An array of enriching events, exciting speakers and beautiful catechesis to bring light and strength to the Christian family

The home page of the World Meeting of Families, at

The home page of the World Meeting of Families, at

St. John Paul II, recognizing the in­creasing challenges to the family in contemporary times, inaugurated the World Meeting of Families in 1994 to explore and celebrate the critical role of the family in society.

Now held every three years and sponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family, the World Meeting of Families is the world’s largest Catholic gathering of families. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia, led by Archbishop Charles Chaput, is hosting the overall event this year, including a World Meeting of Families Congress on September 22-25, followed by the visit of Pope Francis to the city on September 26-27.

Each World Meeting of Families has a theme that sharpens its focus; this year’s theme is “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” emphasizing the impact of the love and life of families on our society.

Registration for the World Meeting of Families Congress opens on Monday, September 21. There will be daily Mass, devotions, keynote addresses and multiple breakout sessions led by a wide variety of distinguished speakers. Among them is new Bishop-elect Robert Barron, founder of Word on Fire Ministries and host of the groundbreaking television documentary Catholicism; Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; and dozens of other religious and lay people in all areas of expertise and walks of life.

Running concurrently with the World Meeting of Families will be cultural and family-friendly events and activities in the Philadelphia area, including a film festival featuring at least eight different films around the city; an extensive exhibit of “Vatican Splendors” at the Franklin Institute (see accompanying story on page 114); and a historic 4,239-square-foot permanent mural-painting session led by renowned muralist Cesar Viveros.

Some of the symbols highlighting the activities of the global meeting

Some of the symbols highlighting the activities of the global meeting

Children aged 6-17 who are attending the World Meeting of Families with their parents can take part in a simultaneous Youth Congress, with a panoply of activities designed for different age groups. Younger children can make a “Pope Francis” puppet, a giant Lego block city, or a St. Francis of Assisi coloring book; teens can go bowling with visiting bishops, make care packages for hungry Af­ricans, or hang out in a café with live entertainment — and these are just a few of the available Youth Congress events.

All of the activities are linked to the World Meeting of Families Catechism (reviewed on the following page), which was prepared specifically for the event by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, but is a valuable resource for anyone who wishes to enrich their understanding of Catholic teaching on the family.

For families who desire child care while attending the Congress, “Camp WMOF” welcomes children aged 6 months to 12 years for a fee, with age-appropriate activities, games and arts-and-crafts projects; care providers will have required background checks.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is home to about 1.4 million Catholics, with 219 parishes and 139 schools, and 10 Catholic colleges and universities run by various religious orders. It is one of four dioceses erected in 1808 by Pope Pius VII from the territory of the U.S.’s first Catholic diocese, the Diocese of Baltimore.

Philadelphia boasts historical residence of three famous saints: St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, who started an orphanage and Italian parish in the city; St. Katherine Drexel, a native who established the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament to care for Native Americans and African-Americans; and St. John Nepomucene Neumann, the fourth bishop of Philadelphia and the first American bishop to be canonized.

Dozens of lovely old churches dot the city, in addition to five shrines: the Miraculous Medal Shrine, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the National Shrine of St. John Neumann, the National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia, and the Saint Katherine Drexel Mission Center and Shrine.

Information about the World Meeting of Families, the Pope’s visit and related events and sights in the City of Philadelphia can be found on the internet at

Back to the Basics

By Robert Wiesner

A review of Love is Our Mission, the official catechism of the World Meeting of Families

The various language editions of Love Is Our Mission, the official catechism of the World Meeting of Families

The various language editions of Love Is Our Mission, the official catechism of the World Meeting of Families

Little by little, the practice of the Catholic faith in America seems to be becoming more difficult. With each Supreme Court decision or innovative politically-correct notion, American Catholics seem to be more hemmed in by new restrictions or socially awkward situations, urged to conform to whatever new fad might be born of our own miserable “spirit of the age.” This is clearly not the Holy Spirit; and Catholics can expect little good to come from our nation’s deter­iorating morality. A timely intervention in American Catholicism, then, is the World Meeting of Families in September.

There is a catechism for the convention, Love is Our Mission, issued for attendees to prepare their families. Nothing new is said in this book; rather, it is a compilation of perennial Church teaching on the family, gathered in one handy reference volume. The sacramental character of marriage as well as the basic moral precepts are all covered in a well-conceived and easy-to-reference format. The work further delves into the social and economic impact of families, and the beneficial effects of solid family life on every nation.

Nothing new, then, simply a re-telling of Christ’s basic message to the world: Increase and multiply, so that Paradise may be populated.

In our ailing age, the family has fallen into some disrepute in the Western world. Small families, or even childless marital unions, are held to be virtuous states of life, for the sake of self-fulfillment, or the environment, or a myriad of other reasons.

Yet, even the most cursory thought should suggest to a normally reflective person that a world with few children is a sterile and futile place. There literally is no purpose for a world without children.

Alas, we do not live in an age populated by the normally reflective.

Rather, twisted intellects have devised philosophies going so far as to insist that the human race should be eliminated entirely in favor of chimpanzees, aardvarks and even cockroaches!

The Holy Family by Philadelphia artist Neilson Carlin, part of the official image for the gathering

The Holy Family by Philadelphia artist Neilson Carlin, part of the official image for the gathering

Sometimes, when a soldier wishes to survive a battle, there is nothing to do other than hunker down in a foxhole and wait out the fury of an assault. Life in such circumstances becomes very basic: live until the next moment or the next hour and hope for better times to come.

The American Catholic family is in much the same situation. Assailed on every side by society and state, there seems nothing possible for a family other than to make of their home an impregnable fortress wherein faith and morals may survive intact.

Love is Our Mission even goes so far as to say that the more dangerous roles for Catholics in society might best be left to the unmarried, who have no direct role in the care for children. The single folks and the celibate religious, then, should be those who protest publicly and submit to harassment, economic ruin and imprisonment.

The late Cardinal Francis George of blessed memory once famously stated that he would die in his bed, his successor would die in prison and the bishop after that would die a martyr in the public square. Perhaps His Eminence was something of a pie-eyed optimist, but he certainly saw that difficult times were ahead for the Church. Clearly, the entire Church must be seen as support for that other holy trinity composed of man, woman and child. The age demands that all Catholics embrace the most basic tenets of the Faith, resist the current furious assaults on morality and hold on by their metaphorical spiritual fingernails to holy survival.

We know Who wins this current battle. The only question to be answered lies in the final body count. To that end, the World Meeting of Families is a call to return to the very basic purpose of human life. In sum, human families exist for the sole purpose of seeing that when all is said and done, the ancient and eternal family home called Paradise is fully populated in the great re-union to come.

Wiesner writes from Front Royal, Virginia, USA, where he edits textbooks for Seton Home Study Schools, a Catholic home-school non-profit accredited under the diocese of Arlington, Virginia.

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