A Catholic Conference
In my professional career, I attend lots of conferences. I have attended conferences that had over 100,000 attendees, Networld/Interop was held in Las Vegas because it was the only city in the United States that had enough hotel rooms to house everyone, it also has not just one but many large convention centers that can hold that many attendees. The show room floors had lots of vendors vying for your attention by having flashy booths and offering free stuff.
Well my whole family got to experience what a conference is like, but this one is decidedly Catholic. There are somewhere around 20,000 people attending this year’s conference, making it the best attended World Meeting of Families ever. The World Meeting of Families began in 1994 and is held every three years. The showroom floor has over 600 vendors that all have stuff to give away, and some are raffling off prizes like iPads and GoPros.
A Family Event?
I am not sure this is a family event, it is most definitely Catholic, and the topics are related to family life, and there is a youth track for kids ages 6 through 17, but there isn’t much for the whole family. The youth track is open from the beginning through the end of the day giving parents the option to drop off their kids for almost the whole day. You do need to feed your children lunch, but that is about it.
Today at mass, when the youth track was closed, families were together and in the areas around us were mostly adults without children, perhaps 15-20% of the attendees were families, the rest were adults who attended without their families. In speaking with some of the other attendees I knew, I am guessing that many who attended without their families were representing their parish or Diocese seeking to learn how to minister more effectively to families. With the format of the World Meeting of Families, adults are better served than families. After all, transportation, food, and lodging costs go up when you have more than one or two people in your party.
When I registered our family, I assumed it was an event for the whole family and that we would run into lots of families at the meeting, but at least on day one, that was not the case. We will see what tomorrow brings.
The Longest Procession
The opening mass was pretty incredible, it took over 20 minutes for the seminarians, priests, bishops and cardinals to process into the hall and take their seats on the altar. The music was outstanding, the art and environment transformed a conference room into a church and set the stage for a place of worship. There are so many priests and religious in attendance, it is beautiful. They are looking for answer to the tough pastoral questions, and we look forward to hearing what the speakers have to say about how best to meet the needs of families around the world.
It’s a Small Catholic World
We have already run into several people we know from Texas in the hallways and even more on social media are tweeting pictures of the event, so we know they are here. It is great to know so many committed and faithful Catholics who would take time out of their busy schedules and normal routines to make the trip up to the North East to attend a week long convention on family life. As Bishop Robert Baron said in his opening keynote speech, “The world needs families to evangelize, we cannot hide our faith, we must proclaim it.”
My teenage son even talked a friend of his who he met at Catholic Familyland into dropping by the hotel this evening for a visit. Our family didn’t attend Catholic Familyland’s Holy Family Fest this year due to our trip to the World Meeting of Families. Our family missed this so much, especially my teenagers, so this was a nice surprise that one of his friends only lives 40 minutes away and her mother was willing to drive up so they could reconnect after we missed out on our annual weeklong Catholic Family Camp.