The fundamental importance of the family to our society


CatholicCare Social Services - Diocese of Parramatta Senior Manager Ann O’Brien reports from The World Meeting of Families (30 May to 3 June). Ann and her husband Peter are representing the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta at the Conference in Milan, Italy, along with Diocesan Seminarian Jack Green, his parents Stuart and Donna and sister Anna.

World Meeting of Families News Story
Ann O’Brien with one of the hundreds of volunteers at the World Meeting of Families.
The first day of the Conference was a very full day with sorting out headsets for translation and finding out where to go for the various lectures and workshops - not to mention how to get a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. There are thousands of people here and it is a bit chaotic - but 'that's Italy' everyone will say.

The headsets for translation are quite a challenge for the brain. The speakers often deliver their talk in Italian but occasionally it may be in Spanish or French. The English translator is always a sentence or two behind and understandably gives the simplest translation which can't capture the detail or nuances of the lecture. We had one lecture in English which was very exciting to give the ears a rest and only have to work on deciphering the accent.

The plenary sessions in the morning included talks by three cardinals from Italy - all giving evidence from both the Gospels, History and Research of the fundamental importance of the family to our society in every country. Their talks emphasised that the family really was the solution to the various crises affecting our world today.

The afternoon sessions were very interesting. The first by Professor Nuria Cinchilla presented recent research on the importance of not only family friendly but family proactive workplaces to benefit the worker, the company and society.

Mission and values

World Meeting of Families News Story
Catholic Diocese of Parramatta World Meeting of Families delegates the Green family (Stuart, Donna, Jack and Anna) and Peter O'Brien.
The evidence is compelling that work must not take over the life of the individuals and becoming such a burden that it takes away from family participation.

Work places that embrace family proactive practices find employees have a vocation not just a job and also are more productive and more creative and healthier. Other speakers gave examples of practices in their companies - big and small workplaces that embrace family situations of the employees and have benefited all.

The speakers all insisted that government, companies, individuals and other sectors of society must change the way work and family are seen today to reduce the crises presently affecting families and the economy.

We also attended a workshop on the families and Catholic schools which also gave evidence of the importance of Catholic schools in assisting families to ensure the education of their children in the faith. Also important was for the schools to be family proactive and not allow competition with state schools to affect their mission and values. The Catholic schools must not implement practices that impact negatively on family life and also must be different from non Catholic schools by their education in faith and mission and pastoral care.

This after all is their reason for being a Catholic school and not just a school that also happens to be Catholic. The same is true for social service agencies such as CatholicCare Social Services. Why are we Catholic Social Services? How are we different from Relationships Australia or Anglicare?


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