“Family life is the most important web of meaning for Irish people” delegates at a Meath diocesan assembly were told.  “Our everyday lives revolve around other family members.  Most people see and understand themselves in terms of being parents, grandparents, husbands, wives and children.”

This was one of the findings of a study by sociologist Tom Inglis, quoted by Martin Kennedy at an gathering in Knightsbrook Hotel, Trim on Monday (25 September), attended by over 350 representatives from parishes in the Diocese of Meath.

Martin Kennedy was outlining plans in the Diocese of Meath ahead of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in August 2018, which it is hoped Pope Francis will attend.

“We have created resources for parishes that we believe will give people confidence in talking about their experience of family life and how faith can help our lives at home”.

Called “parish conversations”, it is a six-session programme with small group discussion around various messages of Pope Francis on love and family life.

It starts with ordinary people’s experience, talking about what family means to them, followed by an input from “The Joy of Love” written by Pope Francis last year.

The preparation for the possible Papal visit will also include a series of what Martin Kennedy called “practical initiatives for popular moments”.  This means putting a family focus on parish celebrations such as Baptism, First Holy Communion, and St Valentine’s Day.

“We are eager to train lay people in every parish in the Diocese of Meath to organise the six-session programme and the practical initiatives” Martin Kennedy emphasised.  “This can be a golden opportunity for us to tap into the talents and desire of lay people to renew their parishes by helping to connect the Church with the day-to-day experience of family life.”

“It is our hope that we can help families to thrive despite the challenges we all face and to share the Christian vision of how love can grow in our homes and parishes” he said.

Towards the end of the diocesan assembly, Brenda Drumm from the Catholic Communications Office interviewed Ephrem Feeley, who composed the theme song for the World Meeting of Families.

“The hymn is designed to encourage everyone to sing along and it is hoped that choirs in all our parishes will learn the hymn over the coming months”, the Ashbourne-based composer explained.

Concluding the assembly, Fr Philip Gaffney said that the next year offers an ideal opportunity for a meaningful conversation on the priority the family deserves in our lives, in the Church and in the wider community.

“Among the resources we are sharing with you this evening are short videos, animations and activities to encourage discussion. It will offer parishioners an opportunity to think about our vision and hopes for family and marriage, and a chance to rediscover the gift that family is to the world. There is a challenge for us to reflect on how we can provide greater support for marriage and family in our parishes” Fr Gaffney said.