A young family from the Diocese of Syracuse will be attending the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia as winners of a diocesan-sponsored contest.
Jen Bryz-Gornia and Joe Denkenberger, parishioners of St. James Church in Syracuse, have been selected to attend the gathering Sept. 22 to 25. The couple, who will celebrate their ninth wedding anniversary in August, will also bring their two sons, Walter, 3 in August, and John, eight months, to Philly. The diocese will pay the meeting registration fee for the winners and contribute toward hotel expenses; additionally, a $500 grant has been donated by The Good News Center in Utica to help defray other expenses.

The World Meeting of Families is touted as the world’s largest gathering of Catholic families. Conceived by St. John Paul II as a way to strengthen families around the world, the first meeting was held in Rome, Italy, in 1994. The meetings take place every three years, and have been hosted in Brazil, the Philippines, Spain, Mexico and Italy.

The theme for this year’s meeting is “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.” The theme focuses on the role of the family and “emphasizing the impact of the love and life of families on our society,” according to organizers. Some 15,000 people from 150 countries are expected to participate in the meeting.

This year’s meeting will be the first held in the U.S. It will also be the occasion for Pope Francis’ first visit to the country; the pontiff will close the meeting with Mass Sept. 27 — an event expected to draw some 1.5 million people.

Bryz-Gornia and Denkenberger will have the opportunity to attend presentations and workshops and to hear well-known speakers, including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Father Robert Barron and Dr. Scott Hahn.

Bryz-Gornia, who is Catholic, and Denkenberger, who is Protestant, said faith is “a rock for us and for our marriage.” The couple said they are looking forward to learning more about supporting the role of faith in their family, a statement echoing their winning application essay: “As parents, we hope to learn how to strengthen our family through Christianity and the support of the Catholic Church. We believe that strong, faithful families are part of the bedrock of our church and a loving society. Our roles as parents are the most important roles we have (and have ever had) in our lives. Being parents, we recognize our blessing with incredible responsibility — leading our children to know Christ and raising them to be good, loving Christians in faith and action. We hope to learn how to fully embrace our calling.”

The Denkenberger family will share their experiences at the meeting with those unable to attend; look for daily coverage from the Sun, Syracuse Catholic Television and diocesan social media. Readers will also get to know the family though a series of features with the Sun in September.

For more on the World Meeting of Families, visit worldmeeting2015.orgthecatholicsun.com, and syracusediocese.org/about-the-diocese/world-meeting-of-families.

This story has been updated to reflect that the diocese will pay for the winners’ registration fees and contribute toward hotel expenses.

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