More than two hundred people from some 39 families in the Hamilton diocese came together on the weekend of November 9-11 to celebrate families.

The Family Weekend provided “a chance to step away from the challenges of life and experience the freedom, joy, and unity, of family life refocused on Christ”, according to Joe Hogan, Marriage and Family Life Animator of the diocese.

“The theme that ‘Families are Good News’ was lived and experienced by all,” he said. Parents were refreshed, and youth and kids were happy. There was a real sense of unity and connection among all involved in the weekend, he added. The diocesan pastoral team, along with Marcel and Steph Bormans, was involved in the planning and running of the Weekend.

Mr Hogan said families came from Western Bays, Rotorua, Taupo and Hamilton City parishes. There were even families who came from Auckland.

“The family weekend concept came out of Family Camp weekends that the Hamilton Diocese held for 12 years. The last one being a live-in Family Camp about four years ago,” he said.

Mr Hogan said all types of families were welcomed: big, small, as well as single parent families.

American couple Chris and Linda Padgett and Denise McKenzie, a Hamilton marriage counsellor, spoke to the families on marriage, family and conflict resolution.

At a Wine and Cheese evening on the Friday, Mrs Padgett shared her experiences as a mother and how she lives out her Catholic faith with her husband, Chris, and their children.

“Mums got to ask important questions . . .  and had them either answered or talked about to find an answer,” Mr Hogan said.

On the Saturday morning, the dads had a “waffle and bacon” breakfast with Mr Padgett, who talked with the fathers about his own experiences. He also gave practical advice on living out the faith as a father.

The programme provided age-appropriate activities for children so that the parents could be free to participate in the panel discussions, in which Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe participated.

“It was great to have so many young families in attendance and the feedback has been incredibly positive,” Bishop Lowe said.

On the Sunday, Ms McKenzie, a Hamilton marriage counsellor, spoke on marriage relationships and conflict resolution.

The weekend wound up with a “whole family” session led by the Padgetts.

Mr Hogan said there was plenty of food and drink to go around that weekend – these were provided by St Mary’s Scout Group, Subway and Spit Roasts.

“It was an extremely successful Diocese Family Weekend, using a new format of no sleepovers, but with subsidised unified low entry fees,” Mr Hogan said, adding the format was a lot less expensive than fully catered sleep-over camps.

“I experienced beautiful Hamilton sunshine, kindness and goodwill, festival-like atmosphere at times. A relaxed Bishop Steve enjoyed being with so many of his diocese’s families.

“Great food, inspiring presentations, practical marriage relationship tips, honest down-to-earth sharing of what it is to be family . . . there was friendliness and a sense of welcome and unity. Everyone came away from the weekend energised back into daily living with a renewed sense of purpose,” he added.

Mr Hogan said they will host another family weekend event next year.