Meghan Cokeley, director of the archdiocesan Office for the New Evangelization. (Sarah Webb)

While preparations continue for the World of Meeting of Families in September, the impact of this extraordinary event in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has not been overlooked.

Given the potential for increased interest in the Catholic faith and inquiries to local parishes after the World Meeting of Families, the archdiocese is offering workshops on Christian initiation, faith formation and marriage ministry programs to clergy and parish staff members this spring.

“What we’re looking at with the World Meeting of Families is that it will be a transformational event,” said Meghan Cokeley, director of the archdiocesan Office for the New Evangelization. “The expectation is that people will be touched by seeing the Holy Father, by going to the events, and either want to revisit their faith or express interest in the Catholic Church. It’s really going to be a time of grace, and we want our parishes to be prepared to respond.”


The “Forming Life-Long Disciples” workshops will be offered at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on Friday, March 13 for clergy and Saturday, March 14 for laity. Instructors from the Colorado-based Augustine Institute will train clergy and laity on how to use the Symbolon Program for Christian initiation and adult faith formation.

The first section of Symbolon, Knowing the Faith, focuses on the core teachings of the Church. The second part, Living the Faith, highlights how Catholics encounter God in the sacraments and moral life. Symbolon features nationally known teachers such as Johnnette Benkovic, Patrick Coffin, Jason and Crystalina Evert, Tim Gray, Curtis Martin and Teresa Tomeo.

A group of Catholic scholars in 2005 established the Augustine Institute, a graduate school dedicated to transforming Catholic education for the new evangelization. The institute offers academic and parish programs to “equip Catholics intellectually, spiritually and pastorally to renew the Church and transform the world for Christ.”

While the archdiocese has been using the Christ Life faith formation courses, Cokeley said the Symbolon program is more comprehensive in the topics it covers.

A second workshop, “Marriage-Centered Communities: How to Build a Marriage Ministry in Your Parish,” will be offered Tuesday, May 5 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at St. Helena Parish in Blue Bell. The presenters are Dr. Hilary Towers and Greg and Julie Alexander from the Alexander House Apostolate, an organization that helps to “save marriages in crisis, strengthen marriages through education and the acquisition of practical skills, and assists in the formation of the family unit.”

Cokeley said this workshop will give concrete and practical ideas for building marriage ministries in parishes.

“The goal is for pastors and teams to get trained and work over the summer to put their programs in place,” she said. These workshops “will help parishes get their receiving programs ready and strengthened.”

Cokeley noted this preparation is essential so that the Church in Philadelphia can benefit from the enthusiasm and excitement generated by the World Meeting of Families.

“This event is a work of the Lord, and we have a responsibility to get ready to receive what he wants to give,” she added.

For more information about the workshops, visit the Office for the New Evangelization’s website.