Alumna Directs Program for World Family Meeting
A UST alumna, Mary Beth (née Hahn) Yount ’01, has been chosen as director of content and programming for the Eighth World Meeting of Families–Philadelphia, which will be held for the first time in the United States in September 2015, and is expected to include a visit from Pope Francis.
Yount, an assistant professor of theology at Neumann University and an internationally recognized theologian, is tasked with overseeing the development of educational programs and activities for the almost-weeklong event, which is likely to draw a global audience of more than 1 million people to Philadelphia, Penn., around the theme "Love is our mission: the family fully alive.”
Inaugurated by Pope John Paul II in 1994 for the support and celebration of family life, the World Meeting of Families, or WMOF, is overseen by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family and takes place every three years. The event features keynote speaker and panel presentations on marriage-related topics, workshops, prayer and catechesis, and hands-on activities for the whole family. Previous meetings have been held in such cities as Rome, Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City.
“The World Meeting of Families—Philadelphia 2015 will a celebration of life and love,” Yount wrote in an email. “Like ripples in a pond, the effects of this event will spread out to the world, and hopefully it can help all of us grow in faith, hope, and charity.”
Yount, a mother of four young children, told EWTN that she was stunned—then elated—to be tapped for the position in May after helping to co-author the event’s Preparatory Catechism, a document expressing Catholic teaching on the family that is now an official Church document; it will be available through Our Sunday Visitor on Aug. 15.
“Co-authoring something that will become part of the official deposit of faith forever—I never expected to be able to leave a legacy like that,” she wrote in an email. “I thought this was it…. And I felt more blessed and honored then I can express. But now, to be able to, in partnership with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Pontifical Council for the Family, draw out the themes from the Preparatory Catechism and make sure that we have fun programming to address those themes…this is such an honor and a joy.”
Yount noted that although papal visits are not officially confirmed more than six months prior to a visit, the WMOF leadership is confident that Pope Francis will make an appearance at the event.
“Barring any sudden illness or crisis, I cannot imagine that the pope who is calling an extraordinary synod on the family in October of this year will not attend the World Meeting of the Families—Philadelphia 2015,” Yount wrote. “In his audiences and documents, the family is clearly a priority to Pope Francis.”
Yount holds a doctorate in theology from Duquesne University and a master’s in theology from St. Mary’s University, but she credits UST “not just for where I am professionally, but for some of the best parts of who I am personally.”
Originally an elementary education major, Yount was so “captured” by UST’s core theology and philosophy classes that she soon switched tracks, graduating with a major in theology and a minor in philosophy.
“My theology and philosophy courses opened my eyes to the deeper questions—and answers—in life: what it means to be a human, what really matters in life, and the significance of being created by a loving God,” Yount wrote. “It is the Catholic and Thomistic perspective of many of my professors at UST that helped me to learn how to continuously examine my life and make well-informed choices, and UST is where I began to grow in faith and understand the richness of the Catholic tradition.”
Yount expressed gratitude to Neumann University as well for its “incredible support” in allowing her to maintain a full-time position as she plunges into the equally full-time WMOF assignment.
Right now, two of the proposed keynote topics for the event are “Created for Joy and Love” and “The Family: A Home for the Wounded Heart,” Yount noted. Some of the activity ideas currently being brainstormed include the opportunity for participants to make family cookbooks, and the inclusion of “wandering saints” to mingle with visitors in the convention center, she added.
A member of the Association of Practical Theology, the International Academy of Practical Theology, the National Association for Lay Ministry, the American Academy of Religion, the College Theology Society and the Society of Biblical Literature, Yount has given almost 100 presentations on topics related to ethics, the theology of the family, parenting, and education. She has taught 30 related university courses and has been featured in numerous television, radio and print outlets, including EWTN, Ave Maria Radio and NBC-10.
By Marion Fernandez-Cueto