Coming to America
Pope Francis is preparing for his first trip to the United States, anchored by the World Meeting of Families, an international conference on the family founded by St. John Paul II in Philadelphia taking place on the same dates as the pope's trip.
A group of five catechists from the Spanish-speaking ministry at St. Anthony/Mary Help of Christians Parish in Oakland is making the trip, as is a group of 18 people from St. Columba Parish in Oakland, who will be accompanied by their pastor, Father Aidan McAleenan.
Mimi Streett, coordinator of the marriage and family ministry, will be in the company of a diverse group of pilgrims from the diocese who travel to Philadelphia to participate in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
While they are excited to attend two Masses celebrated by the pope, they are also looking forward to discussing family life issues with attendees from other dioceses and hearing from several world-renowned speakers.
After arriving in Washington Sept. 22, Pope Francis will be welcomed to the White House by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama Sept. 23. He is scheduled to address a joint meeting of Congress Sept. 24, making him the first pope to do so.
His U.S. trip includes a Sept. 25 address to the U.N. General Assembly. He will be in Philadelphia Sept. 26 and 27 for the World Meeting of Families.
The World Meeting of Families aims to lead families to know their importance as a gift from God and to help them open their hearts to Jesus Christ, a priest involved in the event has said.
The family "is the place where we feel most loved, most protected, most safe, valued," Father William Donovan, one of the meeting's main organizers, said. "In the natural economy of things, one could say after the gift of life itself, the second greatest gift God has given us is family."
"The reason is because, once God gives us life, he also wants us to have a full life. He wants us to be loved, to be protected, to be safe, to be secure, to be valued," said the Archdiocese of Philadelphia priest who also serves as Archbishop Charles Chaput's liaison to the Pontifical Council for the Family.
This year's theme is "Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive."
"The idea is that we want to try to bring as many resources and assistance to the human family so that they can understand and execute its role as a place of love," said Father Donovan.
Pope John Paul II founded the international event in 1994 to encourage families and to strengthen familial bonds. The event takes place every three years in a different city around the world.
Pope Francis' schedule
Here is the schedule for Pope Francis' September 2015 Apostolic Journey to the United States of America as released by the Vatican on June 30. All times are Eastern Daylight Time.
Sept. 22, Washington, DC
4 p.m. Arrival from Cuba at Joint Base Andrews
Sept. 23, Washington, DC
9:15 a.m. Welcome ceremony with President Obama
11:30 a.m. Prayer with U.S. bishops, St. Matthew's Cathedral
4:15 p.m. Canonization Mass for Junipero Serra, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Sept. 24, Washington, DC; New York City
9:20 a.m. Address to Congress
11:15 a.m. St. Patrick in the City and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington
4 p.m. Depart from Joint Base Andrews
5 p.m. Arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport
6:45 p.m. Vespers at St. Patrick's Cathedral
Sept. 25, New York
8:30 a.m. Address the United Nations General Assembly
11:30 a.m. Interfaith service at 9/11 Memorial, World Trade Center
4 p.m. Visit to Our Lady Queen of Angels School, East Harlem
6 p.m. Mass, Madison Square Garden
Sept. 26, New York; Philadelphia
8:40 a.m. Departure from JFK International Airport
9:30 a.m. Arrival at Atlantic Aviation, Philadelphia
10:30 a.m. Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia
4:45 p.m. Visit Independence Mall
7:30 p.m. Festival of Families, Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Sept. 27, Philadelphia
9:15 a.m. Meet bishops at St. Martin's Chapel, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
11 a.m. Visit Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility
4 p.m. Mass concludes the World Meeting of Families, Benjamin Franklin Parkway
7 p.m. Meeting with leadership World Meeting of Families, Atlantic Aviation
8 p.m. Departure for Rome
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