Raising a Family Is the Most Challenging Project Anyone Can Undertake

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
13 Apr 2011

Families Transforming the World

Sydney solicitor, husband of 15 years and father of five, Tim Mitchell believes raising a family is the most challenging project a person can take on.

"I don't mean just these days but I mean in any age," he insists, adding that because of the importance of bringing up children with strong values and Christian ideals, it is vital parents just don't "wing it and hope for the best."

"For parents there is more to raising children than common sense and instinct. Proper education about the role of parenting and what it takes is vital," he says.

Which is why this coming weekend from Friday, 15 April until Sunday 17 April, Tim and his wife, Penny, along with their four girls and one son, are heading for Melbourne to participate in Australia's Third National Share the Dream Conference.

"We attended the second one held in Sydney in 2004 and found it not only helpful but a great way to meet like minded people who were going through the same parenting challenges we were," Tim explains. "The other bonus at Share the Dream Conferences is that children are welcomed and part of it all."

Bishop Anthony Fisher

In fact like the previous two conferences, this year's Share the Dream event has been organised specifically to coincide with school holidays so parents can bring their children to the three days of series talks, panel discussions, workshops and forums.

More than 700, including couples with their children, are expected to attend the event which was established after a call by the late Pope John Paul II call to families, urging them to "become what you are" and highlighting the importance of families in establishing communities of life and love.

As this year's Share the Dream Conference proclaims: "Families transform the world."

Sponsored by the Australian Catholic Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life, and organised and hosted by the Life, Marriage and Family Office of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, the Conference will take place at Xavier College in Kew and feature some of the best known and most powerful speakers on family, faith, marriage and parenting.

Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Family, Bishop Jean Laffitte who holds a doctorate in Moral Theology is one of the keynote speakers. Other keynote speakers include the Bishop of Parramatta, the Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, the founding Director of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage & Family; Melinda Tankard Reist, advocate, author, commentator and co-founder of the grass roots organisation against the sexploitation of women and young girls; Dr Byron and Francine Pirola, founders of Celebrate Love and Embrace and members of the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council; and Dr Brigid McKenna, lecturer in ethics at the University of Notre Dame and medical practitioner with a Master's Degree in Bioethics, also works for the Archdiocese of Sydney's Life Marriage and Family Centre. 

Dr Byron and

Francine Pirola

Bishop Laffitte will talk about what is a family in today's world while Bishop Anthony Fisher will address what makes a marriage, and Dr Brigid McKenna will tackle "Family - Living the Gospel of Life."

Other leading priests, religious and lay men and women will host various workshops. Among these will be Fr Anthony Percy, Rector of the Seminary of the Good Shepherd and author of "Theology of the Body Made Simple" and Bernadette Black who found herself pregnant at 16 and went on to establish the Brave Foundation for women in similar situations and who was awarded 2009's Australian Mother of the Year Award.

Among the various panels and workshops,  topics will cover Passing on the Faith through the Family; The Creative Catholic Home; Migrant Families and the Church; and Culture and Coercion: Population Control and the Family.

"The previous Share the Dream Conference my wife, Penny and I attended was great and like the one this weekend, had terrific speakers and workshops. Everyone was given opportunities to participate in discussions and comment," says Tim Mitchell. "But I think what was most important was the support given to traditional Catholic families on the approach to the future and on raising one's kids."

melinda tankard reist

Tim says he and his wife are still in touch with many of those they met at the Conference back in 2004 and says for the one being held in Melbourne this year, not only will he, his wife and their children - Jacinta 13, Max 10, Domenica 9, Olivia 7 and three year old Louisa -  be present but several of his mates and their families.

"We are really looking forward to it and it's great being around other families who are trying to do the same thing we are in terms of raising their kids with traditional Catholic values and having God as part of that," he says.

To register and join in the third national Share the Dream Conference log on to

Download full brochure "Share the Dream Program" here.

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has also sent a special message to those attending the conference in Melbourne.

He said it is an important event not only for those attending not only to witness to the bonds of affection within individual families, but also to deepen those bonds with the wider family of God, which is the Church, so that you can become protagonists of a new humanity, a renewed culture of love and unity, of life and stability, giving glory to God our Father at all times.

To see the Holy Father's comments click here