The COVID pandemic’s effects on individuals’ health over the past two years has been dire, but families also have felt the strain of disconnect from other families.
Rebuilding those connections among families is the goal of an upcoming all-day Archdiocesan Family Festival on Saturday, April 30 at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, Delaware County.
“It’s been a rough couple of years” for families, said Steve Bozza, director of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Life and Family which is sponsoring the festival.
He believes “families are under attack big time” by rising inflation in the post-pandemic economy and by the isolation many felt as a result of COVID restrictions on social gatherings.
The family is “too critical a unit” to society “not to nurture and foster renewal,” he said.
That is why the festival will offer families fun activities, thought-provoking talks, inspiring music, good food and time for communal prayer, including Mass with Archbishop Nelson Perez.
There’s something for every age group. Youth ministers will entertain toddlers as adults and older children enjoy talks interspersed with fun activities like a stretching session, face painting for kids, family games, a family rosary and a period for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Sessions will feature talks by Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers on families and fatherhood; Dr. Leonard Sax on responsible use of social media; and “family living tools” for youth by Corazon Puro and for parents by Michael and Alicia Hernon of the Messy Family Project.
One feature woven throughout the day is cultural diversity. The Black Catholic Gospel Mass Choir will be bringing its vibrant, sacred music to the liturgy, while foods with a traditional Latin flair, donated by Goya Foods, will be offered to all families.
The festival, which Bozza explained is really a local celebration of the World Meeting of Families in Rome this June, will encourage families to meet one another, listen to music, eat together and “find an appreciation in the differences of everyone else,” Bozza said.
“People who come will experience the richness of our cultures,” he said, adding that “our unity is enriched by our diversity.”
At the end of the day, families attending “might not become best friends, but they can draw strength from each other,” Bozza said.
While he believes that the Catholic community as a “family of families” is not threatened, “at the same time it’s not all that it could be,” and strengthening it through the Family Festival is “what we want to encourage.”
“The conference is going to provide time for people to have fun. It’s more than just sitting around talking. There are activities for families, to help people pray together as a family,” he said.
And the cost of the day is cheaper than a family dinner at a restaurant or a baseball game.
A family ticket including all sessions and a boxed lunch for parents and children is $75; tickets for grandparents are just $15, individuals $25 and religious are free.
Support for the festival, coordinated through the Office for Life and Family, is offered by a committee including the Office for Ministry with Youth, Office for Black Catholics, Catholic Social Services, Goya Foods and other benefactors “who believe in what we’re doing,” Bozza said.
“We need to build a community of believers who hold the same values, to be strengthened and nurtured by those values,” he said, and for families, “now is the time to build and rekindle those relationships.”
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