Filipina WYD volunteer gets surprise of a lifetime

Filipina WYD volunteer gets surprise of a lifetime

Audrey Abatol (2nd from right) and nine other World Youth day pilgrims and volunteers join Pope Francis for lunch at the Apostolic Nunciature in Lisbon, Portugal on Aug. 4, 2023. VATICAN MEDIA

By Roy Lagarde

August 6, 2023

Lisbon, Portugal

After months of being a service volunteer for the World Youth Day in Lisbon, a former campus minister got the surprise of her lifetime: a lunch with Pope Francis.

Audrey Abatol has been a fan of Pope John Paul II. Growing up, she has always been fascinated with the WYD founded by the pope-turned-saint.

Since November last year, she had been volunteering at WYD international relations secretariat after resigning from her work at a Jesuit-run school in the city of Mandaue.

Then the organizers pulled out a big surprise a week ago.

They listed Abatol among the 10 volunteers and pilgrims — six girls and four boys — who will share meals with the pope.

Their ages ranged from 24 to 34, and they all came from different countries: three from Portugal, and then one each from Peru, the Philippines, United States, Brazil, Equatorial Guinea, Palestine, and Colombia.

“It really came as a big surprise for me,” Abatol said.

The ‘beautiful moment’ took place on Aug. 4 at the city’s apostolic nunciature.

“It was really a gift to have this opportunity to spend time with him over lunch… it was really a grace from God,” Abato said. “Even though it was short, it was very intimate because we were just very few.”

Aside from a short note, the 33-year old said she also gave the pope an image of the Santo Niño de Cebu.

“He asked, ‘Oh, Santo Niño?’ It was a really beautiful moment,” she recalled.

Abato said they also had the chance to ask the pope a few questions.

“I asked him about how to spread joy to young people… and I was really touched by his answer. He said joy is not taught but shown, and that’s what I will bring back with me from this meeting,” she said.

“He also spoke about the joy of the Gospel and the importance of acting in a way that inspires joy,” added Abatol, who also attended previous WYD celebrations in Brazil in 20123, in Poland in 2016 and Panama in 2019.

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