By Lydia O’Kane
Just over two years ago, Pope Francis made a much anticipated Apostolic Visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families. The journey followed in the footsteps of St John Paul II who was the first Pope to step on to Irish soil in 1979.
Many will remember Pope Francis celebrate Mass in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. While others still talk about the electric atmosphere of the Festival of Families gathering with the Pope in Croke Park.
Families and faith
Two years on from the Meeting, some of those memories have been captured in a new book which was launched virtually on Friday.
The Veritas publication entitled “Humans of the World Meeting of Families” is drawn from the 'Humans of New York' series which sees a photographer capturing the ordinary everyday lives of the people in the city.
This new publication edited by Brenda Drumm is a collection of first-person testimonies from some of those involved in the August 2018 event. They include lay and religious, young and old – who reflect upon their own faith journey and their family life both past and present.
Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin, launched the book on Friday and is also one of those who feature in it. He recalls that the project actually began in 2017 as a Facebook page, which, he says “took on a life of its own”.
This book, he points out, is not about very important people, it is about ordinary families and the “joys and sorrows of family life.”
There are a number of testimonies from this book that “jumped out at me”, he says.
One, in particular, is that of Declan and Sarah O’Brien who say in the book that “no marriage or family is perfect. We’ve had our times of struggle and suffering. In the darkest moments of our marriage what helped us to keep on loving each other was having a relationship with Jesus, crucified and forsaken.” They were, the Bishop adds, delighted to be involved in the World Meeting of Families.
For the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, some of the highlights of the 2018 Meeting include the three day Pastoral Congress and the gathering of young engaged couples and newly married couples with Pope Francis in Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral. He describes these young couples as the “lifeblood of our Church life and family life.”
Effects on families from COVID-19
Asked what has been the knock-on effect on family life in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bishop Nulty says it is still too early to tell. However, he does point out that on the one hand, people are working remotely which is good for their family life but also “stressful because suddenly their home becomes a work environment.” He also notes that many families have suffered illness or bereavements due to the coronavirus and funeral numbers have been restricted. Older people too, he says have had to “cocoon” leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Legacy of Apostolic Visit
The theme of the 2018 World Meeting of Families was centered on the joy of family life: “Be Joy for the world.” “The importance of the joy of family life is crucial, says Bishop Nulty. As a Church, the Bishop emphasizes, we can provide that joy in different ways.
One of the ways in which that is being done says the Bishop is in the form of marriage preparation, helping couples to “live the sacrament and be accompanied more in their parish; that is a legacy.”
Another legacy of the Pope’s visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families, Bishop Nulty stresses, is “an awareness of the new families coming amongst us; the refugees, the migrants, those who need a welcome, that we give them the joy of family life.”
“I think also there is a legacy in the sense of prayer,” he says. Bishop Nulty also highlights the importance of family moments and the valuable role grandparents have in the family.
“The role of grandparents is something which has been rekindled and nourished through the World Meeting of Families; their special role as people of faith, handing on the faith to the next generation. That will stay with us for a long time to come.”