Theology professor Mary Beth Yount will lead the development of programs and educational sessions for the World Meeting of Families next year in Philadelphia, the organization announced May 11.
Yount, an assistant professor of pastoral and theological studies at Neumann University, is on loan from the school while she works as director of content and programming for the World Meeting of Families. It is scheduled to take place in the city Sept. 22-27, 2015, and possibly include a visit by Pope Francis, which is not confirmed.
Yount is well suited for her new position that calls for her to develop the topics that tens of thousands of visitors will learn about, discuss and experience at the week-long event.
Each of six keynote topics, called general sessions, will be delivered by internationally known speakers and followed by workshop discussions, panel presentations and hands-on activities.
“We’re making sure we have financial workshops, that we’re talking about the struggles of the family dealing with disability, that we’re having a session that speaks directly to divorced and separated Catholics, interfaith marriage, parenting and discipline issues, planning a pilgrimage and infertility issues,” among others, Yount said.
There are also positive topics such as “the call of the family to joy and love,” she said.
The World Meeting of Families will discuss what Yount called “the joys and struggles of being a family” and how Catholic teaching can be better understood and applied to family life today, especially in the United States. “We’re trying to help inspire people and we’re trying to help support people,” she said.
An internationally known theologian, Yount has presented at 85 international and national forums on topics related to the theology of the family, parenting and education. Her university courses cover a wide range of topics including theological anthropology, marriage and the family, ethics, education, morality, ecclesiology, scripture and church history.
As the wife of husband James and mother of four children ranging in age from 9 to 2, Yount knows all about the challenges families face but also their God-given vocation to strive for holiness in the context of the family, which has been called the domestic church.
Ten years ago she was teaching in Houston before accepting a job as project coordinator for Duquesne University Press in Pittsburgh. That involved a culture shock of its own, but she and James dealt with an illness of his at the time and became active speakers in pre-Cana marriage preparation courses in their parish and with couples practicing natural family planning.
“None of us fully live it out, but we’re striving to be that relationship of love and joy that is the Trinity so that we can image that here on this earth,” she said. “What are some strengths, how can we inspire people and how can we support them in their struggles?”
Last summer she moved to Delaware County for the position at Neumann University, settling in St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Media where her family is active.
“Dr. Yount is not only an outstanding scholar but a passionate advocate for families,” said Bishop John McIntyre, episcopal liaison for the World Meeting of Families. “Her valuable expertise will no doubt enhance the 2015 World Meeting of Families and bring a depth and richness to its content, which we hope will be the hallmark of our event. We are deeply grateful to Neumann University for sharing someone as capable and enthusiastic as Dr. Yount in planning for this once in a lifetime event.”
Yount holds a bachelor’s degree in theology and philosophy from the University of St. Thomas, a master’s degree in theology from St. Mary’s University and a doctorate in theology from Duquesne University. She also was the founder and director of Brookline Kids Preschool in Pittsburgh.
A member of the Association of Practical Theology, the International Academy of Practical Theology, the National Association for Lay Ministry, American Academy of Religion, College Theology Society and the Society of Biblical Literature, she has also written numerous articles for religious publications.
The World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia promises to pack the Pennsylvania Convention Center with scores of programs for adults, especially welcoming single people and people of all faiths, Yount indicated.
She also said that in addition to the content for adults, programming for young people would be prominent, along with fun activities for all.
“We’re going to have things like wandering saints,” where attendees can ask a questions of characters portraying a saint, as well as “make-a-rosary stations set up throughout” the venue, Yount said. “It’s almost like a theme park. The experience is going to be involving everybody. Families are going to have to prioritize what they’re going to attend.”
The themes for the general sessions would be announced soon, according to Yount, and other activities are also still in the planning stages for the event that is still more than a year away but for which excitement continues to build.
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