Families need to hear homilies that connect the Gospel to the troubles and joys they experience, said a synod participant. Maria Gomes, the Family and Life director at St. Mary’s Church in Dubai, and an observer at the Synod of Bishops on the family, said the typical scenario is “the priest just talks about the Gospel, ‘Peter said this, John said this’ and then it’s finished and it’s done and over.” But Catholics, she said, want their priest “to cover real facts of what’s happening in the family and how important the family is today.” Gomes, who is one of a number of non-voting lay observers, said urging priests around the world to connect the Gospel to people’s real lives is the focus of her presentation to the synod. Accompanying God’s word with a real example or story from someone’s life helps people know “the facts, that there are so many other people also having problems” and how Christ offers healing, Gomes told Catholic News Service Oct. 7. While the quality of homilies is important, the pastor’s personality and the dedication of the community are also key, she said. One priest they had in Dubai, she said, was very outgoing, always visiting the schools and talking with families. She said that closeness helped couples who were in irregular unions decide to get married in the church. “Our secret is when they come for the children’s baptism,” she said. The church community and the priest speak with the family and help guide them through what often can be a long process of discernment and discovering the importance of the sacrament of matrimony. Other married couples “start calling them, talking to them, getting to know them a little bit better, drawing them to the church.” Sometimes they find out people were not getting married in the church not for a lack of faith, but because of economic restraints or because they didn’t want the hassle of getting the proper documents from their parish back in their home country, she said. St. Mary’s Church in Dubai is “the largest pilgrim parish in the world,” she said, serving more than 100,000 Catholics who are foreign workers and non-citizen residents from the Philippines, India and other South Asian nations. Gomes, with her husband, moved from Bombay, India, 31 years ago and raised their three children in Dubai.