SAN DIEGO — This year, it will be easier than ever to participate in the World Meeting of Families.
Unlike in years past, when participants had no option but to pack their bags and book a flight to attend an international gathering, Pope Francis has asked all dioceses also to organize their own local events.
These diocesan-level events will coincide with the international gathering held June 22 to 26 in Rome, which will be scaled back and invitation-only this year due to ongoing concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
The San Diego Diocese will be hosting a celebration on Saturday, June 25, at the diocesan Pastoral Center. The event will run from noon to about 3 p.m. and will include lunch, family activities, and a Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop John Dolan. All families, as well as members of marriage and family ministries active in the region, are invited.
John Prust, director of the diocesan Office for Family Life and Spirituality, likened the diocesan event to “a family picnic.” Tacos and churros will be on the menu. There will be a bounce house for the kids, and lawn games for both the young and the young at heart.
“I’m personally looking forward to bringing my family,” said Janelle Peregoy, an associate director of the Family Life and Spirituality Office, adding that the bounce house and churros will be on her own family’s to-do list.
Participants also will have the opportunity to watch video footage from the World Meeting of Families in Rome, beginning at 1 p.m.
“In essence, Pope Francis is our keynote speaker,” quipped Peregoy.
The local event is expected to include opportunities to sing praise-and-worship music, pray a family rosary, and visit a ministry fair of marriage and family organizations.
Mass will be celebrated at 2 p.m., with Bishop Dolan presiding.
The bishop said it is “a good event whenever we can recognize the value of family as, really, the core of our Church.”
“Family is absolutely essential,” he said. “That’s where faith begins, it’s where mercy and forgiveness begin, it’s where sharing and charity begin, it’s where prayer and communication with God begin.”
The World Meeting of Families, which is organized by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, was first held in Rome in 1994. Since then, it has been held every three years, with one exception: The 2021 gathering was postponed until this year because of the pandemic. It has been held in various countries, most recently in Philadelphia (2015) and Dublin (2018).
For Prust, attending the event in Dublin was an “awesome” experience. But he was surprised at the time that there were fewer families in attendance than he had expected when compared to the many priests and bishops who were there.
“The reality is that very few families have the time or money needed to travel halfway across the world for the event,” he said.
Prust expressed hope that the idea of holding diocesan- and parish-level events in conjunction with the World Meeting might develop into a tradition.
Ricardo Márquez, associate director of the Family Life and Spirituality Office, reflected on the expected fruits of the World Meeting at both the international and diocesan levels.
Acknowledging that the world is experiencing a “crisis” when it comes to families, he said the event shows that the Church knows “we have to do something.” He hopes that one of the takeaways from the event will be a realization that the participating families are “not alone,” that they are part of a larger community.
Márquez also hopes that the fun experienced by the children that day will be “seeds for the future,” providing Catholic youth with a positive experience of the Church that will contribute to lifelong participation.
For more information, contact the Office for Family Life and Spirituality at (858) 490-8299.