The World Meeting of Families was a spiritual experience that my husband and I will never forget, because we really did “experience” meeting families. The people that we rubbed shoulders with made it a joyful assembly, even though most did not actually see Pope Francis. If we had really needed to see him, it would have been easier to do from in front of our computer screens. Attending the World Meeting Congress at the convention center during the week, we encountered a surprising number of people we know from the Christian Family Movement (CFM), an international organization that promotes family life. They came from Malawi, Philippines, Mexico, and Costa Rica, as well as from California, Iowa, and Texas. We met a CFM couple from Canada, whom we had previously only Skyped with, and embraced like old friends. We feel truly blessed to have been with so many wonderful families.
Fourteen of our grandchildren came on Saturday and Sunday, and we rode to train into downtown. Our daughter-in-law made sure we had matching red T-shirts, all with the LOVE sign. We were quite a procession marching down the street, and someone told us they had seen our family on TV! Several young families who are friends with our kids joined us with their many children and babies. These family friends were one of the best signs to me that our family can have a positive impact on the world: We literally multiply our witness and expand our impact on society when Christian families join together. The three five-year-olds, walked all the way to the Festival of Families site, about 3 miles from the train station to our blanket on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The multi-national crowd at the Closing Papal Mass was friendly and prayerful. All the police, national guards, and WMOF volunteers were so welcoming and smiling. I think they also enjoyed the positive, appreciative people greeting and chatting with them. I saw police posing for photos with kids and one state trooper led his section of the crowd on the parade route in a wave. Security was very tight and the bag searches were thorough, so much so that many people had trouble getting into the Festival area. All in all, the World Meeting of Families was real win for the “City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.” It was also a real win for the mission of Jesus, the Light of the World. We saw Pope Francis drive by, and we loved that, but our best memories are those of the smiling couples and children we met in Philadelphia. We received his blessing, and we also shared the blessing of our families.