World Meeting of Families brings together over 17,000 people Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Cathy Lins, Catholic Herald Correspondent   
Thursday, Oct. 08, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

world meeting of families mural
People work on a mural of Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. A family from Argentina pushed the number of contributors to the paint-by-number mural past 2,263 and into the Guinness Book of World Records. (Marie Lins photo)

Editor’s note: Cathy Lins and Marie Lins from the Diocese of Madison attended events surrounding the recent visit of Pope Francis to the United States. Marie Lins attended the entire World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

The World Meeting of Families (WMOF), held from September 22 to 25 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia, was the largest in history with over 17,000 participants and over 100 countries represented.

The official theme for the 2015 World Meeting of Families was “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”

World Meetings

Since its inception in 1994, by St. John Paul II, the World Meeting of Families has sought to strengthen the sacred bonds of family across the globe.

Beginning with the 1994 Year of the Family, the Pontifical Council for the Family has been responsible for organizing the World Meetings of Families in Rome (1994), Rio de Janeiro (1997), Rome (2000), Manila (2003), Valencia (2006), Mexico City (2009), Milan (2012), and now Philadelphia (2015).

At the close of this year’s Festival of Families, Dublin, Ireland, was announced as the site of the next World Meeting of Families in 2018.

Week-long activities
To read Cathy Lins and Marie Lins posts during their coverage of Pope Francis' U.S. trip and the World Meeting of Families, click here.

An opening ceremony began the Congress Tuesday afternoon with music from choirs from the Philadelphia area and presentations by the organizers. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, each gave a welcome message along with Mayor Michael Nutter.

Mayor Nutter showed the gifts from the Philadelphia area that were to be presented to Pope Francis, which included a Lenox bowl and a custom-made bicycle.

The first keynote address was given by Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles. Bishop Barron talked about humans as the Imago Dei (image of God) and how we are called to live out our mission as priests, prophets, and kings.

Christianity has always held up the dignity of the human person and the Bible tells us that we are made in the image and likeness of God, he noted. Atheism sees God as a competitor to human beings. But when God comes close to a person, they are like the burning bush in Scripture — they become luminous and radiant and beautiful without being consumed.

The first day ended with an opening Mass.

On Wednesday and Thursday, participants could begin the day with Mass and each morning and afternoon began with a keynote address followed by a choice of 15 breakout sessions.

The Adult Congress and Youth Congress were happening at the same time. The Youth Congress provided activities for youth ages six through 17 while their parents attended adult sessions.

The exhibit hall was filled with booths of various Catholic apostolates, Religious orders, and publishers, and took several trips to be able to see it all.

Parishioners from the Diocese of Madison described the experience as a chance to walk through a “who’s who” of the Catholic faith. Several had photos with various well-known cardinals, priests, and apostolate leaders.

Marie Lins said, “I found the World Meeting of Families to be a great opportunity to be inspired by many speakers and found a lot of great resources in the exhibit hall.”

She and other local participants noted that the best part was being able to meet and visit with people from all over the world. Whether at the Convention Center during the official WMOF events, walking down the street, or sitting on the trains — people had opportunities for great conversations with other WMOF participants.

Philadelphia residents were welcoming and willing to talk about their thoughts on Pope Francis and his visit, whether they were Catholic or not.

Special events

Philadelphia is famous for its many murals. The city’s planners created a large mural, consisting of 153 five-foot square panels, to commemorate the World Meeting of Families 2015 and the visit by Pope Francis. This particular mural is a large “paint by number” piece.

The planners hoped to break the world record for the number of people working together to create a work of art. WMOF participants were invited to paint a small part of the mural, as were people from the city of Philadelphia during the months leading up to the World Meeting.

In addition, the archbishops and Pope Francis were each presented with their own paintbrush by local Catholic school children. The final mural depicts Pope Francis and some of his stops during his visit.

The finished mural will be installed at St. Malachy School in north Philadelphia, one of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

Saints’ relics were on display throughout the city. Participants could go to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul where they could see the relics of St. John Paul II, St. Gianna Molla, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux and her parents Louis and Zelie Martin. The relics of St. Maria Goretti were at two different Philadelphia churches during the week: the Shrine of St. Rita and St. John the Evangelist.

Media only events

We attended a few private gatherings for media personnel only while in Philadelphia.

We attended “Verbum Domini II: God’s Word Goes Out to the Nations,” a special exhibit at the Museum of the Bible. We saw over 80 items, such as pages of original Psalms written in Greek on papyrus (Bodmer Psalms codex); fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls; and pages from the codex Climaci Rescriptus, which contain Christian texts from the sixth to eighth centuries, most of them in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke.

The items were initially on display at the Vatican. It is one of the largest private collections of rare biblical texts and artifacts in the world.

The Museum of the Bible is opening in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 2017. The project will help undergraduates work with original biblical documents, and hopefully, engage them in graduate work in biblical studies.

The new museum will be larger than the current Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and will utilize technology to engage guests with the exhibits and others around the world studying the Bible. The project is helping local parishes engage in Bible study.

Marie Lins attended the U.S. Premiere of the Humanum films, which focus on the complementarity of men and women and the beauty of marriage. This is considered a groundbreaking series of films, capturing the ecology of the human family across the world and across religions.

They were filmed on location in Nigeria, Lebanon, Mexico, France, and the United States, employing a stunning cinematic blend of film, animation, and art. This was a chance for media representatives to meet David Kang and Sean Schiavolin of Ecce! Films, creators of the videos, and find out more about the promotion of the materials.

People can access the seven films at by going to The Humanum Series.

Please support our advertisers: