Renowned Theologian and Assistant Professor of Pastoral and Theological Studies at Neumann University Mary Beth Yount has been named the director of content and programming for the 2015 World Meeting of Families (WMOF). The World Meeting, which was last held in Milan, Italy in 2012 is expected to draw a global audience to the U.S. when Philadelphia hosts the international event of prayer, celebration, and Catholic church teachings on family in Sept., 2015.
We talked to Yount about her recent appointment, and she shared what she is most looking forward to in her new role, and why she thinks Philadelphia will be a great host for the event.
What will some of your responsibilities be in your new role as director of content and programming for the World Meeting of Families?
I’ll be responsible for overseeing the development of fun, educational programs and activities during the event. I have a lot of support in all of this, since I work in conjunction with Donna Farrell, the Executive Director of the WMOF, and under the guidance of John J. McIntyre, the Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia. Everyone on my team is working together to make sure that the experience of the WMOF will be unforgettable for everyone who participates—both because it will be so fun and because their hearts and minds will be fed.
How did you feel when you learned you’d been chosen for this position?
I was elated. Prior to me being offered this position, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had asked me and nine other people across the nation to co-write a document called the Preparatory Catechesis, an important collection of Catholic Church teaching on the family. Then I was offered the WMOF position. In this role I get to help plan the historic event itself, making sure that the important topics from the Catechesis are included in the fun daily activities. What do you like most about living in Pennsylvania? What's your favorite thing about your hometown?
I just moved to my Media parish in August of this year. My family and I have been welcomed into all of our various communities with a wonderful enthusiasm, but of course the move is still an adjustment. We miss the dynamic, joyful church to which we belonged in Pittsburgh, the place from which we most recently moved. Before that, we lived in Texas—Houston and San Antonio. My favorite thing about Houston is that my parents and twin brother are still there. My favorite thing about San Antonio is the culture of the people who live there. It is very close to Mexico and has its own kind of style.
What are you most looking forward to at the World Meeting of Families?
My kids are going to love the activities, and I can’t wait for them to get to experience it all. Particularly the “Ask a Saint” game (people that look like their heroes will be walking around), playing in the family game shows, and the food-related activities like making your own cookbook (and yes, I admit it, anything involving eating will be a highlight for my family too). Also, the speakers, panelists, and workshop leaders will be top-notch.
What makes this opportunity so special for you?
I know the joys and challenges both of being single and of raising a family. I also know the ups and downs of faith struggles. I am honored to be able to work with people worldwide and their families who, like all of us, are trying to learn and grow. Additionally, since I moved to Philly in August, I have seen the struggles of Catholics here. There have been painful closings of parishes and schools, leaving some feeling like they may not have a spiritual home or are lacking a faith community. Hopefully the WMOF can help bring people together in faith and give comfort and encouragement to those who are wounded locally and internationally.
Why do you think Philadelphia is the right place for the World Meeting?
Very few cities have the support that we have in Philly. Faith leaders of all denominations along with city and state leaders and the rest of the community have rallied to make this happen—it cannot be anything but amazing with all of this support!
What do you hope families in Philly will take from this event?
I want to be sure that we have programming for everyone so that every person leaves feeling inspired and with some new ideas to incorporate into his/her life. The content of the World Meeting of Families highlights what is joyful and hopeful about human beings, families, and societies and also strengthens families in their very real struggles with things like addictions, disabilities, financial crises, divorce and separation, and more. All are welcome at the WMOF 2015 –all faiths, ages, and walks of life, and everyone will grow.
What will you miss most about your job at Neumann University while working on the World Meeting of Families?
Actually, I do not have to leave Neumann at all. I was worried about that, but Dr. Rosalie Mirenda, the president of Neumann University and a WMOF board member, worked with Bishop McIntyre so that I will work out of my Neumann office much of the time and still teach two classes at Neumann as well. I get to combine everything I love this coming year—program management, theology, teaching, and ministering to families!
What is your favorite thing to do with your family?
Having a cookout in the sunshine! This involves me playing with the four kids in the backyard and chatting with my husband while he cooks. My children are still little (ages 9, 7, 4, and 2), and so we play tag, cuddle, blow bubbles, draw with chalk, and generally chase each other around. My husband is really good at cooking on the grill, so by the time we eat, the anticipation has everyone starving.
What is one unique thing that you've done that most people don't know about?
During graduate school I started a free preschool in a low-income neighborhood at a Presbyterian church. I loved working with the families and children.