By S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - The Diocese of Lincoln is organizing a trip to the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Three different bus packages are now available for the Sept 22-27 event, which includes a planned visit by Pope Francis at the end of the week. Air travel packages to be added soon.
Initiated by St. Pope John Paul II in 1994 and sponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family, the World Meeting of Families is held every three years in a different nation. Catholic families and those who lead parish and diocesan apostolates for families and youth will gather to share ideas about strengthening the sacred bonds of families across the globe.
The theme of the World Meeting of Families will be “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.” Organizers say the meeting will emphasize “the impact of the love and life of families on our society.”
The agenda (not yet released) will include international speakers and sessions for both adults and youth. All Catholics are welcome to attend any or all of the meeting’s events.
Father Matthew Eickhoff, who is planning the trip on behalf of the Diocese of Lincoln said, “Everybody is invited. The program is set up for entire families to participate in, but the first four days of meetings typically consisting of diocesan leaders in family life work or youth work.”
He added that the meeting is an excellent occasion to “take a little pilgrimage to Philadelphia to see the pope.”
Of course, the Holy Father’s visit will be a highlight to all attendees, whether they are there for the entire week or just for the weekend activities.
Jeff Schinstock, director of youth ministry, has been on several World Youth Day trips where the pope has been present. He said that being able to see the Holy Father in person is a deeply moving and joyful experience.
“It reminds us of a connection we have to the Apostles themselves and the work that they did,” he explained. “I’ve been blessed to see deep conversions happen from pilgrimages to see the pope.”
He noted that every spiritual pilgrimage, including one to the 2015 World Meeting of Families, is a quest for Jesus.
“It is Christ we seek to give us comfort, hope, peace and love. The Pope stands as his visible vicar,” he said.
Father Eickhoff said the diocesan travel packages will include some touring of the area. On his working list of places to see are: St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, attended by quite a few of our seminarians and many of our priests, and the shrines of St. Katharine Drexel and St. John Neumann. He also intends to include visits to Constitutional Hall and the Liberty Bell.
Father Eickhoff has established three different options for ground transportation to Philadelphia.
Option A is for people who wish to attend only the weekend events and the Mass with Pope Francis. This is a shorter trip (Sept. 22-28) and includes bus transportation to Philadelphia, scheduled tours, and lodging with a host family, plus official World Meeting of Families activities, for $450 per person.
Option B is for those who wish to attend the first four days of meetings. Running from Sept. 20-28, this package includes bus or van transportation to Philadelphia, admission to the meetings, lodging with a host family, and other activities at a cost of $600 per adult and $450 per child.
Option C provides the same package as Option B but lodging in a hotel instead of a host family. The cost is $1,600 per adult and $1,450 per child.
Father Eickhoff said that staying with a Catholic family is a terrific opportunity.
“There are wonderful dynamics that happen and friendships are created that last a long time,” he said.
Schinstock, who has always boarded World Youth Day pilgrims with host families, said, “I’m eager to see it in our own country… I expect to see in the beginning fascination with the differences in culture and in the end comfort in the shared aspects of our humanity.”
Father Eickhoff encourages anyone who has the time available and who has an interest in sharing the Church’s vision for the family through catechetical programs, homeschooling, parish programs or other means to register for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“It is a very big gathering,” he said. “It’s exciting to be part of a universal type of meeting sponsored by the Church in English.”
Schinstock hopes he will be able to attend the event himself.
“I’m very excited about the conversation the Church is having about how to strengthen and inspire families,” he said. “Beauty transcends, and there is nothing more beautiful than the family. It is a reflection of God and his plan for all humanity at all times.”
Registration opens this month. A $100 deposit per person is required. To reserve your package, please visit www.lincolndiocese.org.