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What is the World Meeting of Families?

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Our family room is the heart of our home. Homework is done there, toys are strewn on the floor and among the crayon-colored sofas, and movie and game nights are feature events. Our family room is where we gather to pray, read books, and welcome family and friends. It’s a place of celebration and mourning, a place to gather with our imperfections, our hopes and dreams.

When our family joins thousands of other families in Philadelphia this week (Sept. 21-27) for the World Meeting of Families, I’d like to think we’re gathering in the Church’s family room. We will gather in the aptly nicknamed City of Brotherly Love to pray, share, learn, play, sing, laugh, cry, praise and celebrate the gift of family.

The World Meeting of Families, sponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family, is the world’s largest Catholic gathering of families. This is the eighth such event, which was conceived by St. John Paul II and has taken place every three years beginning in 1994, The Year of the Family. This “family room” has traveled the globe and gathered in Rome (1994); Rio de Janeiro (1997); Rome (2000); Manila (2003); Valencia (2006); Mexico City (2009); Milan (2012); and now, Philadelphia (2015). 

The theme of this year’s congress is “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” emphasizing the importance of families as the building block of society. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia, together with the Pontifical Council for the Families, has written a series of catecheses for the event, geared toward adults, children and high school students.

Some of the topics of these catecheses include “Created for Joy,” “All Love Bears Fruit,” “The Nature and Role of the Church” and “Choosing Life.” Over the course of about six months, our small faith-sharing community read and discussed the 10 topics of the adult catechesis, while the children of our community simultaneously did the activities and readings on their age-appropriate lessons. This provided a wonderful framework for those of us who are attending to prepare for the WMOF, and also allowed those who are not attending to share in the process.

Tuesday through Friday of the WMOF will feature liturgies, keynote addresses, and breakout sessions centering on the 10 topics of the catechesis as they relate to family life. I can’t wait to hear speakers such as Bishop Robert Barron, Scott Hahn, Janet Smith and Christopher West.

There is also a concurrent Youth Congress with opportunities for children to learn about the themes and topics of the catechesis in fun ways, including creating pope puppets and mission rosaries. My kids have been brushing up on their saints facts, as there will be people dressed as saints walking around the Youth Congress, inviting children to talk to them and guess which saint they are. (I think these sound better than theme park characters, that’s for sure.) Our family is also looking forward to an afternoon of service, packaging meals to benefit Catholic Relief Services’ social service centers in Burkina Faso.

The WMOF will culminate with the Festival of Families, featuring guest of honor Pope Francis and a slew of musical acts. Pope Francis will continue his papal visit to Philadelphia on Sunday, but the WMOF concludes with the Festival of Families.

A number of families from the Archdiocese of Miami are attending the WMOF, including some families from Camino del Matrimonio, Southeast Pastoral Institute (SEPI), ARCHAngels homeschooling group, Encuentros Juveniles and several parishes. The official pilgrimage group from the archdiocese will join the festivities in Philly Friday through Sunday and will remain through the Papal Mass Sunday afternoon.

How can you join in if you’re unable to attend the WMOF? Read the beautifully-written catecheses and share them with your children and grandchildren. Pray and ask for the intercession of the Holy Family and Sts. Joachim and Anne, for the safety of Pope Francis and those traveling to the WMOF.

The hope is that this event will be a foreshadowing of our future family reunion in heaven and that, one day, we may all gather together in God’s Great Family Room.

Comments from readers

John Ramirez - 09/27/2015 10:50 AM
Ms. Lopez, I wanted to understand better what the World Meeting of Families was. Your explanation was helpful. More, your enthusiasm for your faith comes through. As a graduate of the United Nations University for Peace, I have been interested to witness what would arise to address obstacles. This Pope, with his address to Congress, the United Nations, and what other views he shared during this trip, is clearly posing responses. He has elevated my faith. I hope you and your family received as much from your participation as I have from what I have witnessed. Respectfully, John
Rev. Phillip H. Tran - 09/22/2015 06:30 PM
Beautiful! Wish I could go, praying for you and all of our pilgrims traveling up there. Praying especially for the Pope, bishops, and all those involved in the World Meeting of Families. Blessings!

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