Commitment to helping families a draw for St. Albert parishioner attending World Meeting, papal visit

| April 1, 2015 | 0 Comments
Jeannine and Gregg Backstrom, parishioners of St. Albert in Albertville, are among local Catholics who plan to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia Sept. 22-28. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Jeannine and Gregg Backstrom, parishioners of St. Albert in Albertville, are among local Catholics who plan to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia Sept. 22-28. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Jeannine Backstrom has cleared her calendar for the fourth week in September, when she and her husband, Gregg, will join Catholics from around the world in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families — an event that includes Mass with Pope Francis.

“When I first heard the World Meeting of Families was happening in the United States, I thought, how could I not be there?” she said. “The Church is my family, and I want to be there with the Holy Father and support him in all he’s doing.”

A parishioner of St. Albert in Albertville, Backstrom is dedicated to promoting strong Catholic marriages and family life. As executive director of the Brooklyn Park-based Cana Family Institute, she oversees Familia, the organization’s core initiative that supports parents of young children through small groups. Familia was critical in helping the Backstroms fortify their own marriage, when, six years after their wedding and with two small children, they were on the brink of divorce.

Jeannine had expected marriage to be “the end all,” and felt like it wasn’t meeting her expectations, she said. She separated from Gregg for almost a year. She credits God’s grace with helping them realize her marriage was worth saving. She and Gregg experienced “a tremendous healing” and mercy, and they reunited. They joined Familia, where they found new friends who supported their marriage.

After reuniting, Jeannine, now 56, was committed to making the marriage work, but anticipated it would be a kind of drudgery. She never imagined that she and Gregg would share the deep sense of God’s presence in their marriage that they do now.

In what became “a family mission,” the Backstroms’ involvement in Familia motivated them to reach out to other parents and families.

“We feel like that experience early on in our marriage prepared our hearts for what it is that the family needs, and that’s accompaniment and care,” said Backstrom, who now has five adult children and three grandchildren. “Out of a sense of gratitude for his mercy, we just worked. The lens of whatever we did was through the family.”

Her experience taught her how fragile marriage was and the need for Catholic formation on the sacrament.

Marriage “is the foundation for everything,” Backstrom said. “You’re a community of persons. It’s where you learn to love. It’s where you learn to give. It’s where you learn to be who you’re called to be. From that, we create society, culture, the Church.”

Want to go?For more information or to register for the local pilgrimage to the World Meeting of Families, call 1-800-653-0017. To register for the World Meeting of Families, visit http://www.worldmeeting 2015.org.

For details, visit http://www.archspm.org/WMF.

Accompaniment, or family-to-family support, is at the core of building healthy families, especially for newlyweds and new parents, she said.

“We have to be really intentional about supporting parents who want to have a good marriage and want to have a good family,” Backstrom said, rather than only providing programming for marriages or families in trouble. She’s looking forward to gathering with like-minded Catholics at the World Meeting of Families, she said.

“There is so much hope for the family,” she said. “I’ve seen the effect that World Youth Days have had on families, because those millions of kids who have been to those are getting married, and they want to continue that experience, and that happens in the family.”

Jean Stolpestad, director of the Office of Marriage, Family and Life for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, called the Sept. 22-28 World Meeting of Families “World Youth Day for adults.” The triennial international event isn’t as well known as the biennial youth event, but it’s no less important, she said.

“For the same reason that we would send our kids [to World Youth Day], because we want them to have an encounter with Christ, we want them to identify with the Church, we want them to have an experience that is so powerful that it will carry them into adulthood, those are the same reasons we need our adults to go — so they can have that courage, strength and clarity to transmit their faith to the next generation as well as the current culture.”

The archdiocese has partnered with Minnesota’s other dioceses to bring a group of pilgrims to the event. The pilgrimage’s $1,875 cost covers airfare, hotel accommodations, transportation between the hotel and the meeting, the papal Mass, sightseeing, breakfasts and two dinners. Registration for the World Meeting of Families is separate; packages begin at $125, and rates rise May 1.

“Because of the sheer volume of people who will be out there, finding accommodations on one’s own will be incredibly difficult,” Stolpestad said. The Minnesota pilgrimage is holding a block of rooms for pilgrims.

In addition to attending the meeting’s variety of workshops and presentations, pilgrims will also have the opportunity to attend daily Mass and discuss how to apply what they learn in their homes and parishes. They will also have the opportunity to see the pope.

“If you want to see the Holy Father, you’re going to have to already be at the World Meeting of Families,” Stolpestad said.


WMFlogoFirst of a series

In partnership with the publications of all Minnesota dioceses, The Catholic Spirit is launching an 11-part series on families based on the meeting’s 10 themes.

 

 


 

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Category: World Meeting of Families