Diocesan NFP coordinator says World Meeting of Families inspired hope

By Gianna Bonello

For four days in June, delegates from all over the world gathered in Rome to celebrate the 10th World Meeting of Families, a gathering first created by St. John Paul II in 1994.

For this year’s event, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the gathering was limited to a select number of delegates. From the United States, delegates chosen included those involved in family ministry, bishops, priests and families.

Sheila Reineke holds her entrance ticket to attend a special World Meeting of Families Mass presided over by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square. (Gianna Bonello / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

Sheila Reineke, natural family planning program coordinator for the Diocese of St. Cloud, was one of them.

“Everything was just so inspiring that my hope is so renewed for family life,” Reineke said, reflecting on the WMOF.

Reineke, who attended with her husband, Vince, was invited to be part of the U.S. delegation by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.

She was first invited by Archbishop Cordileone to serve on the USCCB National Family Planning Advisory Committee a year and a half ago. She credits her position on the committee as the reason she was invited to the WMOF.

From OT to NFP

Reineke has served as the NFP coordinator for the Diocese of St. Cloud for 20 years. Before that, she worked as an occupational therapist in behavioral health for 19 years. She said her experiences as a therapist eventually led her to being involved in NFP and family ministry.

“The people that I worked with were very depressed, suicidal, anxious; not functioning well, not feeling well,” Reineke said. “So part of my job was to help them be able to communicate and manage stress.”

She would ask her patients to tell her their “three biggest stresses,” she said.

“It came up, over and over again, relationship problems, divorce, things like that,” she said.

At the same time Reineke was working, she and Vince were using natural family planning.

“I was like wow, this really works fabulously for spacing the births of children, but it’s even better at helping husband and wife communicate and grow in virtue,” Reineke said. “So I thought, if I can help people understand God’s plan for human sexuality, we might save a lot of pain down the road. So that kind of prompted me to work in NFP ministry.”

World Meeting of Families

The theme for this year’s WMOF, originally scheduled to take place in 2021, was “Family Love: A Vocation and a Path to Holiness.”

This theme was chosen to “highlight family love as a vocation and as a way of holiness, so as to understand and share the profound and salvific meaning of family relationships in daily life,” according to the official pilgrim guide for the WMOF.

This year’s event officially began June 22 and concluded on June 26. It included a mix of prayer, conferences, meetings, Mass and panels.

Day by day

The WMOF began June 22 with a “festival of families” and concluded with a concert, Reineke said.

“Pope Francis was in a wheelchair on stage and then they had five families present their story,” she recounted. “The point of all of this is that we need to accompany couples and families in their Catholic marriage and their Catholic family life. So the pope sat and listened as we talked about that.”

Thursday, June 23:

The next day largely consisted of conferences and presentations, Reineke said.

“There were presenters and then they’d have different panels of speakers,” she said. “In the evening, we had a wonderful concert … at the Lateran Palace.”

These presentations, held in the Paul VI Audience Hall, included topics such as “the domestic church and synodality,” “spouses and priests together to build up the Church,” and “young and old together for the Church of tomorrow.”

Friday, June 24:

Friday’s activities included more presentations in the morning and concluded with the delegates going out to parishes.

“We went to different parishes in Rome,” Reineke said. “They created a song for the WMOF … when we arrived at the parish, the parishioners were in the pews and we walked in while they were singing that song. It was really beautiful.”

Reineke said both the U.S. delegates and the parishioners gave short witnesses.

“It was really fun to hear how the couples met and a little bit about their marriage. The people of the parish could not have been more wonderful,” Reineke said.

The parish visits concluded with a meal, which included classic American hamburgers and Italian tiramisu.

Pope Francis gives the homily during Mass in St. Peter’s Square during the World Meeting of Families at the Vatican June 25, 2022. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

Saturday, June 25:

Saturday followed a similar pattern as Friday, with more presentations in the morning. In the evening, however, the delegates celebrated Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square.

“That was fantastic,” Reineke said. “The pope in his popemobile came by, like 10 feet from us. Some were so concerned about him being in the wheelchair. As an occupational therapist, I was really happy to see him standing and using his cane a little bit… it was just a joy.”

Sunday, June 26:

Reineke’s experience in Rome finished on Sunday with the Angelus blessing in St. Peter’s Square. She and her husband also toured the papal basilica of St. Mary Major, one of the four major basilicas of Rome.

Reineke said the World Meeting of Families was “very practical.”

“It wasn’t overly academic. As parents and ministers, wanting our young adults to learn the faith, love the faith … we have to be practical about that,” Reineke said. “I know in my own life, I try to boil it down: what do I really need the kids to do? Know and love Jesus … I think the WMOF … helps with that. It helps us focus, as ministers and as parents [on] what are the big things.”

Q&A with Sheila

As the NFP coordinator, how did the World Meeting of Families inspire you?

Sheila Reineke (Gianna Bonello / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

“It inspired me to see the other delegates and such beautiful families; people really committed to their Catholic faith. Their desire to share it, and just the things that they are doing are just really pretty incredible … my hope is so renewed.”

What is one thing that you want to take from Rome, from the WMOF back to this diocese and into your work?

“What I like about natural family planning is it’s not just a method of family planning, but it also is growing in virtue. It helps husband and wife grow together in virtue and grow in holiness, and that was kind of the theme of the whole World Meeting of Families: growing in holiness, that we’re all called to grow in holiness. I really do believe that using NFP helps couples to do that.”

What was your favorite food that you ate in Rome?

“Gelato. Oh, we had good gelato. When I went I said we’re going to have Mass and gelato every day!

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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