Tackling everyday issues like balancing a family’s budget and rebuilding broken relationships will be a major part of the programming for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next year.
The triennial conference, taking place Sept. 22 -27, 2015, released some details on Monday about presenters and the types of workshops that will be offered. Organizers said they’ve been focusing on providing concrete solutions to problems families face regularly.
“Seventy percent of the presentations address practical skills like supporting the common good through your purchases and spending, for example,” Dr. Mary Beth Yount, Director of Content and Programming for the World Meeting of Families Philadelphia (WMOF), told NBC10.
The Adult Congress — the formal name for the 18 and over portion of the conference — will be held in the Pennsylvania Convention Center and feature a daily keynote speech. Speakers will include Archbishop of Boston Sean Patrick Cardinal O’Malley, law professor Helen Alvare, Panamanian doctors Juan Francisco de la Guardia Brin and Gabriela N. de la Guardia and Fr. Robert Barron, founder of World on Fire Catholic Ministries. The breakout sessions that follow will build on themes from the speech, Yount said.
A number of sessions will be held as panels, while others — some 40 percent — will be run in a workshop format. One such session, ‘The 1-2-3’s of Healthy Finances’ will focus on being responsible with your family’s finances.
“How can we be stewards of what you have? And how can you create budgets?” Yount said of the session. “They’re actually going to be working as they sort of process the knowledge that is presented to them.”
Another session, ‘Loving on the Edge: Healing Hurts of Damaged Relationships,’ is geared toward strengthening bonds within a person’s family as well as other relationships, Yount said. A psychologist will provide practical tips about children using the Internet in a session called ‘Navigating the Net: The Benefits and Obstacles of Being an Online Family.’
Organizers are hoping to appeal to a wide variety of people including those who are single and those of other faiths. Yount said 50 percent of the sessions, while faith-based, are not explicitly focused on Catholic teachings and will appeal to people of any religion.
Nearly a quarter of the presenters will be from other faiths, Yount said. They will include an Imam from the Muslim faith talking about interfaith service and an Elder from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discussing strategies for family unity.
“Certainly, this is a Catholic event and that is important to us, but there are so many things that Catholics encounter that everybody encounters,” she said.
Being a Catholic conference, though, a number of the programs will be what Yount calls “explicitly faith-based.”
A discussion about how people live out their lives and honor a covenant with God will be led by Dr. Greg Barnes, the president of Princeton University, Rev. Kimberly van Drehl, an evangelical Lutheran pastor and Catholic priest Fr. Thomas Joseph White.
“The three together are combining their knowledge and their insights in talking about ‘So what does the incarnation of Christ mean for us in our lives,’” Yount said.
Alongside the Adult Congress will be a Youth Congress for teens. Yount said the programming for that side is not yet finalized.
Aside from the formal presentations and sessions, there will be a number of programs taking place both outside and in the convention center. Attendees will be able to help package food for needy families around the world and will be able to interact with Wandering Saints — actors who will roam the convention in character and discuss the actions of the Catholic saint they’re portraying.
This WMOF will be the eighth conference held since its inception in 1994. Organizers are expecting up to 20,000 adults and teens to attend the congresses. Should Pope Francis chose to visit Philadelphia and deliver Sunday mass, that number could balloon to 2 million people. The pope has said he plans to attend the conference, but organizers said official word won’t come until his schedule is released three months before the event.
Anticipating such a crush of people, WMOF organizers are asking locals to consider hosting families in their homes. An Irish company called Homestay has been hired to facilitate connecting homeowners with spare room to conference attendees who will pay for their stay.
Organizers said host families will play a pivotal role in ensuring the event is a success.
Registration for the Adult Congress opened Monday afternoon.