The World Meeting of Families (WMoF) event was conceived by St Pope John Paul II in 1992 to look at strengthening the sacred bonds of the family unit across the globe. The first WMoF took place in Rome in 1994, the International Year of the Family.
Every three years since 1994, families from all over the world are invited by the Holy Father to attend this global gathering. At the conference, families share their thoughts, dialogue and prayers, working together to grow as individuals and family units.
Families can participate in discussion groups on the Christian family’s role in the Church and society, led by many distinguished speakers.
The 8th meeting of the WMoF is being held in Philadelphia in the US from 22-27 September. It is the first to take place in an English-speaking country. This will enable Australian participants to fully appreciate the catechesis program.
Two families will represent the Diocese of Parramatta. The Wilkinson family from Padre Pio Parish, Glenmore Park, is headed by Brad and Natalie. The McLaughlin family from St Finbar’s Parish, Glenbrook, is headed by James and Julie-Ann.
Pope Francis will be attending the event on 26-27 September. The event will also be occurring a few days before the opening of the Ordinary Synod on the Family, so the Holy Father’s homilies and addresses are likely to set the tone for the Synod.
For the Diocese of Parramatta, the WMoF presents a significant formation opportunity. It will help our delegate families in their efforts to develop new approaches to parish-based family ministry to support families to grow in love and faith.
Once these approaches have been trialled at St Finbar’s Parish, Glenbrook, and Padre Pio Parish, Glenmore Park, a broader implementation will be planned across the Diocese.
Read the World Meeting of Families Letter of Welcome
Meet the Wilkinson family
The Wilkinson family from Padre Pio Parish, Glenmore Park, is headed by Brad and Natalie. Brad is an auto-electrician who works as a Traffic Emergency Patroller for Roads and Maritime Services. Natalie is a full-time mother and is on the Parish Council. She recently attended Proclaim 2014 in Sydney, which focussed on evangelisation.
They have five children aged between two and 10 with three of them attend Bethany Catholic Primary. They are expecting their sixth child at the end of November.
Brad and Natalie have been married for 17 years. Natalie rediscovered her Catholic faith in the early years of marriage. At this time Brad encountered Jesus for the first time and he was eventually received into the Catholic Church at St Nicholas of Myra’s Parish, Penrith, in 2003.
The couple was a bit shocked to be asked to represent the Diocese at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Their initial reaction was that their family was in no way perfect enough to represent the Diocese.
However, while their family can be “messy and loud and chaotic”, according to Brad and Natalie, it is in this environment that they believe their children can learn “repentance and forgiveness, acceptance of each other and, ultimately, to love each other as Christ loves”.
Meet the McLaughlin family
The McLaughlin family from St Finbar’s Parish, Glenbrook, is headed by James and Julie-Ann. Jim works for the State Government near Blacktown. He also serves on the Parish Council.
Julie-Ann is President of the NSW Branch of the Australian Family Association and is a teacher at Montgrove College. They have four children aged between six and 12 who attend Montgrove College and Wollemi College.
Jim and Julie-Ann have been married for 13 years. Jim grew up in a strong Catholic family in the Maitland area. Julie-Ann converted to Catholicism in 1996 while she was teaching at Tangara School for Girls.
Her recent work with the Australian Family Association has made her acutely aware of the importance of the family as the cornerstone of society and the Church.
Jim and Julie-Ann are honoured to represent the Diocese at the World Meeting of Families as they believe that “their family would benefit not only personally from the grace bestowed upon them from this unique experience but it would also serve to enrich their parish by sharing the ideas, initiatives and experiences gained with other families”.