September 16, 2015 // Local

Eager pilgrims look forward to World Meeting of Families

By Tim Johnson

Fred Everett, co-director of the Office of Family Life, said 24 families including 10 who received grants through the Office of Hispanic Ministry from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will be attending the World Meeting of Families theological congress and papal events in Philadelphia this week.

“Personally, I think that this will be a great event,” Everett shared. “It looks like they have a great group of speakers for both their keynotes and their breakout sessions. They also have different tracks for the youth at the theological congress with very engaging events. So, I’m excited to see it all come together, especially in light that this is the first ever visit of Pope Francis to the United States.”

Others echoed Everett’s anticipation.

Jeremy Reidy and his wife Becky will attend the World Meeting of Families with their five children — ages 11, nine, six, three and 14 months. “We’ve been called everything from brave to masochistic — but we’re taking all five of our kids,” Jeremy quipped.

He added, “The kids are most excited about being together as a family and ‘seeing’ Pope Francis (quotes because the closest we’ll likely get will be a big screen). Frankly, right up there with Pope Francis, the kids are excited about stopping in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Bishop Rhoades told them all about the chocolate factories in Hershey. After that conversation, that’s really high on their list.”

Members of Our Lady of Good Hope in Fort Wayne, Jeremy and Becky feel strongly that the Lord is calling them to go to the conference.

“Families have been under attack in this country for quite some time,” Jeremy said. “This conference could help to turn the tide. My greatest hope is that this conference will strengthen our family for the spiritual battle we face every day. That’s why I thought it was particularly important to have the kids attend. For the 11, nine, and six year olds, I’m hoping this conference will help build the spiritual foundation to withstand the onslaught they will face in the years ahead. I’m also hopeful that they will experience and learn what it means to live a holy, virtuous life.”
“Becky and I are hoping to come home with tools for our marriage and parenting tools we can use in our daily lives,” he noted. “Some of the world’s top scholars, authors and speakers will be presenting; as well as cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, sisters and brothers. The list of presenters is truly overwhelming; there is no way we will be able to hear all of them. I think we will just try to soak in as much as we can.”

The Noem family of St. Joseph Parish, South Bend, will be traveling with their son Oscar, 14, son Simon-Peter, 9, and daughter Lucy, 8.

“We were on board with the World Meeting of Families from the start — we were early adopters, you could say, even before it was announced that the pope would be attending,” Josh Noem told Today’s Catholic. “Both Stacey and I had very moving experiences at World Youth Days (I was in Denver with JPII in 1993 and Stacey took University of Portland students to Madrid in 2011). For both of us, World Youth Day was an encounter with the wider Church in a real, tangible way. It profoundly shaped my idea of Church.”

When they heard that the World Youth Day equivalent for families was coming to the U.S., Josh said, “We immediately recognized it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to encounter the universal Church as a family, with our kids. So, we’re looking forward to the pilgrimage and how it will shape our family’s spirituality in the coming years. Francis attending was icing on the cake.”

“For me, I’m looking forward to the energy that he’ll bring to the World Meeting of Families — it truly will be an encounter with the Universal Church when he is present and representing all of those who couldn’t be here. I’m also intensely interested in his prophetic witness — his words, but especially his deeds — and how it will call the U.S. to something more. It will be an adventure of faith for our family.”

Stacey Noem said, “I think the majority of my excitement around this trip is sharing it with the children: offering them this experience of world Church, getting to share in it with them, and to navigate it as a family unit is really a rare opportunity. By that I mean, the very nature of this event is different than if Josh and I were chaperones at a World Youth Day the children were attending, or a high school mission trip. So to, it is different than if it was focused on adults and the children were just an add on.”

“The World Meeting of Families will take us as a whole unit into account,” she said. “Even the schedule of the days reflects that: big breaks at lunch to reconnect and allow little ones to nap and finishing each day by 5 p.m. so that the evening is just family time.”

Mike and Rebecca Fitzmaurice, of Queen of Peace Parish in Mishawaka, are also excited about the World Meeting of Families. Sons John Paul, 16, and Gregory, 13, are ready for the trip to Pennsylvania. The boys say “they are hoping to come away with Pope Francis’s zucchetto and new friends from all over the United States.”

Rebecca told Today’s Catholic, “Mike and I are hoping to learn more about the Church’s teachings on the family and the calling that God has for families. We want to know how to become the family God wants us to be so we can more fruitfully and joyfully serve those around us.”

“Marriage and the family are vital to the health and well-being of society,” she said, “and the workshops and activities at the World Meeting of Families will help us to explore what God wants our family to do and to be in the world for Him.”

“We are looking forward to seeing the pope,” she said. “Pope Francis has said many beautiful and helpful things about family life, such as the importance of prayer and dreams and ‘joy’ in every family. We are excited to hear more of his wisdom and guidance. We also look forward to experiencing the beauty of so many families from all different places gathered together for this happy event.”

She concluded, “The unique identity of our own family will be clarified and strengthened as we hear about (at the talks) and see (in person) the huge variety of ways that each family lives out its calling. We will be inspired to develop our own new traditions and initiatives that will further build and sharpen who our family is meant to be.”

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