What do families do? They bring us closer to God

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On Saturday, one of the Sydney pilgrimage destinations - St Therese's parish in Denistone - hosted relics of extraordinary saints, all from the one family, at left. The relics were of St Therese of Lisieux and her parents, Sts Louis and Zelie Martin. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
On Saturday, one of the Sydney pilgrimage destinations – St Therese’s parish in Denistone – hosted relics of extraordinary saints, all from the one family, at left. The relics were of St Therese of Lisieux and her parents, Sts Louis and Zelie Martin. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Thousands of mums, dads and their kids kicked off Sydney’s World Meeting of Families celebrations in their homes, parishes and at St Mary’s Cathedral as Pope Francis urged families to be today’s missionaries and the welcoming face of the Church.

Beginning on the 24 June Feast of the Sacred Heart with prayer in their homes, families were invited to make a Saturday pilgrimage across eight locations in the archdiocese to pray with relics of saints such as St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, St Thèrése of Lisieux and her parents Sts Louis and Zélie, St John Paul II, St Anne, St Francis Xavier, and to visit the childhood parish of Servant of God Eileen O’Connor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in Waterloo.

“Welcoming the families to Mass the archbishop said that the pandemic and lockdowns had highlighted the importance of families for the health of individuals and communities.”

The event concluded with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP in St Mary’s Cathedral last Sunday followed by a Festival of Families with food, music, stalls, face painting and balloons.

Welcoming the families to Mass the archbishop said that the pandemic and lockdowns had highlighted the importance of families for the health of individuals and communities.

“But our theme ‘Family love: A vocation and path to holiness,’ draws attention to the family’s other role of bringing us closer to God,” he said.

There were plenty of activities on hand for not just the grownups but the children as well at last Sunday's gathering at St Mary's Cathedral. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
There were plenty of activities on hand for not just the grownups but the children as well at last Sunday’s gathering at St Mary’s Cathedral. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

The World Meeting of Families is an international gathering of families held in Catholic dioceses every three years; the first was convened by Pope St John Paul II in 1994 in Rome.

The future saint saw the family as being of critical importance in the modern world.

As last weekend’s celebrations in Sydney occurred, Pope Francis told thousands gathered at St Peter’s Basilica that in marriage and family life, those who follow Jesus’ call will see that “he always precedes us in love and service. And those who follow him will not be disappointed”.

“For families in difficulty, he (pope francis) encouraged them not to be overcome by sadness, but to ‘trust in the love that God has placed in you, [and] beseech the Spirit each day to revive it’.”

In a special Missionary Mandate, the Pope invited young families to “be guided by those who know the way,” and more established families to “be companions on the journey for others.”

For families in difficulty, he encouraged them not to be overcome by sadness, but to “trust in the love that God has placed in you, [and] beseech the Spirit each day to revive it.”

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life announced a ‘Jubilee of Families’ to be celebrated in Rome during the Holy Year 2025, and the next World Meeting of Families will take place in 2028.