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Volunteers expect ‘hectic few days’ as final preparations for Pope visit begin

Preparations are made at Phoenix Park in Dublin ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland (Danny Lawson/PA) Photo: PA Wire/PA Images

Thousands of volunteers and organisers have been the backbone of the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) congress in Dublin.

As final preparations get under way before Pope Francis’ arrival on Saturday morning, volunteers are bracing themselves for a busy and arduous 48 hours.

From umbrella carriers to stewards, the men and women in green have been at the heart of the pastoral congress at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS).

Many of the volunteers will have direct positions during the Pope’s visit while others will take on a more ad hoc role.

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Michael Fleming from Co Antrim will be part of flexible team of volunteers in Croke Park and Phoenix Park.

“We will be ready for anything,” he said.

“I’ll probably be there to smooth over any issues that may arise with tickets to lists, it will be a hectic few days.

“I think it will go marvellously well, the last three days at the RDS have been very good. Every person I have met has been happy and really enjoying it.

“From young children to elderly, people have been inspired and uplifted.

“My role at the RDS has been backstage and then I moved to a runner role so I was walking people from the volunteer centre to all the different halls dotted throughout the venue.

“We have around 120 volunteers between Ministers of Eucharist, umbrella carriers, ushers and stewards who help the event to go smoothly.

“I have walked some 17,000 steps over each day.”

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Janine Heavey, from Westmeath, is part of a choir that will be singing at the Papal Mass.

Following months of practice, the choir from Dunboyne will be putting in some last-minute preparations ahead of Sunday’s event at Phoenix Park.

She said: “We are going to be singing some beautiful hymns such as The Joy For All The Earth, written especially for the event, and one of my favourites which is Come Feast At This Table by Ian Callanan, which is a beautiful recreation of Oh Sacrament Most Holy, which most people would know.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing to get to sing in front of the Pope. It’s a huge privilege and great opportunity.

“Our smaller parish choir in Dunboyne are really excited, we’ve been looking forward to it for such a long time. There are some nerves and logistical issues of how we are going to get there but it’s been a wonderful experience.”

Richard Harrahill, a volunteer at the WMOF, explained how he became involved in the event.

“I saw an advertisement and came to a meeting and have since taken part in various training meetings,” he said.

Final preparations are made at Phoenix Park Credit: Danny Lawson/PA

“I have been involved in giving out the WMOF bags when people arrive over the last few days. The bags contain all the information that people need to get around the RDS.

“I have also been giving out information when people need it like where events are take place and where things are.

“I’ll be helping out at Phoenix Park and Croke Park and will have an early start at 6am.

“We won’t know what we have to do until the morning when we get our instructions. We will have some last-minute training before the rush starts.”

Meanwhile, last-minute preparations were taking place at Phoenix Park on Friday.

Steel barriers, meetings points, food vans and flags are all in place while construction staff were putting together the final pieces of the jigsaw to the main event.