By Brittany Wilson | Social Media Coordinator
For Daniel and Alyce Rossi, of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, the week of Sept. 22 to 27 was one they won’t soon forget.
The married couple was two of more than 20,000 people, representing more than 100 countries, who attended the Eighth World Meeting of Families in the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia.
“We think families are the center of society, and we think it’s so important — the domestic Church is so important for society,” said Daniel, who is active with the Knights of Columbus in the state of New Jersey. “Many of the problems we face could be solved if people would embrace the importance of the family structure.”
The Rossis agreed the World Meeting of Families, which had the motto “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” was a very enlightening and hopeful experience.
“We met many wonderful people from all over the world,” Daniel said. “Everybody here shares a common bond, and that’s what makes this so exciting.”
“Seeing the youth, and the families and the fact there are all these young kids running around,” said Alyce. “Knowing that your faith is going to go on through the young people — that we are a living faith, we aren’t a dying faith — that’s what makes this such a wonderful experience.”
“This is the future,” her husband added. “And it’s wonderful seeing the future here with these young families, sharing their faith with their children, that’s what makes a difference.”
The couple, parents to three adult children, was also looking forward to seeing Pope Francis later in the week. But it wasn’t the first time the pair has found themselves in the presence of a successor of St. Peter.
“We are very fortunate. We saw Pope John Paul II in Giants Stadium when he visited, we saw Pope Benedict XVI in Yankee Stadium, and we were thrilled and honored when we were able to meet Pope Francis in Rome two years ago,” Daniel said. “We are so blessed as a couple…Who would have thought while we were growing up in Hamilton — we’re just normal people — that we would be so blessed to meet a Holy Father.”
Maria Hidalgo Dolan and Robert Dolan from St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Red Bank, saw the Holy Spirit at work at the World Meeting.
“This event has been an amazing blessing. It’s wonderful to be here,” Maria said. “The Holy Spirit is stirring things up and really bringing everyone closer to him.”
The Dolans have been married for 30 years, and have four sons and a one-year-old grandchild. Their second-oldest son, Nicholas Dolan, is a seminarian for the Diocese of Trenton at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.
They took the week off from work to take part in the World Meeting. They received two tickets to the Papal events as part of their conference registration, but were unable to attend because they needed to return to their two teenage sons who stayed home for the week.
That worked out providentially for another World Meeting attendee.
“We had our papal tickets and went to claim them,” said Maria. “As I turned around...there was a man on the floor looking through the garbage.”
The man, from Lithuania, was looking for his passes to see Pope Francis, which he had accidentally thrown away.
“Now I have no way of going,” the man told Maria right before the Dolans gifted him their passes.
“He started crying,” Maria said. “He was stunned...It was a really beautiful thing. I had said to Robert earlier in the morning, ‘There’s someone that God wants us to give these tickets to.’ ”
Robert added: “We only had the tickets for less than two minutes and we found the person who they were meant for.”
The Dolans also appreciated the message that was paramount to the weeklong event.
“It’s very uplifting, the theme of marriage and children and life. It’s just been really resonating with us,” Maria said. “Learning to walk the walk together to stay married — to pray with each other and pray over each other … This event just confirms that at the heart of what the Church needs to focus on is the joy of marriage and keeping them together.”
Mari Marroquin, a former parishioner of St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, who now resides near Kansas City, also took part in the World Meeting.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really dive into that catechesis of the Church and how it is pertinent to families,” said Marroquin, a former Realfaith TV cast member. “We need to learn that our mission is love and understand that the family is what’s going to change the world. The Church talks about the family and the domestic Church and that we are called to be Christ to others.”
“In the past 72 hours, I’ve really been taught how to listen better,” she said, “to be attentive and open to the Holy Spirit. As a family, we all have our own way that the Lord wants to speak to us...If you’re a wife, a husband, you have this opportunity to serve God within that unit.”
Marroquin, like the Rossis, had also seen Pope Francis in person before, but was looking forward to how others would react to the Holy Father.
“I am very excited,” she said. “I have had the opportunity to see Pope Francis in Brazil for World Youth Day, but I’m excited to see others experience him for the first time.”
Mariann Gilbride, associate director of the diocesan department of development, took a day away from her duties in the Chancery to learn as much as possible at the World Meeting.
Gilbride was impressed by the vast number of people from different places she encountered during her day in Philadelphia.
“The atmosphere here has been very welcoming. It’s exciting to hear around you all the different languages that people are speaking because they really are from all over the world,” she said. “But it’s also nice to run into people who you know from here or there … This experience is extraordinary.”