Meet Our Families

Travelling to Dublin this August to represent the Archdiocese of Birmingham will be a number of families from across the area. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they make this unique pilgrimage.

Birmingham Cathedral Deanery: The Ghemit family

The Ghemit family have Fr Anton’s hat to thank for their forthcoming trip to Dublin, as it was their name that got picked out of it!

Zeressenai, Awsaena and their children Essay (5) and Shamma (6) are representing the Birmingham Cathedral deanery at next month’s event.

The family attend the Birmingham Oratory and are also connected to St Vincent De Paul in Nechells.

Like many of the other families taking part, this will be a first pilgrimage for the Ghemits, and they are very excited.

Zeressenai is the chairman of the St Michael Eritrean Catholic Community and is heavily involved in working with the local community. He was also presented with the Ubi Caritas award in March 2017 by Archbishop Bernard Longley.

“We were randomly chosen from several families whose names were put in Fr Anton’s hat!” said Zeressenai.

“It will be a wonderful experience for us to share and we get the opportunity to meet other families and share experiences.”

Birmingham East Deanery: The Haddon family

We are delighted to introduce our youngest pilgrim – Nolan Haddon will be less than two months old when he experiences the World Meeting of Families next month.

Together with mum Marina, dad Andrew and big sister Evangeline (aged three and-a-half) baby Nolan is bound to attract lots of attention during the trip.

The Haddons are parishioners at St Augustine in Solihull and are thrilled to be taking part. It will be their first pilgrimage as a family unit and their first visit to Ireland.

Marina went to World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008 and is looking forward to experiencing another huge event.

“I am very excited, over the moon, especially with the addition of Nolan – it has been like a blessing,” she said. “St Augustine’s has made me feel very at home and I’m so honoured we are representing the church, and Deanery.

“I have seen Pope Benedict XVI and if I get the chance to see Pope Francis it will be very special for me personally.”

Birmingham East Deanery: The Chigwaza Family

Mum and daughter – Maggie and Natasha (14) – are overwhelmed to have been nominated to also represent Birmingham East Deanery.

The pair are part of the congregation at Our Lady of the Rosary & St Therese of Lisieux, Saltley, where Natasha is a regular reader.

Maggie, a nurse, explained: “We were called back after a service to find out we were a nominated family. I thought ‘is this happening to me?’ Because after I lost my mum I held onto my faith – and mum is now looking down on me.

“For us to be chosen out of all the other people, it is a very special reason.”

It will be the first time the pair have visited Ireland, with Natasha looking forward to meeting young Catholics her own age and learning together.

Maggie added: “I went to see Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. You cannot explain the experience. You feel your faith is fulfilled and you are doing what you should be doing.”

Banbury and Birmingham South Deaneries: Mr and Mrs Weaver, and the Martin family

Abigail Martin said: "We are so excited to be representing Birmingham South Deanery at the WMoF this month.

"We are especially pleased that we have three generations of our family travelling with the Birmingham Archdiocese, as my parents (Christopher and Catherine Weaver) are representing the Banbury Deanery.

"Making pilgrimages is very important to us and we have all travelled on pilgrimages before. My mother led a school pilgrimage to Lourdes for over 20 years with my father at her side in the later years.

"My husband and I met at the World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005 and visited Knock the week we got engaged a year later.

"Our eldest daughter made her first pilgrimage to Lourdes when she was just six weeks old and all three children loved being there again with the diocese and their daddy’s school earlier this year.

"That said, we have never experienced a World Meeting of Families! We are all looking forward to different things.

"The children are very much looking forward to meeting other children from different countries and having fun with them in the streams.

"Chris and I will enjoy hearing Cardinal Vincent Nicholls speak who we also heard at World Youth Day in 2005, when he helped young people discern their vocations. I am interested in the teachings on refugees and asylum seekers as I will start volunteering at St Chad's Sanctuary for refugees in September.

"My parents are anticipating hearing Cardinal Wuerl and as a massive sports fan, Chris is looking forward to hearing Ronan O'Gara whilst my Irish dance-loving girls cannot wait to watch Riverdance!

"The highlight for all of us will undoubtedly be Sunday 26 August on which we will celebrate our youngest daughter's birthday, my parents 46th wedding anniversary as well as the Papal Mass!

"We are looking forward to making new friends and enjoying new experiences - although I think a few cheeky pints of Guinness may be needed to sustain us through the week!" 

Coventry Deanery: The Sutton and Jakabovic families

Tracy Sutton said: "As a family we are looking forward to the forthcoming pilgrimage to Dublin, meeting other families and sharing the event experience with them.

"We feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to be one of the families chosen to represent the Coventry deanery and want to enjoy the experience.

"We hope to gain the opportunity to reflect on how lucky we are to be part of a wider Christian family and how important family is to us in our everyday lives.

"This will be our first family pilgrimage. I have been on pilgrimages over the years to other places such as Lourdes and Knock, but as a family unit this will be a first time experience." 

