September 24, 2015 // Local

Day 2: World Meeting of Families

The Fitzmaurices assist with the Helping Hands volunteer project.

Cardinal Sarah, Helen Alvaré talks, volunteer project highlight Wednesday World Meeting of Families

By Tim Johnson

PHILADELPHIA — While Pope Francis hit the ground running in Washington on Wednesday, the World Meeting of Families kept pace with a packed agenda for its second full day.

After Mass, African Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, presented the morning keynote on “The Light of the Family in a Dark World.”

The family is called to show Christ’s love to the end, he reflected, so that what was said about the first Christians might be said of Christ’s disciples today: “See how they love one another.”

Cardinal Sarah illustrated this point with the inspiring story of Frank Palombo and his wife, Jean, parents of eight sons and two daughters. Frank was a New York firefighter who lost his life on 9/11, when their oldest child was 15 and their youngest was 11 months old. In spite of suddenly finding herself a single parent of 10 children, Jean clung to her faith and raised her family valiantly until her own death from cancer in 2013. Their oldest son, Anthony, will be ordained a Catholic priest this year.

“Evil does not have the last word,” Cardinal Sarah commented. “God is not overcome by evil; He overcomes evil with good.”

Cardinal Sarah up close and personal after his lecture.

“Cardinal Sarah gave an inspiring lecture,” reported Jeremy Reidy, a diocesan participant from Our Lady of Good Hope Parish, Fort Wayne. “He traced the role of sin through salvation history — beginning with the fall, through the flood, all the way to modernity. The breakdown of relationships — divorce, contraception, abortion, disordered sexuality, unwillingness to care for sick or elderly family members — all of these are the result of sin. All of these cause the breakdown of families.”

Jeremy related, “Perhaps his most impactful statement was about his brethren priests. He said that even members of Christ’s Church can be tempted to change Jesus’ teaching. We must be willing and able to separate the Church’s magisterial teaching from pastoral practice. To get them confused could lead to heresy. Cardinal Sarah went on to emphasize the role of Divine Mercy. He said, ‘The most important message of Jesus is mercy.’ But, he added, people must repent. The Church must be a place where people living wrongly can turn to ‘regenerate’ without pointing fingers.”

Jeremy added, “The role of the family, according to Cardinal Sarah, is to make love visible in the world — leading others to believe. The love of the family is stronger than any darkness.”

Jeremy’s wife, Becky Reidy, visited the exhibition hall with the younger children and the older Reidy children attended the youth track.

After Cardinal Sarah’s talk, Jeremy tracked him down and got a “selfie” with His Eminence. “Becky rightfully called me a dork,” quipped Jeremy. “But I couldn’t help myself.”

The afternoon keynote was given by professor of law Helen Alvaré, former spokesperson on pro-life issues for the U.S. bishops who is also a wife and mother. In her characteristic eloquent and engaging style, Alvaré, reflected on how human beings are made for relationship in imitation of the Holy Trinity, and how the family is the first place where we learn to welcome one another.

“When you live elbow-to-elbow with other people, there are endless (or shall we say relentless) opportunities to grow in love,” Alvaré said in her talk.

Ellen, Gillian, Henry and Lucy meet St. Nicholas, who gave the kids pope hats.

Pope Benedict spoke of the need to give to every person God puts on our path the look of love that they crave, she continued. “It is unlikely that we will ever start down that road if we have not practiced it at home.”

Rebecca Fitzmaurice, a member of Queen of Peace Parish, Mishawaka, attended the session by Alvaré. Fitzmaurice took to heart Alvaré’s message that family life provides endless — and relentless — opportunities to learn to love, and “she reminded us of what Pope Francis has said about the reality of married life — that sometimes plates fly,” Fitzmaurice noted.

“It can be extremely difficult, but in the end it is family love that gets us to a wider circle, that circle of others who are different from us, and we still need to love them … and it is thanks to our family that we do indeed learn how to love them,” Rebecca said.

Mike Fitzmaurice attended a session with Dr. Janet Smith. He said, “Janet Smith’s talk was enjoyable — she has a great sense of humor.”

Rebecca Fitzmaurice also attended a presentation on saintly couples. The presenters introduced 15 saintly couples and then summed up the qualities they all had in common:

Love and fear of God; unfailing trust in God; acceptance of God’s will; personal and intimate relationship with God; obedience to Christ; fruitfulness; life of service to others; lived the evangelical counsels; and love of neighbor/hospitality.

Rebecca also attended a talk that included seven practical suggestions for how the family can and should live as a domestic Church: Enthronement of the Sacred Heart; parental prayer; Morning Offering; family rosary; praying the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours); grace at meal time; and the importance of Sunday.

The Fitzmaurices were impressed by the Helping Hands project in the afternoon. Helping Hands was “a feed the hungry volunteer session where we met other folks, formed small work teams, and together bagged food items for shipping to West Africa,” Rebecca said. “It was great — a whole room full of strangers working together out of love for other strangers overseas (all of us brothers and sisters in Christ).”
“Someone had the job of counting the items we all completed, and every 3,000 packages, they rang a huge gong and we all cheered,” she said.

“They rang it four times while we were there,” said son Gregory Fitzmaurice, 13. “That means we helped make more than 12,000 packages.”

Gregory was once again looking forward to a Wii bowling event with bishops and youth.

Gregory’s other desire was to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe, so the Fitzmaurice family ate supper there, along with priests and other families from the World Meeting of Families. They walked one block to see St. John the Evangelist Church, and then, being very tired, “we took the train ‘home’ to New Jersey, where our kitty greets us every night with much purring,” noted Rebecca.

For more photos visit the FACEBOOK page.

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