A day to celebrate the parish as family

A day to celebrate the parish as family
More than 900 people attended the “Family Faith Festival” at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, Gibbsboro, on Sept. 27.

More than 900 people attended the “Family Faith Festival” at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, Gibbsboro, on Sept. 27.

More than 900 enthusiastic parishioners attended the “Family Faith Festival” held at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, Gibbsboro, on Sept. 27.

Msgr. Louis A. Marucci, pastor, and the parishioners planned to celebrate the Holy Father’s visit to the area by holding a “Parish Meeting of Families” for those who were unable to travel to Philadelphia.

In a style similar to the World Meeting of Families, the parish festival provided opportunities for parishioners to celebrate Mass as a community of believers, participate in age appropriate break-out sessions, join together to partake in family designed activities, and experience the Holy Father’s Mass.

Msgr. Marucci commented that contemporary culture has defined the “family” in very different ways, from traditional to blended to cross-generational to adoptive/foster, and more.

There is another type of family that should not be overlooked, he said, and that is the parish as family.

“Parishioners today work tirelessly to grow the parish as a faithful family in Christ. As a ‘parish family’ we strive to love one another in word, deed, prayer and mutual support,” he said. “The parish community is where the mission of Jesus Christ comes to life and continues day to day.”

The day’s activities began with a concelebrated outdoor opening Mass. At the conclusion of the Liturgy the church bells pealed to disperse parishioners to various locations on the property to participate in age appropriate activities for pre-school age children to seniors.

Next, families were brought back together to participate in family related activities, allowing them to have their family portrait taken with a Pope Francis cut-out, receive a family blessing, offer a family prayer intention on a newly constructed Prayer Wall, participate in a family affirmation faith walk, and to write a letter to Pope Francis committing to offer family prayers for the special intentions of the Holy Father.

Attendees were issued a “Papal Passport” that served to guide them through a host of activities throughout the day. Participants that accomplished a series of specific activities were eligible to participate in a drawing to receive a “Papal Present”: a cross and a rosary blessed by Pope Francis.

The church bells pealed again to allow families to enjoy a barbecue; compete in the Family Games/Olympics; spend time in the Moon Bounces, make their own Pope Hats (Miters)/Crosses; enjoy the face painting and balloon artists, and rock to the faith affirming music provided by the award-winning Christian rock band, “Moment of Truth.”

Lastly, people gathered inside the church to experience the papal Mass which was streamed live inside the church on a 16-foot screen and special audio system.

Parishioners were given a special Order of Worship to fully participate in the Mass, and were delighted to receive the Apostolic Blessing given by the Holy Father to end the day.

In the spirit of Pope Francis and his emphasis on serving the poor, all those in attendance were asked to bring some food/groceries to donate to the parish Christian Cupboard, which provides food, clothing, and other needs to the poor and marginalized.

Joe Bigos, pastoral associate for parish administration, commented that “viewing the papal Mass together as a parish family was the perfect way to end a wonderful and spiritually uplifting visit to our area by our Holy Father.”

Msgr. Marucci stated that Pope Francis’ message during his pastoral visit was not only about religious liberty and the importance of marriage and family, but reminded all of the “dignity of the human person, and the call for all people to be servants of Christ to one another.” He reminded everyone of the Holy Father’s words that “faith is only alive when it is shared.”

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