Keynote speakers, breakout sessions, Masses and adoration of the Eucharist will highlight the World Meeting of Families running Sept. 22-25 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, but many other exciting and inspirational activities will be offered as well.
More than 15,000 visitors are expected for the event, which will precede the Sept. 26-27 visit by Pope Francis to the City of Brotherly Love.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput will set the spiritual tone for the days to come on Sunday, Sept. 20, when he celebrates the 6:30 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul at 1723 Race Street in center city.
Following the Mass, the cathedral will remain open 24 hours a day through Thursday, Sept. 24, ending at midnight.
Pilgrims may also attend adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the convention center each day during the daytime hours the center is open for the meetings.
The opening Mass for the World Meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 22 at the convention center, 1101 Arch Street.
Daily Mass will also be celebrated at the convention site Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 23 and 24, at 8:30 a.m.; and on Friday, Sept. 25 at 1 p.m., when the eighth World Meeting of Families comes to a close.
On those days, daily Mass also will be celebrated at the basilica at 7 a.m., 12:05 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
In addition to the many opportunities for prayer are the many activities that allow families to have fun and participate in community service, said Lizanne Pando, spokesperson for the World Meeting.
“We wanted to make sure that people can connect with their families while celebrating their faith,” Pando said.
One activity involves a mural that will transform the façade of St. Malachy School on 11th Street in North Philadelphia. Portions of the mural, which has the theme “The Sacred Now: Faith and Family in the 21st Century,” have been painted by volunteers at various schools and organizations across the region this summer.
At the World Meeting, visitors will have the opportunity to add their painting skills to the mural under the direction of professional art instructors, Pando said.
St. Malachy School was founded in 1850 in what was then the outskirts of Philadelphia. Located now in a neighborhood struggling with poverty, the parish once known as “the church in the woods” serves children of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds.
Another activity at the World Meeting is the Helping Hands program, run by Catholic Relief Services, which invites families and other guests to help provide food for the poor. CRS will set up tables that will enable 500 people at a time to package meals to be sent to overseas missions.
Volunteers will be on hand to show participants a variety of food items they can select for the meals to be assembled.
“This is an activity for families, pastors, or whomever visitors attend the sessions with,” Pando said, adding that seminarians from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary will also be on hand to help.
About 300 exhibitors and vendors signed up to attend the World Meeting, so many that organizers had to open up more space in a second exhibition hall. Among the merchandise and information on display will be Catholic keepsake items and books. Publishers such as St. Ignatius Press, Ave Maria Press and Ascension Press will participate, and many Catholic authors will be available to sign their books.
The seminary will have a display, as will several Catholic colleges. Twenty congregations of religious sisters will also be among the exhibitors lining the halls. Independence Blue Cross will hold a health fair for information and blood-pressure screenings.
Catholicmatch.com will also be on hand for those singles interested in finding a Catholic partner.
A special exhibition, “Verbum Domini II: God’s Word Goes Out to the Nations,” will be displayed in Hall G of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, accessible through the Broad Street Atrium entrance, from Monday, Sept. 21 to Saturday, Sept. 26. Times for the exhibit will be announced at a later date.
Among the exhibits are fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls; the 14th century “Hours and Psalters” of Elizabeth de Bohun, countess of Northampton; a first edition of the King James Bible and the Eliot Indian Bible of 1685 — a second edition of the first Bible ever printed in America.
The exhibit takes up 15,000 square feet in eight galleries and 24 display cases, and admission is free.
Cameras, lights and action will also be a part of the four-day event: EWTN, the Alabama-based Catholic television network, will set up two studios — one for English-language speakers and another for Spanish language telecasting.
The Canada-based Salt and Light network will broadcast the proceedings in English and French, and Boston-based Catholic TV will also be present.
If the convention center is the hub of activity, other organizations have joined in the festivities to accommodate visitors from the area, from out of town, and from overseas.
The Franklin Institute at 20th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway has set aside 11 galleries for an exhibit, “Vatican Splendors,” on display from Sept. 19 to Feb. 5.
Artwork from the Vatican includes tools used in work on the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica; works by Renaissance masters Bernini and Guercino; artwork dating back to the first century and venerated bone fragments of Saints Peter and Paul discovered in their tombs in Rome.
Highlights of the nearly 10,000 square-foot exhibition at the institute include artwork by Michelangelo, including signed documents and a rarely seen bas relief sculpture, plus historical objects from the modern and ancient basilicas of Saint Peter’s in Rome.
The National Constitution Center’s “Religious Liberty” exhibit is free to all visitors. Located at 525 Arch Street in Philadelphia, the center is also offering significant admission discounts to its Museum of We the People. Tickets will cost $9 for adults and $7.50 for children from Sept. 22-27.
The center will also host a discussion titled “American Faith” on Sept. 21 at 5 p.m. For information on the event call 215-409-6700.
“I think people will be pretty impressed with the scope of these events,” Pando said. “I think this is a really exciting and interactive program.”