Hopeful tone at Congress of Families

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Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

I went to the World Congress of Families which was held in Sydney last week. I was kindly sponsored by the Catholic Women’s League and took Isaac along with me to the Australian Technology Park in Redfern where it was held.

Leaders in education, business, activists, academia, the entertainment industry and more from all over the world came to present their work on strengthening families. It was wonderful to see such a forum expressly devoted to the family. The family is the core of our society; without families we have no society, and the healthier families we have, the healthier society we will have.

This is so obvious, and yet how anti-family our day-to-day life is so often. Parent work long hours, they commute, children have before and after school care or a raft of activities to go to.

Many of us are too busy to even sit down together for a meal during the week.

I’m not saying we’re any better with this, we often eat before Peter gets home from work, we’ve just signed our girls up for a season of basketball and I’m thinking of doing a course and a bit of writing work as well.

Technology enables each of us to entertain ourselves of an evening without having to interact with other family members even if we are at home together.

Social media can be a wonderful and creative means of communication, but it can also be destructive of family life and a family’s efforts to form cohesive values.

And then there are the entertainment and retail industries, which cater for young people without having their best interests at heart.

Families are up against it in many ways. And while we live in a relatively wealthy country where most families are not materially poor I would say that most families are time poor. Poor of both quantity and quality time in which relationships can really grow and develop deeply.

But the congress overall was inspiring, judging from the day I attended. Many problems were raised but the tone was hopeful and forward-looking.

We have many fine people in Australia alone working in areas such as marriage enrichment, faith education, mental health, and working to strengthen Indigenous communities.

It was nice to reflect that we are doing some things right as well. Most families have their little traditions which bind them together, such as celebrating birthdays and religious feast days, family camping trips and the like.

The Saturday morning snuggle in mum and dad’s bed has grown into a tradition at our house, as it has in many others’ I’m sure.

And while we’ve always lived a bit away from our parents we’ve kept close to them all and the children enjoy the afternoons spent at each of their grandparents’ houses. We’ve never once heard: “Can we go now?”

One thing I would like to see is more support for and valuing of work done in the home, particularly care for young children and the elderly, and people with chronic illness or disability.