Memories of the World Meeting of Families 2015

2 October 2015
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2 October 2015, Comments: Comments Off on Memories of the World Meeting of Families 2015

Packing food for CRS’ Helping Hands Initiative

On Sunday 20th September a delegation of nine diocesan and national Marriage & Family Life Ministry representatives from England and Wales flew to Philadelphia for the 8th World Meeting of Families (WMOF).  The theme was “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.” The delegates attended a four day Congress along with 20,000 others from across the globe, then joined the Holy Father and 1000,000 pilgrims for the Festival of Families on Saturday 26th.  Following are some of their personal impressions of that week:

“My favourite memory of the WMOF was the Helping Hands event where our delegation rolled up their sleeves and joined others to pack 30,000 meals for the Catholic Relief Service (CRS) which will be sent out to families in Burkina Faso. To prepare us for the task we heard a moving testimony from one of their ambassadors, a Ghanaian who had lost both his parents and several siblings at a young age. He was fortunate to come into contact with CRS – they fed him and gave him the chance to attend school.  He now has a Master’s degree, is married with four children and works for CRS himself.  Small acts of kindness can make such a difference. This was just one hour of our time, but we will never know how many lives it touched.”

Waiting on the parade route on Saturday

“The feeling I have come away with is that working with families is such a privilege. To help people see the beauty in our family relationships and to know that God is with us in all our messiness and our wounded states. To be able to share the passion God has for each and every one of us is a great thing.”

The legacy of WMOF for me is that the complex dynamics that were at play in Philadelphia will continue to be so in our own context in England and Wales. We are church, the body of Christ and everyone needs to both know they have a space, a contribution to make, and a home. The way forward is affirmed as being very practical, ‘doing Christianity’ creating space for listening, empathy and sharing the journey.”

The Exhibition Hall at the Congress of the World Meeting of Families

“I will take home the example of the Amish people who built Philadelphia without a first street because only God is first; we must remember that we are born through God – as equals, not one above another.”

“There are too many memories to count but they would include attending, as the guests of the Irish delegation, the premier performance of ‘The Wedding Feast of The Lamb’ by Dr Cormac O’Duffy an Irish American who conducted the piece himself with gusto and humour and the Catholic Grandparents Association reception. One evening I attended Mass and a reception for the Irish delegation hosted by the Irish Catholics of Philadelphia. This took me far outside the glitzy city centre security zone through scenes of tired urban dilapidation to the beautiful parish church of St Anne’s – from this distance the city appeared a distant bar chart of bright lights.”

Joanne, Katherine, Elizabeth, Margaret, Hannah and Breda

Joanne, Katherine, Elizabeth, Margaret, Hannah and Breda

“I will take home the wonderful feeling of welcome, of fellowship, celebration and of sorrow in this extraordinary city.  It was a coming together of diverse cultures, personal stories and contrasting family experiences linked by the bond of shared faith. A vision was set out and a bridge must now be built from this to our lived world so that all our wounded hearts and every lost sheep can be carried home.”

“For me the key memory will be the realisation that we are part of a very diverse Church; the vast representation of countries and cultures present in Philadelphia was something I hadn’t expected. Catholics come in all shapes, sizes, colours – many display their faith with tremendous joy. And the real message of Jesus is LOVE. When others are not ready or willing to come to God or have lost their faith we must allow them to experience God by being present to them and meeting them as equals in sincerity; in this way God will gently use us to reach their hearts!”

Prayer Knots Grotto Philadelphia WMF15

Prayer Knots in the Grotto outside the Basilica of Ss Peter and Paul

“I was struck by the unifying force of Pope Francis. There were wide differences in understanding and sympathies among some of the delegates and speakers and yet his presence and his words seemed able to hold us all, and the wider world he spoke to on his way to us, in a loving embrace. I felt part of a wonderful small group of people but also connected in love with the universal church of all who love Jesus and seek to do his will…to love one another as he has loved us, even though we are all wounded and vulnerable.”

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