By Lydia O’Kane
Emblazoned on the entrance to the Royal Dublin Society or RDS as it is more commonly known are the words “Welcome to the World Meeting of Families 2018”, with a sign nearly showing a waving Pope Francis.
Catholic one-stop shop
This building is the heartbeat of the Pastoral Congress and entry to it is like a Catholic one stop shop. There are stands promoting different groups, such as the St Vincent de Paul Society; another is a Catholic booksellers. There is even a stand selling a Pope Francis doll.
The dioceses of Ireland are also represented, with one diocese, that of Kildare and Leighlin, asking those attending the conference to attach a paper leaf to a family tree with a word that they think describes the family. Words on these branches include 'unity' and 'love.'
Volunteers representing different nationalities are to be seen all around and are distinguished by their green tops. One is drawing peoples’ attention to colourful World Meeting of Families gifts bags containing a rosary, a poncho for the ever present rain, and information booklets.
The RDS is known for its famous annual Dublin Horse Show and all around the green fields as you exit the main hall, there are families from all over the world chatting or having coffee. Many have come from evening Mass and are continuing to take in the vast array of exhibits.
Celebrating the family
The families here are young and old; there are grandparents, mothers, fathers, and children. They all have their own story to tell. One family I talked to from the United States speaks of the everyday challenges they face. They also comment on the terrible abuse scandals that have rocked the Church in Ireland and the U.S. Yet despite that they say the God can work miracles and they are here in Ireland to give witness to that.