When you find yourself with few brothers and sisters to share in your journey you constantly yearn for those moments when community gathers for what ever reason. When I was asked to attend the World Meeting of Families by Fr. Charles to help in promoting the Emmanuel School of Mission-Rome (ESM) in the U.S.A. I quickly agreed. I knew it would be my opportunity to “drink from the fountain” while we live in the desert.
My time in Philadelphia would no sooner turn into a time of great conversion as well the opportunity to share intimate moments with brothers and sisters I hadn’t seen in some time and others I had never met. During the first three days the ESM team and myself were busy making contacts and networking at the Convention center where, it seemed like, every Catholic initiative was present. There was a buzz in the air, a sort of joy that was contagious. You could see all the vendors and representatives joyfully sharing their products/mission but moreover basking in this wondrous occasion to celebrate the family!
Thursday we were able to attend one of the conferences and listened to Rick Warren from Saddleback Ministries followed by Cardinal O’Malley OFM from the Archdiocese of Boston. A dual powerhouse and great testimony to ecumenism. I was also blessed to meet a very important woman who prayed for me and my then pre-born son Max. Her name is Gianna Emanuella Molla and you may know her mother, Saint Gianna Beretta Molla. She patiently stood next to her booth at the convention center as a line curved around the aisles with people waiting to speak with her, for a minute. I finally had my turn and shared with her my short testimony of her mother’s intercession during my difficult pregnancy. She remembered the sister from the Italian Emmanuel Community who contacted her (a friend of hers) and remembered praying for me! I was moved.
Later that evening we attended a wonderful-spectacular symposium put together by the amazing “Culture Project”, an initiative started by a former ESM Rome student, Cristina Barba, along with some talented young people, that strives to restore culture by challenging young people to live a life of virtue. The panel of speakers was a who’s who of Catholic Leaders: Matt Fradd from The Porn Effect; Jason and Crystalina Evert from The Chastity Project; Lila Rose from Live Action; Brian Butler from Dumb Ox Ministries and finally our very own and very dear Cristina Barba from The Culture Project. It was a dynamic and very entertaining evening as these speakers not only shared their knowledge and mission with us but they also shed light that although we are fighting this great battle against evil, we must never forfeit the gift of joy amidst the wreckage and debris. They were all so joyful and so filled with the love of Christ. What an evening!
As Friday arrived, we quickly gathered our strength for a very important evening at the Figurski’s parish, St. Patrick’s. They so generously hosted over 20 brothers and sisters in their home as well as opened the doors of their parish to us so that we could share our testimonies with others. Needless to say, with the group we had, it was a blessed and grace-filled evening. I felt blessed beyond my expectations in being able to share such an intimate evening, Mercy Night, with my brothers and sisters and show the beauty of what it means to be bonded through and in Christ to those who attended. The confession lines were constant. That was a good sign!
Saturday we took a small break and spent our time visiting in and around the Philly area. We were able to make it to “Amish Country” and made it back in time to have dinner with the “family” and then watch the Papal Family Festival Evening together. Some of the group was able to make it the Festival and were able to enjoy the evening out with Papa Francis. We ended a wonderful evening celebrating our dear brother Michal’s birthday! What a great way to celebrate a birthday!
Sunday we began to say our goodbyes as many were making their way back home later that day. Some of us were able to make the final Mass with Pope Francis while others were forced to turn back because of the immense amount of people trying to get to the same place. Nonetheless we were all blessed to partake in these historic events in our own “backyard”.
For all those who were there in spirit, you were remembered during our times of prayer, praise and Mass.
Time to say goodbye
We celebrate the family and “Our Mission is Love!”
Saint John Paul II, pray for us! Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us!