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 CNS Story:

YONKERS-GIRL Apr-20-2008 (540 words) xxxn

Chance to meet pope sparks excitement, nervousness for 12-year-old

By Angelo Stagnaro
Catholic News Service

YONKERS, N.Y. (CNS) -- When Pope Benedict XVI came to St Joseph's Seminary in the Dunwoodie section of Yonkers, Sara Carioscia, 12, of Pawling, N.Y., was among the youngsters chosen to greet the pope and give him gifts during the rally with seminarians and young people April 19.

She was accompanied to the seminary by her mother, Gemma Carioscia, and her siblings, Gabriella, 11, Michael, 8, and Isabella, 4. Her grandmother, Josephine Caruana, was there, too.

"There is so much energy here," said Sara's mother, referring to the crowd already forming in the early morning for the 5 p.m. youth rally at St. Joseph's Seminary. "It's the chance of a lifetime."

Except for Sara, the Carioscia family members couldn't enter the field where the youth rally was taking place, so they stood well beyond the security perimeter to "offer moral support."

Once the rally got under way, after New York Cardinal Edward M. Egan's opening remarks, three youths spoke; 10 youths presented gifts of dark bread, light bread, rice, unleavened bread and maize to represent various continents; and eight youngsters gave birthday presents to Pope Benedict, who turned 81 April 16.

When she learned Sara had been chosen to play a role in the rally, "I was shocked," Gemma Carioscia told Catholic News Service. Her selection was announced over the public address system at school.

Sara is a seventh-grader at St. Lawrence O'Toole Elementary School in Brewster, N.Y., in the New York Archdiocese.

Sara is a Girl Scout, an accomplished piano and clarinet player, a brown belt in karate, an altar server and a straight-A student at St. Lawrence O'Toole.

When Gemma Carioscia picked up Sara at school the day the girl learned she'd meet the pontiff, she said her daughter "just stared at me and said, 'I'm going to meet the pope.' She's got a great sense of humor so initially I thought she was joking."

"I'm so happy for my daughter. This is a blessing for our entire family. She's been floating (on air) ever since she was told she would be seeing the pope," she added.

Sara was nervous beforehand but "she was also very happy about it," said her mother.

"I am happy that Sara is getting to see the pope because this will be her first time seeing a pope," said Michael, Sara's brother. "I hope she can get me his autograph! I wish I was going, too."

"I'm still in shock. I think this is wonderful," said Caruana. "Sara had always been religious so I really believe this is an experience she will keep with her for the rest of her life."

"This is beyond an honor," she continued. "Frankly, I'm jealous it's not happening to me!"

Before she entered the rally area, Sara told CNS the day's event would be "a thrilling experience. It's a special experience for me. I never thought I'd ever have this opportunity!"

When asked what she knew about the pope, she gave a catechism-perfect response.

"The pope is the vicar of Christ and he is the successor to St. Peter, the first pope," she said. "I also know he is infallible. That's awesome!"


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