Kidderminster Deanery: The Boham and Katatumba family

Lichfield Deanery: The Wright family

Excited and nervous are just two words to describe how the Wright family are feeling about the forthcoming pilgrimage.

It’s the first time that Katie and Kory, and their daughters Rosey (9) and Mollie (7), have been involved in such an event and it’s clear they can’t wait to go.

The family are parishioners at Sacred Heart in Tamworth, where Katie and Kory are Eucharistic Ministers and Rosey is an altar server.

Mum Katie also helps to run the church summer scheme, which will soon get underway for the holidays.

“We feel very humbled to be taking part in this trip, it is quite overwhelming to be given such an opportunity,” said Katie.

“With children it’s often a struggle to find a pilgrimage that will entertain the children in a faith way. But with the World Meeting of Families the children are catered for and will get an enjoyment out of it.

“It will also be nice to meet other people and find out how their parish works for them. The sharing of ideas and what we can do differently will be really helpful.”

Katie added the family are also following developments for the World Meeting of Families on social media, and the reach and impact it's having ‘is amazing’.

North Staffordshire Deanery: The Howard family

Edward and Anna Howard live in Cheadle with their three children - Joanna, Rebekah and James.

Edward is a primary school headteacher and Anna is the Lay Chaplain for a group of local Catholic primary schools.

They met whilst working together at Alton Castle and subsequently settled in the area to bring up their family.

All three children previously attended The Faber RC school in Cotton and this September, James will be joining his older sisters at Painsley Catholic College in Cheadle.

The family are parishioners of St. John the Baptist in Alton, where all of the children received their Sacraments of Initiation. 

Joanna helps with the children’s liturgy on Sunday mornings, while Rebekah and James serve on the altar. Anna helps to lead the music during Mass and Edward is chair of the annual parish Garden Party fundraising committee.

The family feel honoured to be representing their deanery in Dublin and are very excited at what the days will bring.

Edward said: “It is a wonderful opportunity to meet with friends from across the diocese and share witness with them – a true family occasion!”

Oxford North Deanery: The Graham family

Lisa Graham: "We are so grateful and excited to have been picked to represent our Deanery at the World Meeting of Families!

"We are a very young family, and have so much to learn about family life. We also feel very blessed to be accompanied by my brother Rahul, his wife Emma and their three-month old baby Anish on our pilgrimage, and we can't wait to share this wonderful spiritual experience with them.

"Being young Catholics, we are recently out of university and have experienced the difficulties young Catholics can face whilst trying to live out their faith.

"We are really looking forward to interacting and learning from people at the different events, so that we can share our faith and draw strength from the faith of the many people, families, priests and religious from all over the world whom we will encounter.

"This experience will sustain us as we get back to daily life and the challenges of living out our faith, especially in today's society, so we can be 'in the world but not of the world'."

Oxford South Deanery: The Sproat family

Stafford Deanery: The Mackie family

Richard and Colette, and their children John-Henry (15); Andrew (14); George (12); Matilda (10) and Beatrice (7), will be making their first pilgrimage together as a family.

“The children are getting excited and looking forward to meeting families from different countries, seeing new sights, going somewhere they have never been before and making new friends,” said Colette.

“It will be the first time we will be totally immersed in a Catholic environment as a family. It can be quite difficult living day-to-day, as there is so much going on around you, so it will be lovely to be able to just go with the flow with other families and all in the same direction together. This is a great chance to celebrate being a Catholic.”

She added son George was particularly excited at the prospect of seeing Pope Francis, as he can remember being too young to go to Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI when he visited England in 2010.

Walsall Deanery: The D'Silva family

The D’Silva daughters are excited for their trip to Dublin and have already been avidly studying the pastoral programme – packed full of events for children, teenagers and adults.

Fiona, aged 16, will get her GCSE results whilst on the Pilgrimage, and is going on to study A-levels.

“I am excited to meet more Catholics my age – they are rare,” said Fiona. “It is a great chance to meet more people to share the faith with.”

Older sister Rachael, 21, is back home in Walsall for the summer. She is studying medicine in Bulgaria and is three years into a six-year course.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to be involved in such an event,” she said. “It is our first family pilgrimage and we are very excited.”

Rachael, Fiona and 13-year-old Rhianna, together with parents Richard and Anita, are well known at their parish church, St Mary’s the Mount, where all three daughters spend time as altar servers.

Warwick Deanery: The Rayment family

The Rayment family are looking forward to representing their Deanery and its parishes.

After 16 years in the Anglican Church, last year the family were received into the Catholic Church.

Apart from attending the New Dawn conference in Walsingham, this is their first pilgrimage.

Mum, Emma, has always had a heart for children and family ministry and is looking forward to learning about how that looks in the Catholic Church, with a view to stepping into this ministry in the future. She is currently studying for the Certificate in Parish Mission and Ministry at Maryvale Institute.

“I’ve been so grateful for the way my children have been prepared in their faith and the massive input that the Church as a family has had on this," said Emma.

