By Allison LeDoux
Director of the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family
The Eighth World Meeting of Families will take place Sept. 22 through 27 in Philadelphia. This will be the first time it will be held in the United States.
The first World Meeting of Families, which took place in Rome in 1994, was instituted by Saint John Paul II and organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family. The event takes place in a different part of the world once every three years. The others have been in Rio de Janeiro (1997); Rome (2000); Manila (2003); Valencia (2006); Mexico City (2009); Milan (2012); and now, Philadelphia (2015).
The World Meeting of Families is a week-long international event of prayer, catechesis, and celebration that draws participants from around the globe. It is an event for everyone – married, single, clergy and religious, young and old. It seeks to strengthen the bonds between families and to witness to the crucial importance of marriage and the family to all of society. The theme, chosen by Pope Francis for this event, is: “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive”. The patron saints of the World Meeting are St. John Paul II and St. Gianna Beretta Molla (you can learn more about them at www.worldmeeting2015.org). The first four days (Sept. 22-25) consist of an Adult Congress (ages 18 and up) with internationally known and engaging speakers and a concurrent interactive Youth Congress with events planned for ages 6 through high school.
The World Meeting of Families concludes on the weekend with the Festival of Families (an event that includes different types of cultural and musical artistic performances) which Pope Francis will attend on Sat. Sept. 26 and the Papal Mass on Sun. Sept. 27 on the Ben Franklin Parkway.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has reported that they expect more than 15,000 registrants for the Congress and from one to two million people for the Papal Weekend.
Many pilgrims from the Diocese of Worcester will be joining fellow Catholics from around the country and around the world at the festivities in Philadelphia. Please pray for them!
If you cannot be present physically, we hope that all the faithful will be present both spiritually and “virtually” at the historic World Meeting of Families. As St. John Paul II so famously said, “The family is the most vital cell of society.” Surely all who participate – whether in person or from a distance – can be edified through this event which serves to help and strengthen families in their mission to live and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here are some ideas to help everyone participate from wherever they are:
Tune in to Catholic media. Coverage of the Holy Father’s travels in the U.S. will surely be covered extensively. Consult your local television listings to locate times and channels for EWTN and Catholic TV. Local Catholic media and communications can be found in our diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Free Press, Emmanuel Radio (1230 AM Worcester and 970 AM Southbridge), and at our diocesan website www.worcesterdiocese.org.
Visit the World Meeting of Families website at www.worldmeeting2015.org or download their mobile app. There are many things to explore there!
Visit the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) at www.usccb.org and peruse their Papal Visit pages which include information, backgrounders, and catechetical resources.
Utilize the hashtags #popeinus and #popeinphilly in your social media posts.
Learn more about and meditate on the meaning of the family using the many resources available. St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) and his beautiful reflection Gratissimam Sane (Letter to Families), are rich and uplifting teachings and easy to read. Both can be accessed at www.vatican.va.
The official catechesis, titled “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” explores the various aspects of this theme and is very well done. It is available through Our Sunday Visitor Publishing. The USCCB’s marriage website, www.marriageuniqueforareason.org has also offered some helpful commentary in blog posts on the themes of the catechesis.
Another reflective piece that is very helpful was created by some of our own local pastors and can be freely duplicated and used by parishes and by individuals. Download this useful handout at www.worcesterdiocese.org/world-meeting-of-families.
And most especially, please pray! We encourage our parishes and people to offer prayers for the Holy Father on his apostolic journey to the U.S. which also includes stops in Washington, D.C. and New York, as well as Philadelphia, and for all those attending the World Meeting of Families this fall.
This is a very special opportunity to have the World Meeting of Families held in the United States, and so close to us here in the northeast. It will truly be a great blessing for our country and for our Church.
The World Meeting of Families Prayer:
God and Father of us all, in Jesus, your Son and our Savior,
you have made us your sons and daughters in the family of the Church.
May your grace and love help our families in every part of the world
be united to one another in fidelity to the Gospel.
May the example of the Holy Family, with the aid of your Holy Spirit,
guide all families, especially those most troubled,
to be homes of communion and prayer
and to always seek your truth and live in your love.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us!