Family First: Why I'm Not at the World Meeting of Families


family first missing wmf2015I didn’t think, when I first heard about it, that I’d want to go. I’m not into crowded places, big cities, traffic nightmares.

It’s the company I’m missing: the fellowship; the chance to see, in person, the smile that’s attached to the author/reporter/speaker/Sister/priest I follow on Twitter. The chance to get acquainted with several writers whose work I admire–my amazing coworkers in the vineyard that is

And it’s the fact that it’s right across the river. It’s closer than the hospital where TheKid sees his endocrinologist. It’s only about as far as university my daughter attends, and just a little bit past my older son’s rented home in Philly.

It’s right here. And I’m not there.

When I saw tweets from Lisa as she crossed that bridge that stands between me and the city, it hit me: there’s so much I’ll be missing this week.

Screen capture of tweet by Lisa Hendey.

Screen capture of tweet by Lisa Hendey.

Monday morning, while my coworkers and friends and people I’ve admired from afar for a decade tweeted about picking up their press credentials, I stood in the car line at TheKid’s school, where I was substitute teaching for the day. I opened minivan doors and helped four-year-olds gather their lunches and backpacks. I greeted fifth-graders and chatted with the principal and the PE teacher about my daughter’s rugby game. I stood next to the Paper Pope that the pastor pulled out of the church vestibule, and laughed at the little kids’ faces when they realized they weren’t looking at the real thing.

That’s as close to the Pope as I’m going to get this week, and I’m going to need to be OK with that.

This year, family circumstances do not allow me to attend the World Meeting of Families that’s happening right in my backyard. At this stage of my mothering journey, I can go hours at a time without being needed–but it’s those times when I am needed that count, and diabetes being the random disease that it is, I never know when those times will happen. Right now I don’t see my way clear to be more than 20 minutes away.

My cell phone buzzed in my pocket during Mass this morning: it was the school nurse. TheKid’s been battling a stubborn high blood sugar (plus seasonal allergies) all night, and he just wasn’t feeling good at all. So I went over to school to pick him up, and he’s parked on the couch now with a fresh insulin-pump set and a huge water bottle.

That’s my reality right now. I am grateful that TheKid is doing as well as he is. But I can’t let that lull me into a false sense of security, because diabetes is a 24/7 disease.

My first job right now is to be available for my family. I can hobnob another time. And during those times when I’m not needed right this second, I can watch things unfold on TV, on Twitter, on Facebook and on CatholicMom. I can pray for the success of this week’s events and for the safety of all involved. And I can try as hard as I can to be genuinely happy for everyone who is blessed to be able to be there.


Copyright 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS.


About Author

Barb Szyszkiewicz is a wife, mom, Secular Franciscan, managing editor for Today's Catholic Teacher magazine and editor at Her three children range in age from high school to young adult, and she enjoys writing, cooking, and reading. Barb is a music minister at her parish and an avid Notre Dame football and basketball fan. Find her blog at FranciscanMom and her family’s favorite recipes with nutrition information for diabetics at Cook and Count.

1 Comment

  1. Barb, I was so glad you could join us for a few hours at the St Katharine Drexel shrine. And I really understand the need to stay close to family too. The way I’ve looked at it over the years, is that a married woman with children has many different seasons of life. Different opportunities or limitations come with each season. You made the right choice for your family in this season. Don’t ever underestimate the power and graces that come from the sacrifices you make for your family.

    For me, the adventure of hands-on motherhood is over, not its on to spiritual motherhood! Yet, for all the good that came from my travels to the World Meeting, I was missing my family not sharing in it too. Altho’ my grown-up son and his girlfriend were somewhere in the massive Papal Mass crowd — the separation in the ocean of people was too great for us to connect — other than a few texts and a phone call.

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