"It is so important for this to be a positive and enjoyable start to their journey into faith as a young person and later as adults. Catholic Leamington are so lucky to have a full time Youth Minister, but we have a window of opportunity to reach children and their families after they leave Children’s Liturgy classes, around age seven, until they can join in youth activities aged 11, that doesn’t seem to be fully utilised.

"Catholic Charismatic events, like Celebrate, provide such wonderful age appropriate teaching that it seems a shame not to bring that back into the parish.”

Sam (13) and Jacob (11) are looking forward to meeting new families and others their age. Lucy (9) is excited to keep a ‘diary’ of the trip and make a colourful scrapbook of pictures. Adam (7) is adamant that he is going to “give Pope Francis a hug”.

Wolverhampton Deanery: The Taylor family

Anthony Taylor will be one of the coach drivers on the trip, accompanied by his wife Tracy and their son, Reuben. They attend St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Wolverhampton.

Tracy said: “As a family of three, never in our wildest dreams did we think we would be going to Dublin to see his Holiness, Pope Francis. It’s something that never happens to us.

“So when our parish priest, Father Craig, said we were able to go it seemed like a miracle had taken place.

“Last year my Mum passed away. She had the dreaded 'C' word, same as I had been told three years earlier that I had a brain tumour. I turned my back on the church, but Father Craig renewed my faith and once again we were back to our pew at the back of church.

“Our son Reuben serves on the altar, which is sometimes a bit hit and miss with me being so tired. I’m hoping that this will continue once I’m well again.

“I can’t thank Father Craig enough for putting our name forward. All those years of walking up and down the Willenhall Road to go to church - thank you!”

Worcester Deanery: The Hope family

The 10-strong Hope family will be representing Worcester Deanery at the World Meeting of Families.

David and Tina Hope, and their children Lucy, Beth, Ruth, Samuel, Kate, Sarah, Jude and Nathaniel, are the largest family travelling from the Archdiocese.

They are already studying the pastoral programme to work out what they will take part in, and mum Tina says there is a sense of excitement building.

“It is a real honour to be involved in this Pilgrimage, we have never done anything on this scale before,” said Tina.

“I saw Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict, when they came to England, and they were significant life moments for me. I’m sure seeing Pope Francis in Dublin will be exactly the same.

“God called me to be a wife and mother, the result of that is my family. I find family life very joyful and we will be celebrating that.”

The family, who are actively involved in parish life at St George’s Catholic Church in Worcester, are also hoping to see family who live in Ireland during the trip.

It’s All About Families

This summer the Archdiocese of Birmingham will take part in a unique pilgrimage across the water to the Emerald Isle.

More than 100 people from across our Diocese, led by Archbishop Bernard, will travel to Dublin in August for the World Meeting of Families.

Pope Francis specifically chose Ireland to host this very special event, and will join in the celebrations as the week unfolds.

The World Meeting of Families was established by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1994 with the aim of celebrating the Church's role in building the family.

It is an international event held every three years, bringing together families from across the world to celebrate, pray and reflect upon the central importance of marriage and the family as the cornerstone of our lives, of society and of the Church.

When details of this amazing event were announced, Archbishop Bernard was keen for the Diocese to play a big part – and so we are.

Lianne Pap, Family Ministry co-ordinator, and Natalie Orefice, Advisor for Parish Evangelisation, are working together to ensure the Pilgrimage will be a great success.

Almost every Deanery in the Archdiocese has sponsored a family, and they will be joined on the trip by a number of clergy.

Families of all shapes and sizes are taking part, to reflect the true diversity and make-up of the Diocese.

In preparation many have taken part in a six-session parish programme called Amoris: Let’s Talk Family, Let’s Be Family.

The programme calls on participants to share and reflect on experiences in their family life in the light of Pope Francis’s considerations in Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), including people’s hopes and fears with regard to family life. For more information click here

A large number of resources – including thousands of icon cards (depicting the Holy Family); prayer cards and information leaflets – have also been delivered to parishes across the Diocese to raise awareness of this special event.

The World Meeting of Families runs from August 21 to 26. To find out more about what our families will be doing please visit the official website - and a full programme events can be found here

Pilgrimage Co-ordinators:

Lianne Pap and her family

Natalie Orefice and her family (with Archbishop Bernard Longley)

Prayer in preparation for The World Meeting of Families

God, our Father,
we are brothers and sisters in Jesus your Son,
One family, in the Spirit of your love.

Bless us with the joy of love.

Make us patient and kind,
gentle and generous,
welcoming to those in need.

Help us to live your forgiveness and peace.
Protect all families with your loving care,
Especially those for whom we now pray:

[We pause and remember family members and others by name]

Increase our faith,
Strengthen our hope,
Keep us safe in your love,
Make us always grateful for the gift of life that we share.

Through Christ our Lord, Amen

Mary, mother and guide, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, father and protector, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Louis and Zélie Martin, pray for us.

The Pope Video: August