The World Meeting of Families met in Philadelphia, Sept. 22-25. From the event webpage: "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 theme of the World Meeting of Families is 'Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,' emphasizing the impact of the love and life of families on our society." Pope Francis will end his visit to the United States by celebrating Mass for the conclusion of the meeting on Sunday, Sept. 27.
The Archdiocese of Boston was well represented at the meeting. Attending were staff members from the Offices of Evangelization, Family Life, Lifelong Faith Formation, Cultural Diversity, Catholic Schools, Pro-Life and Respect Life. Many Tweeted and posted on Facebook and Instagram throughout the event and the archdiocesan facebook page followed the events as well.
The Church, through it schools and parishes, provides services and support to families. Many years ago, a television show noted that, "Whether by choice or circumstances, families come in all shapes and sizes." This is seen in parishes and collaboratives made up of families of all configurations: a single person living alone, intergenerational families, households blessed with one child and households blessed with many children.
In the Phase II Saugus collaborative of St. Margaret and Blessed Sacrament, helping families grow together in faith is important work that the staff and parishioners embrace with love and enthusiasm. Earlier this year the collaborative convened a Religious Education Advisory Board. Religious Education Coordinator Donna Zinna, reports, "We have decided that 'The Family' should be our focus for 2015-2016." To start the school year the collaborative celebrated an outdoor liturgy, on Sunday, Sept. 20. Blessed with perfect weather, the day was a great success. Donna reports, "Our entrance procession represented the coming together of the two parishes into one. Our slogan is: 'Two parishes, One focus on Christ.'" The procession included second graders and, "a representative from each parish carrying the sanctuary lamp from each parish. They were followed by representatives from each ministry. And our choir is a joint endeavor, together for a long time, and they provided beautiful music for the liturgy." Following Mass, there was a BBQ, with a DJ suppling the music. Games and activities for the children were coordinated by Scott Morin, the Saugus Youth Minister. Donna said, "Several teens from the parishes were there to help out. We also had a very successful Ministry Fair. And, just about everyone did something to help with the clean up!" A sure sign of collaboration!
In Lent, the Saugus collaborative plans to continue their Meager Meals program, with a special effort to include families. Last year second graders and their families helped prepare and serve one of the weekly meals. It was the first time that the collaborative did Meager Meals and Donna says, "We got such a wonderful response inviting kids and their families that we will invite a grade to sponsor the Meager Meal each Friday during Lent this year." Following the weekly meal, the group prays the Stations of the Cross.
The Phase I Newton Collaborative of Our Lady, Help of Christians and Sacred Heart Parishes has a new pastoral associate, Brian Niemiec. His focus will be young adult ministry and adult faith formation which fit well with outreach to families. He says, "The first real push I'm working on is helping to integrate baptism and marriage prep into young adult activities in the parish. If we can connect young families to a vibrant community when they reach out to a parish, the more likely they will be to stay involved and grow deeper in their faith. Engagement with the young adult community can then lead to greater engagement with the rest of parish life. I think it will be all about removing barriers and letting the Holy Spirit work. There has also been discussion about starting a parents and tots group for young families within the young adult community."
In an ongoing effort to support parishes in their work with families, the team from Boston will share what they learned in Philadelphia at a follow-up meeting: "Love is our Mission: Evangelizing the Family -- Lessons Learned from the World Meeting of Families." The workshop will take place at the Pastoral Center in Braintree, on Oct. 5, 9:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Information about the workshop can be found at www.bostoncatholic.org/familylife or by contacting Joan Lamar 617-746-5749.
SUSAN ABBOTT IS COORDINATOR OF PARISH OUTREACH FOR THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON'S OFFICE OF PASTORAL PLANNING.
Susan Abbott is the former Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.