CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN
Carla Ferrando-Bowling, the director of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office for Family Life
CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Carla Ferrando-Bowling, the director of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office for Family Life
The 2018 World Meeting of Families will take place in Dublin, Ireland from Aug. 21-26, with the theme “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World.” The event, held every three years, will bring together families from all across the globe.

The first World Meeting of Families was held in Rome in 1994, after Pope St. John Paul II asked the Pontifical Council for the Family to establish an international gathering for prayer, catechesis and celebration of the importance of marriage and family to society. The most recent World Meeting of Families was held in Philadelphia in 2017, during Pope Francis’s visit to the United States.

This year’s gathering includes a three-day congress with keynote speakers, workshops, talks, testimonies, discussions, and activities for children. On Aug. 25, the event will host a “Festival of Families,” which is a reflective concert that will include prayer and personal stories of faith shared by families. The event will conclude on Aug. 26 with the thousands of participants gathering for a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

Carla Ferrando-Bowling, the director of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office for Family Life, will be attending the World Meeting of Families, and plans to share best practices with other people working in family life ministry. In particular, she said she was looking forward to seeing “how other dioceses around the world have been following the message of Pope Francis to get out of the Church and accompany people.”

In the Archdiocese of Washington, the Office for Family Life tries to live out this call to accompaniment through its many programs that build a culture of marriage and family life.

In order to enrich marriages, the archdiocese hosts marriage preparation courses for engaged couples in both English and Spanish, and also runs trainings for parish leaders to host marriage preparation in their own parishes. Likewise, the archdiocese hosts Natural Family Planning classes that anyone one can sign up for, and they also train instructors to teach in parishes.

Many people act like “fertility is an illness,” said Ferrando-Bowling. “But it is not. It is a blessing. You need to be open to God’s gift in your life.”

In addition to its own programs, the archdiocese helps connect people with ecclesial groups like Teams of Our Lady, Couples for Christ, or the Christian Family Movement, which aim to strengthen marriages by helping couples grow in their faith together.

The archdiocese also seeks to accompany those who may need healing as a part of their family life. If a pastor contacts them with information about someone who is experiencing domestic violence, the Office of Family Life helps connect that person to Catholic Charities, which assists them through their family peace ministry.

The Office of Family Life sends out a newsletter for divorced and separated Catholics titled “At the Well,” and also supports parishes in creating small groups to minister to that community.

For parents or grandparents of children who have fallen away from the church, the Office of Family Life holds retreats and supports people in forming prayer groups in their parishes to pray for those children.

Throughout the year, the Office of Family Life hosts several larger events, including a Family Day of Reflection, a Day of Hope and Healing for couples who have suffered miscarriages or infertility, and a Jubilarian Mass that celebrates the anniversaries of couples who have been married for 25 years or more.

The Office of Family Life sends out a monthly newsletter titled “Visible Sign,” because Cardinal Donald Wuerl frequently reflects on how marriage and family life are visible signs of God’s love in the world.

To sign up for that newsletter, e-mail [email protected] with the subject “Subscription.” For more information about the Office of Family Life, visit their website (https://adw.org/living-the-faith/marriage-family/).