Well, a very long Day 1 of our pilgrimage is in the books. After flying to Newark and busing to Philadelphia, our group of 16 (including four from the Yakima Diocese and one from Pasadena) met up with our bus buddies for the week from the Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan. Their friendly and casually dressed bishop, Philadelphia native Joseph Cistone, got us into one of his favorite restaurants for a delicious dinner (and posed for a picture with me, below).
On Tuesday, the Eighth World Meeting of Families will officially begin with an opening ceremony and a keynote address by Robert Barron, the newly consecrated auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and probably the most popular and powerful Catholic speaker in America. His talk is entitled "Living as the Image of God: Created for Joy and Love." I'll be live tweeting it at 11:30 Pacific.
The general attitude among the pilgrims toward the coming week is one of openness and hopeful expectation. We don't know exactly what to expect, but we're pretty sure it's going to be good.
Deacon Ray Biersbach hopes the conference will spark new ideas for his ministry with the marriage and family life commission at Holy Rosary Parish in Edmonds. "You can read and read and read, but there's nothing like hearing people like Robert Barron," said the father of three, adding, "I'm just trying to have an open mind and make this a true pilgrimage where I pray my way through the week."
Ann Thiery, a mother of two from St. Nicholas Parish in Gig Harbor, hopes the conference will help address what she sees as a widespread crisis in family life. "To me, our country needs this so badly right now, with all the problems in marriages falling apart, or people not getting married, and children sort of raising themselves," she said. "I just feel it's really important to get back to what's important."
Rose Rangel, a mother of five from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Burien, said her hope for the conference is simply "that the Holy Spirit will stir our hearts and set us on fire."