The 10th World Meeting of Families (WMOF) is taking place in Rome this week, from Wednesday June 22 until Sunday June 26.
Throughout the four days of the meeting, we’re publishing personal stories from people in our diocese who have different experiences of family.
Today we hear from Mary Collinge, who is a member of St John of Beverley Parish…
Can you give a brief description of your family and explain what makes them tick?
Like many families today, mine is a “blended family”. Our family now consists of my son Bill (19), my husband Simon (54), his sons Ben (21) and Harry (20) – and, of course, myself (50). My husband and I may come from very different backgrounds, but we quickly came to realise that being respectively Catholic and Humanist was no barrier to our relationship. If anything, our beliefs complement one another perfectly, allowing us to see a more rounded and open view of the world. Sadly, labels often seek to divide rather than unite – aren’t we all God’s people after all? It is this mutual love and acceptance of one another that has always been at the heart of our life together. That and laughter. We laugh a lot!
How do you demonstrate “family love” in your family?
As a single parent family for the first seven years of my son’s life, Bill and I obviously had our own take on what constitutes “family love” in the eyes of the Church, but this has made the strength of our family unit, nonetheless. With the support of extended family and friends, I was able to provide my son with a secure and loving environment in which to grow, both at home and within the school and parish community. Knowing that we were never truly alone, and that God was always there, our relationship as mother and son flourished.
What are the challenges and the rewards/high points in your family??
Bringing up a boy by myself was not without its challenges, but it has also been one of the greatest joys of my life, bringing us closer than we might have been otherwise. Meeting Simon 12 years ago obviously changed our family dynamic, but in all the best ways. Apart from being a wonderful husband, Simon has been the best father I could ever hope for my boy. Aside from my dad, Bill had never really had a father figure in his life and Simon more than filled this void. Bringing both our families together was a challenge in the early days. Naturally, jealousy and split loyalties played their part, but patience and understanding has resulted in a much more harmonious relationship, especially now that our boys are older.
How does God’s love show itself in your family and what helps you get through the difficult times??
The love and joy my family bring, even in the darkest of times, show me that God is always there – we always seem to find humour in the most difficult situations. Believe me, there were times in the early days when I felt that God had abandoned me, but he gave me my beautiful boy, and then Simon and his sons. Even in my frustrations, I know that God has a plan for me, if I can only be patient enough to wait for it.
In what ways do you think family life is a vocation??
Having always worked with children, both as a teacher and now in school chaplaincy, being a parent was obviously what God called me to do. Helping to guide and support young people on their path through life is such a gift, and one that my husband and I cherish enormously. We may follow different paths, but our goals remain the same – to love one another.
We will be marking the end of WMOF with a Mass at the cathedral at 5pm on Sunday June 26, with Bishop Terry presiding.We recognise that travelling all the way to Middlesbrough may not be feasible for everyone, but we hope as many of you as possible will be able to come along to celebrate family life.
We hope each parish can send a “representative” family to reflect the diverse mix of families across our diocese.
Each family will be encouraged to bring a symbol to represent their experience of family life, and these will form part of the offertory procession.