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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Standing with the Pope
Katie Fullilove recounts her experience with Pope Benedict XVI at World Youth Day.

Katie and Pope Benedict XVI
Katie Fullilove and Pope Benedict XVI have a personal conversation as the boat rides into Sydney Harbour.

Sydney, Australia. October 2, 2009. When Sydney’s Challenge Club President Katie Fullilove went to World Youth Day, she never expected to have a personal chat with the Holy Father.

That opportunity was waiting for her when, as a representative of the Australian youth, she boarded the boat on which Pope Benedict made his entrance into the Syndey Harbour.

In the following interview, she tells the story of how she was chosen to stand next to the Pope, what those moments of personal conversation were like, and what kind of impact the Pope’s visit has had on Australia since then.

Q: You had the grace of meeting the Holy Father on the boat in Sydney Harbour at WYD and representing Australia’s youth. How were you chosen for this?

Katie: I was asked by the organizers of WYD Australia to represent the members of the first fleet to Australia. 

For those who do not know, initially there were aborigines living in Australia but England needed to send out convicts as their prisons were overflowing.  They hauled off about 11 boats and people spent months in horrible conditions to reach Australia. 

My family was one of the petty criminals— accused but never proven
Katie and Pope Benedict as boat rides into harbour
Katie stands at Pope Benedict's side as the boat arrives to Sydney Harbour.
guilty, we like to say!  But due to the first fleet’s settling the land, we have a European settlement. They were not given permission to have priests or the faith here in Australia.  So as you can see, it was a great irony to have the Vicar of Christ come to the land where once no faith was permitted to be practiced.  That is why on the boat with the Holy Father there were four youth representing the first Australians: the aborigines, the first fleet, and the migrants. 

The organizers of WYD found me because both of my brothers were working for WYD and one day in the elevator one of the organizers said, “We need to find a first fleeter to meet the Holy Father. How am I going to do that?” My brother thought he would get the opportunity to meet the Holy Father so he said, “I am!”  They said, “We’re not looking for a boy. We’re actually looking for a girl.” So then he had to refer to me!

Q:  Katie, what was your personal experience of meeting the Holy Father? 

Katie: I was standing back waiting for my queue to meet the Holy Father, but saw that with the crowd I would probably not get to meet him, as I was told. I realized the gift it was just to be on the boat with him, so I was content. 

Just then, the Pope’s personal secretary saw me in the back of the crowd and placed me right next to the Vicar of Christ at the bow of the boat. I could see what a great and holy person he is.  I could see that holiness comes in such normal packages.  It was pretty cold out there, so the Holy Father took my hand and
Katie and Rosemary Streckfuss
Katie with Rosemary Streckfuss, an Australian consecrated woman who lives and works in Australia.
rubbed it to warm me up and listened attentively about my story of the first fleet arriving in Australia, as I was asked to share that with him.  I am not sure if he understood everything I told him, but he was more concerned about me than my story. 

Since then I have often thought, there could be saints around me and I don’t even know it!  After that, the cameras were gone, or so I thought, I was able to stand there with the Pope as he entered into Sydney Harbour and wave with him at my country and the youth of the world.

That’s my mission now, to keep standing with the Pope, even though he is physically not in the Harbour.

Q: Now, a little over a year later, how do you think that Sydney has been touched by the Pope’s visit?

Katie: One thing is that people were talking about how humble the Pope is after he left.  But on a larger scale, I have seen that Catholic youth have come out of the woodwork and joined together into larger communities.  Here in Australia the culture looks down upon religion, so now after WYD, culturally the Catholic Church has gained a more positive image.  This ripples down to the young professionals who have a hard time being a contradiction to culture.  It makes it easier to take a step out there and live what you believe in a more committed way.



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