Tag Archives: World Meeting of Families

Transition day: Bridging the World Meeting and papal visit

September 25, 2015

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Michael and Kristen Martocchio from the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, brought their two daughters, Francesca, 5, and Cecilia, 2, with them to the World Meeting. Kristen is also pregnant, due in January.

Michael and Kristen Martocchio from the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, brought their two daughters, Francesca, 5, and Cecilia, 2, with them to the World Meeting. Kristen is also pregnant, due in January.

The World Meeting of Families has wrapped up Part I: the congress, a series of keynote addresses and breakout sessions in multiple languages, daily Masses with extraordinary processions of miters, and 20,000 people trying to navigate a convention center. It has been well-managed chaos, making it seem like that huge number of participants can’t actually be real. It’s the most people the World Meeting has attracted since its founding by St. John Paul II in 1994.

Part II begins tomorrow, when Pope Francis arrives for the World Meeting of Families. Anticipation is thick. This morning, security set up a perimeter around the area Pope Francis will be tomorrow, and getting in and out appears daunting, although right now it’s easy. (Although one Philadelphian just called it “a police state.”) I have no idea what to expect tomorrow when our group arrives. We’re scheduled to visit the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa tomorrow for Mass tomorrow, but it sounds like other groups in the Minnesota contingent are changing plans to get to downtown Philadelphia earlier.

Nobody’s really certain what to expect. My husband asked if I’m going to try to take a selfie with Pope Francis. I’ll just be happy if I glimpse him with my own eyes.

For me, there’s a definite perceived disconnect between the Holy Father’s visit and the World Meeting of Families, even though I’m completely aware that the World Meeting is why he’s here. He’s made that clear, too, through his emphasis to Congress on the importance of the family and his concerns about young adults’ fear to form their own families, as well as his overtures to children throughout the trip so far.

Sister Candace Fier, a Schoenstatt sister and the director of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of New Ulm, said that disconnect isn’t supposed to exist.

“I would hope that people would see it as one,” she said. “I’ve talked to people who have attended other World Meeting of Families, and I’ve gotten the impression that the United States is really the only one that has separated the papal visit from the World Meeting of Families. We’ve kind of made them two separate events. I think the Holy Father was coming for of the World Meeting of Families, he was coming to address our families. He was coming to make this a worldwide encounter with the father of the Church, and in that sense I hope that people don’t see it as two separate things, because we take away from the beauty and the depth of what this experience is meant to be.

“He came to see our families together,” she continued. “He came to give a message to our families here — not individuals here or there. It’s not another speaking engagement, another thing that was put on the agenda for his visit to the United States. He came to give a message to this group as the Holy Father has done every three years since John Paul started it. I hope we don’t lose sight of that, because I think we need to listen carefully. The message is specific to us as families, as Church.”

At the core, that’s why Michael and Kristen Martocchio from the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, brought their two daughters, Francesca, 5, and Cecilia, 2, with them to the World Meeting. Kristen is also pregnant, due in January.

“It’s the World Meeting of Families — not the World Meeting about Families,” Michael said. “We just thought it was important to bring them, plus the sense of getting the larger Church, the global Church for them. They’re not going to remember a whole lot about what people say, but they will hopefully have some memory of a bunch of people.”

People’s reaction? “The weirdest thing is that a bunch of people will take pictures of us with our kids, like, ‘Look — a real, live family!’,” he said. “Other than that, it’s been fine, everyone’s happy to see kids.”

Kristen has a backpack of crayons, coloring books, toys and prizes for good behavior.

“It keeps them entertained for at least 10 minutes,” she joked.

I’ve maybe been among those weird, oggly pilgrims Michael mentioned. I really miss my husband and toddler, and seeing families together makes me think of them.

There have been many families at the World Meeting; it includes a youth conference for school-age kids, and plenty of mothers have been nursing their infants. This morning during Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s address, I walked past a few siblings playing on the convention center floor with Legos. Smart mom, I thought.

But the challenge put forth during the World Meeting for so many moms and dads is far beyond keeping kids quiet in Church or a bishop’s presentation. It’s making the home a domestic church.

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Solving the mystery of pilgrim swag: What’s in the clear WMF backpacks?

September 22, 2015

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Pilgrim swag from the WMOF. Maria Wiering/The Catholic Spirit

Swag from the WMOF Maria Wiering/The Catholic Spirit

When we walked into the Pennsylvania Convention Center lobby this afternoon to sign in for the World Meeting of Families, cheerful volunteers handed us a T-shirt and a clear plastic backpack. Nevermind that we were already equipped with backpacks; now we had two. As I watched thousands of pilgrims sport this new accessory around the convention center — and to opening events including an address by Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles and Mass with Archbishop Charles Chaput — I grew more and more curious about exactly what was in these bags of mystery. Yes, we could see in them, but their contents were like a kaleidoscope, always changing, never quite in focus.

In the safety of my hotel room, I dumped the bag. The following are its contents:

  1. A navy blue cap with the World Meeting of Families logo. This might come in handy Saturday during the Festival of Families. Two days ago, weather.com forecasted perfect weather for this weekend and the outdoor events on Benjamin Franklin Parkway with Pope Francis. Tonight, the 10 p.m. news meteorologist painted a much darker picture — one that involves rain and wind.
  2. WMOF official T-shirt. I like it because I love green. Thank you, WMOF, for making these shirts green. Maybe chalk that one up to the intercession of WMOF co-patrons St. Gianna Molla and St. John Paul II?
  3. A WMOF official pin. Kind of like the Hard Rock Cafe, but it’s actually the World Meeting of Families.
  4. The Gospel of St. Luke. I’m not clear why a lone Gospel is in the pack, or why one of the evangelists was favored over the other. My guess: St. Luke’s Gospel may be the most family-centric, based on its inclusion of the Visitation and the longer Nativity narrative. That narrative contains this gem about the Blessed Mother’s reaction to people meeting her son: “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
  5. Holy Cards. Not one for Blessed Junipero Serra, who will be canonized tomorrow. That was definitely a miss. However, one of them is actually a magnet, so it evens out.
  6. WMOF official pen. Which is good, because I lose pens. Double points if it works, because it’s hard to trust a free pen these days.
  7. Publications. OSV Newsweekly and Family Foundations among them! Both insightful reads, but I’m biased.
  8. Water bottle. I brought my own, but this one is also green! #LaudatoSi’
  9. Official schedules. Critical, because there’s a ridiculous amount of stuff going on. And that’s just the kids’ congress.
  10. Pope Francis Fan. This idea was clearly pilfered from the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity.
  11. Pope Francis poncho. Again, helpful in the event that the weather decides to test our pilgrim dispositions, but now I’m feeling guilty for packing the only umbrella in the house.

Not included: ALL THE PAPER. Namely, flyers for every Catholic organization under the sun, including a clothing company hawking “popeful” shirts — you know, “hopeful,” but with added pope for pop. Now, to plan which talks to attend tomorrow, and assess whether or not I’ll need the poncho…

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