Dear friends in Christ,
This Thursday (November 26) we celebrate a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and on Sunday, the start of Advent and a new Church year. It’s a good time to pause and reflect.
Three years ago, when the Holy See asked us to consider hosting the World Meeting of Families, the Church in Philadelphia faced financial and other serious problems that should have ensured a failure. What happened instead was the crowning event of the Holy Father’s visit to the United States; the most successful family congress in World Meeting of Families history; and a city that welcomed Pope Francis with roughly a million enthusiastic voices from every part of the globe.
World Meeting of Families 2015 was a moment of grace for all of us in Greater Philadelphia. The reason it succeeded, despite the many difficulties we faced, was you – the priests, deacons, religious and people of our local Church, joined by many other people and public leaders of good will.
There’s a lesson in this as we go forward. God can invite us to do great things, but the hands he relies on to achieve them belong to ordinary Christians moved by extraordinary love. Every prayer, every act of material support and every sacrifice you made to help the World Meeting of Families succeed made a difference – including the hardships of those who tried for many hours to attend the closing papal Mass, but were unable to do so because of the rigorous security. God will bless them with exactly the same grace as every other person on the parkway that day.
Advent is a season of preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ. Every Christmas reminds us that God so loved the world that he sent his only son to be born as one of us, in order to redeem and renew creation. This Advent we have the seeds of a new spirit of life in our Church, thanks to the World Meeting of Families. It’s now up to us to nurse those seeds into a rebirth of Catholic discipleship and witness in all our parishes in the years ahead.
Thank you with all my heart for making the World Meeting of Families a success against the odds; a success that will shape many lives and be remembered for many years. May God bless you, your parish communities and your families — this Thanksgiving, in the coming days of Advent and always.
Gratefully yours in Jesus Christ,
+Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia