St. Cloud pilgrims call international family meeting ‘inspirational,’ ‘uplifting’

Categories: Nation/World,Papal visit,World Meeting of Families


Bishop Kettler at the World Meeting of Families opening ceremonies Sept. 22 in Philadelphia. Photo by Joe Towalski

By Joe Towalski
The Visitor

Some three dozen pilgrims from the Diocese of St. Cloud joined nearly 20,000 from more than 100 countries for the opening day of the World Meeting of Families Sept. 22 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.

The Minnesota pilgrims arrived just hours before Pope Francis landed in Washington, D.C., for his first-ever visit to the United States. They listened to a keynote address by auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles on “Living as the Image of God” and attended a Mass concelebrated by hundreds of priests and bishops, including Bishop Donald Kettler.

“It’s very inspirational — so many people here for one thing: the family,” said Dean Capouch of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Fergus Falls who made the trip with his wife, Sue. “It was very inspirational to be at the Mass — so many people all doing the same thing at the same time. It reaffirms your faith and your enthusiasm for the faith.”

The international aspect of the gathering and the hospitality the pilgrims received from the event’s volunteers and organizers struck a chord with Mary Kay Bodeen and Kay Rodrigue of SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Braham.

“Seeing all the different countries and pilgrim groups and ages, it’s very uplifting,” Rodrigue said. “We are a universal church.”

“The welcome by the people of Philadelphia has been wonderful,” added Bodeen, who had a picture of her and Rodrigue snapped in front of a copy of the pieta by convention center volunteers. “They were so excited that we were excited.”

“An Alaskan family was sitting next to us at Mass, and they came down specifically for this event with their three boys,” she added. “It’s wonderful to know [families like that] made it here.”

“The Holy Spirit has really done some work in bringing all these people together,” Rodrigue said.

The St. Cloud pilgrims were also impressed with the message shared by Bishop Barron.

“He said that we need to practice ‘right praise,” Dean Capouch said. “If things are going wrong, we’re praising the wrong things. That’s important to remember with all the challenges we’re facing as a society.”

That message resonated for Rodrigue as well. “We need to teach our culture how to worship and praise,” she said. “That’s the true [path to] God, not wealth, power and pleasure.”

In the coming days, pilgrims will attend workshops on the family, talks by international speakers and have opportunities for prayer and worship.

Chris Codden, director of the Office of Marriage and Family for the Diocese of St. Cloud, will lead one of those workshops on Tuesday afternoon: “When I was Hungry: Providing for the Material and Spiritual Needs of the Family at the Local Parish.”

The group also will attend a prayer vigil with Pope Francis at the Festival of Families Sept. 26 and the pope’s closing Mass for the World Meeting of Families Sept. 27 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.