a challenge? Our main task would be to help coordinate volunteers for the events happening around the Archdiocese.

As details unfolded, we learned that there would be need of over four thousand volunteers to facilitate the tens of thousands of people who would come from all over Western Canada to see Papa Francesco; our task would be to recruit and coordinate these willing souls. How did we do it? With a lot of prayer and hard work, and help from others (including the very friendly members of the RCMP)!

We spent much of June learning how this whirlwind would be contained. Archbishop Smith has informally said, “It is like we are all taking a flight but putting on the wings as we take off”. Very true! We quickly learned computer data base systems, how to write job descriptions, and how to speak with all the kind souls that have offered to volunteer for this historic pilgrimage.

So what are the volunteers poised to do? Everything you could think of, really. The volunteers we’ve helped organize are ordering water bottles, collecting some 300 Chalices for Holy Communion at the Stadium, helping distribute the Eucharist to a sold-out Commonwealth Stadium, directing traffic, etc., etc. We have been blown away by the sheer number of details that one must take into account when hosting an international celebrity as the Pope.

Of course, one should not lose sight of the reason behind Pope Francis’s visit. He is here as an ambassador of forgiveness, and of truth, and of reconciliation. May this pilgrimage help heal hearts that have been broken, and stir faith that has been stilled.

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Catherine Renneberg

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Author: Catherine Renneberg

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