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family conf webNormand Chouinard, retreat team leader at St. Hedwig Parish in Naugatuck, introduces Father Alvin J. LeBlanc, pastor of St. Ann Parish in Bristol; and a judge on the Archdiocese of Hartford’s Metropolitan Tribunal, for the opening prayer at a World Meeting of Families workshop held March 14 at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven. (Photo by Mary Chalupsky)

NEW HAVEN – In anticipation of Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia Sept. 22-27 for the eighth World Meeting of Families, Damon Owens, executive director of the Theology of the Body Institute, discussed one of the key papal teachings about marriage and the family at a workshop March 14 at the Knights of Columbus Museum.

“This is the first time the World Meeting of Families will be held in the United States,” said Mr. Owens, who talked about Saint John Paul II’s catechesis known as the Theology of the Body, which he delivered from September 1979 to November 1984.

“Pope Francis has said that the role of the family is so dignified; yet how can we communicate and live that in the world, in our communities, in our families today?” he asked rhetorically.

“This is an opportunity to discuss the issues that matter.”

“Whether you’re Catholic or non-Catholic, people look to the Catholic Church for moral guidance,” he said. “The world is watching.”

The World Meeting of Families was launched in 1994 by Pope John Paul II. Held every three years and sponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family, the week-long international event of prayer, catechesis and celebration draws participants from around the globe.

It is expected that 10,000 to 15,000 delegates from more than 150 nations, as well as nearly 100 world-renowned speakers, theologians, educators and religious leaders, will descend upon Philadelphia for the world’s largest Catholic gathering of families (

Pope Francis will not attend the Congress at the Convention Center, but he is expected to participate in the closing events of the World Meeting of Families. These events include the Festival of Families on Sept. 26 and a papal Mass to be celebrated on Sept. 27. Both of these events will take place on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the heart of Philadelphia, and will be open to the public.

During his visit to the United States, the pope is also expected to address Congress on Sept. 24; and will be the fourth pope to visit the United Nations in its 70-year history when he speaks there on Sept. 25.

The theme for 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. The official catechesis is available in several languages from Our Sunday Visitor ($9.95). For copies, call 1-800-348-2440 ext. 2173.

Mr. Owens was invited to the workshop by Normand Chouinard, retreat team leader at St. Hedwig Parish in Naugatuck. The mission of the Philadelphia-based Theology of the Body Institute, based in Downington, Pa., is to educate and train men and women to understand, live and promote the Theology of the Body.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.