Pastoral Congress: the family experience

Pastoral Congress: the family experience
Brenda Drumm


The Amoris Parish Programme has concluded, plans are advanced and dates have been selected for the last few diocesan and parish family gatherings and, with the exception of the local opening for WMOF2018 in each diocese on August 21, all eyes are now on Dublin for the five days on the family at the World Meeting of Families 2018 in August.

It has been just under three years since we heard the news that the Pope himself had chosen Dublin as the host for the ninth World Meeting of Families. Now with less that three months to go, the plans have been progressed and families from across Ireland and across the world will gather in Dublin to celebrate the Gospel of the Family as Joy for the World.

But what can families expect from the events that are shaping up? The WMOF2018 comprises a Pastoral Congress in the RDS from August 22-24, a Festival of Families in Croke Park on August 25 and a Closing Mass in the Phoenix Park on  August 26. Pope Francis will arrive in Ireland on Saturday and depart again on Sunday. We know that he will be part of the Festival of Families and the Closing Mass but he will not be part of the RDS Pastoral Congress.

When you are preparing a global event of this scale there is always the concern that the non-papal events will be less interesting to people. I am delighted to say that is definitely not the case with the WMOF2018. We can see that people are coming from more than 102 countries to the Congress and that grandparents, parents and children are coming in large numbers.

We will have 5,000 young people under the age of 18 at the Pastoral Congress and we are about to reach a registration milestone of 30,000 attendees at the Congress.

So what can people expect at the Congress and how will families be catered for so as they can experience the programme as a family unit?

Sometimes those tasked with organising events for families can place the focus on offering programming for the different ages with the result that parents are offered a different programme that is separate to the one that is offered to children.

In preparing our WMOF2018 Pastoral Congress, I hope we have thought of everything!

We have arranged the RDS Pastoral Congress programme to allow adults to attend workshops having dropped their children off to the parallel teenager and children programme. But, we have also allowed for several spaces where parents can stay with their teens and younger children to be part of their day(s) in the RDS.


In addition to both of these options, there is also a very informal programme that will run in the main arena of the RDS each morning which will allow parents to have a relaxed space for their children where they can run around and meet other children. There will be some gentle programming taking place in the background.

All formal programming will begin in the morning and will stop so as families can reconnect with each other and with families from around the world for lunch. Once lunchtime is over everyone will be invited into the main arena where there will be a keynote address, inspiring testimony and then the celebration of the Eucharist.

For those families who cannot make it to the RDS during the day, there will be some evening programming on the Wednesday and Thursday evening. The themes we will be reflecting on at the Pastoral Congress are taken from Amoris Laetitia and they are everyday ones that impact on some or all families.

We will be looking at the impact of technology; the prayer life of families; the vocation and challenge of being a parent; and the role of grandparents. The tone will be down-to-earth and practical and there will be something for everyone interested in family.

The Festival of Families event in Croke Park is being billed as a celebration of families. There will be music and culture on display but the atmosphere will be one of Faith and togetherness, with inspiring testimonies from families in the presence of Pope Francis. This event will see the Gospel of the Family shine through.

On Sunday, August 26, we will come together in Phoenix Park as an international family of families for Mass with Pope Francis. He is sure to have words of hope and encouragement for families. I have no doubt that he will also have words that will positively challenge us too – and that’s to be welcomed.

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