This morning, I boarded a bus with 45 other pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to travel to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families and visit of Pope Francis. The members of our group were chosen to represent the variety of families and diversity of the Archdiocese – young and old, parents with children, young adult couples, single mothers and children, a priest, a deacon and his wife, single people, from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds and parish communities. Needless to say, we are excited to be representing the many people and families of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis this week – and also anxious to bring what we learn and experience back to our parishes and communities.

Here’s an overview of what we will experience this week … as most people are aware, Pope Francis is on his way to the United States (he is currently in Cuba). This will be his first visit to our country, and while here he will visit Washington, DC, New York, and Philadelphia. But not everyone is aware of the reason for his visit – he is coming to the United States specifically because of the World Meeting of Families, an event held every three years in cities around the world to celebrate the family and to grow in understanding of the place and role of the family in the Church and in society. If it were not for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Pope Francis might not be coming here. The Holy Father will be in Philadelphia for the closing celebrations of the World Meeting of Families – a Festival of Families on Saturday and a Closing Mass on Sunday. We will be at both of those gatherings, along with hundreds of thousands of other people (including a number of other pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis).

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But we will be in Philadelphia for several days before these papal events in order to attend the entire World Meeting of Families, which is a series of workshops, conferences, exhibits, and Masses with about 17,000 other families from all over the world. Our pilgrims will be able to meet and dialogue with other families and attend sessions on topics as diverse as fostering vocations in the home, celebrating the liturgical year as a family, a Catholic approach to family finances, infertility, the importance of forgiveness in the family, what we can learn about family life from Islam and Mormonism, and much more. Each day will also include a keynote talk – speakers include Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Bishop Robert Barron, and Pastor Rick Warren – as well as Mass and several other events. By the end of the week, many more people will join us for the Festival of Families and the Papal Mass – but our group is among the smaller group of pilgrims (17,000 vs. 1.2 million) that will be attending the entire World Meeting of Families.

There is much more to come this week, but that’s the overview. Be watching here for updates throughout the week, and also check out these other blogs from fellow pilgrims:

The Criterion – Sean Gallagher

Brothers on a Journey – Scott Seibert and David Dellacca

Mrs. Bauman’s Kindergarten Blog – Doug and Julie Bauman