The World

The meeting of young families in Austria

Every year, the Austrian town of Pöllau hosts a meeting of young families to celebrate and spread the faith and joy of the family.

Fritz Brunthaler-August 16, 2023-Reading time: 5 minutes

Family meeting in Pöllau, Austria, courtesy of

Every year one of the most important pastoral events for Christian families in Austria takes place in Pöllau, a small town in the eastern Austrian region of Styria: the "Jungfamilientreffen", or "Young Family Meeting". This year it was held from July 18 to 23, and 170 families and more than 200 helpers took part, altogether almost 1000 people from all over Austria and some neighboring countries. The motto of the week was: "Renew the glory!". The focus was on the family: each participating family also came to meet other families, recharge, exchange and encourage each other, pray together, "strengthen the marriage and receive the sacraments".

It all started there more than 30 years ago. Within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and with great and obvious support from the parish and the parish priest, youth meetings began in Pöllau in 1992. When the young people grew up, got married and had children themselves, meetings for young families began, and so in 2003 there was the first "Meeting of young families": they wanted to experience what they had experienced in Pöllau as young people: the community of young Christians, the renewal in faith and the new joy in Christian life, praying and singing together and also having fun together, now as families, and to pass this on to their children and also to other families.

Not only with "charismatic" enthusiasm, but with much dedication and effort, faith and joy, the organizers and from the beginning many volunteers have so far organized 21 such meetings with about 3,300 families, and have carried them out with great success; success, not only in the worldly sense, but each time with much spiritual gain, an experience with much joy for all, for the participating families and the helpers, who are mostly young people.

Three essential elements

In what for the families - for the parents and for the children - is simply a great all-round program, an objective observer could identify three main elements: conferences and workshops, spiritual program, conviviality.

The titles of the conferences, such as "Truthfulness and love", "Freedom and depth", "Sources of conjugal love" speak for themselves to adults: transmitting lasting values, and at the same time a practical help for families and their future.

But at the center and throughout the week is the spiritual program, with Holy Mass, morning and evening prayer, the vigil or rather the Feast of Mercy, the pilgrimage. The daily Mass is celebrated in the large church of the village, right next to the area where the events take place. In the tent with the Blessed Sacrament the Lord can be adored in the Sacrament of the Altar for several hours a day. Again and again, children and young people come to pray for a while; for them it is very natural to meet Jesus here, "in the middle of the meadow".

Meeting in Pöllau, ©

And all with joyful conviviality throughout the day, with a special program for children with children's theater and the Mayan Bee, and sessions for young people with talks and discussions. Throughout the day, it's like a constant exchange of families with each other, during meals together, during walks in the meadow, or even couples with each other during the marriage renewal. On the website of the "Young Families Meeting" you can read the testimony of Andreas and Maria: "We received so many graces as a couple, we were comforted at the marriage renewal vigil and God gave us guidance for raising our children".

New approach

The "Encounters of Young Families" are supported by the ICF, the Christian Family Initiative. ICF works on behalf of the Austrian Bishops' Conference. Their website describes their work: "As ICF we see ourselves as providers and organizers of offers for families, married couples and children. Our concern is to serve families and strengthen them in their vocation. With our offers we want to make people aware again of the high value of marriage and family in our society." ICF Director Robert Schmalzbauer has been involved in the young family meetings as an animator together with his wife Michaela from the very beginning. Since then, they have become grandparents, and their eight children participate: the younger ones still in the children's program, the older ones already as parents with their own children.

Not only his own experience, but decades of pastoral work with families have led Robert Schmalzbauer to the conviction that the family is essential for pastoral work with young people. He says it is clear to everyone that young people are the future. But when young people grow up in a family strengthened in faith and in their own lives, they grow up in a different way. "And when many young people come back here to serve families together with priests and religious, it influences their view of marriage, of the family and also of the priesthood or religious vocation. They see here that families need priests and priests need families."

Family at the Pöllau meeting, ©

That is why it is important to take great care of the families in Pöllau, so that this week means for them a strengthening as a family, also as a Christian and believing family: that there is a well thought-out program for all ages; that there are as many volunteers to take care of everything that is needed; that the couples also have space for this with the help of the program for the children, so that they can also have enough time for them during this week.

Thus, the Meeting of Young Families becomes a spiritual event for everyone, for the couples, for the whole family and for the organizers and volunteers, which strengthens them for the coming weeks and months and makes them look forward to the next Meeting of Young Families. On the website https://jungfamilien, Christoph and Katharina say: "Our family has become more deeply united during this week and our relationship has experienced a more intimate dimension. We were able to feel God in our family.

In 2024, the meeting will no longer be held in Pöllau, because the parish no longer has the necessary infrastructure there, so that it is no longer feasible to hold the meeting in the usual way. The new location is the Benedictine Abbey of Kremsmünster in Upper Austria, which was founded in the year 777 and has a lot of experience with large-scale events, with the monthly "Treffpunkt Benedikt" (Benedict Meeting Point) as a spiritual offer for young people.

The authorFritz Brunthaler


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