I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life ~ Abraham Lincoln
No one ever said that being a mother would be easy and Catholic mothers might find this task particularly daunting. In addition to all other responsibilities, Catholic mothers are called to influence, teach, and love their children so they might grow up to be people that God intends them to be. This is an awesome responsibility that mothers cannot accomplish alone. Mothers need the church for guidance and support. Hilary Rodham Clinton made famous the African proverb, “It takes a village,” but to Catholic moms, it takes a village within the Church.
In the past, extended families tended to live near one another and often even attended the same church. Young mothers had opportunities to learn how to raise their children on a solid foundation from their grandmothers, mothers and aunts. Today, families are less localized and living all over the world. In fact, 95% of the parishioners in the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh were not born in North Carolina. That statistic creates a call to action to weave the newcomer family into the fabric of community life based on Catholic principles.
On World Peace Day in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed, “An essential condition for peace within individual families is that they should be built upon the solid foundation of shared spiritual and ethical values.”
At St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church in Raleigh, home to 4,000 families, there is an outstanding ministry that has served its mothers and parish community for the past 15 years called the Mother’s Group.
“Ok ladies, pass the toilet paper around and rip off as much paper as you want. Now for every square of toilet paper you took, tell us something about yourself.” One could hear sighs of relief or shrieks of fear depending on how much toilet paper you were holding! This ice breaker game gets mothers acquainted, sharing and laughing during meetings.
The Mother’s Group ministers to mothers and their families. The ministry has monthly meetings, service projects and adult social events. A staffed nursery for the children during the meeting time provides the members valuable, uninterrupted adult time.
Laura Ziobro, president of the Mother’s Group says, “We share faith, values, hopes and beliefs with one another enabling us to develop deep friendships.This ministry is my surrogate family here in Raleigh.”
The meetings are designed to serve the whole mother, spiritually, intellectually and socially. Timely guest speakers are often on the agenda. Each year a representative from the school system comes to talk about the magnet schools prior to registration time. Parenting experts from Project Enlightenment offer a question and answer session on effective parenting skills. Parish priests are invited to talk on a variety of topics and offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Advent and Lent. Ziobro says, “Praying and receiving sacraments together sustains my spiritual growth at a time in my life that easily gets consumed in the mere daily activities of parenting young children.”
The Mother’s Group Outreach Committee benefits St. Raphael and the Catholic community. The committee organizes three projects a year each making a contribution to the selected ministry. A group of husbands built the popular face painting booth used at the famed St. Raphael Fair. The members supply the paints and brushes and become artists, staffing the booth for the event. Proceeds from the booth are donated to the Church and Early Childhood Center. During the month of December, the group collects baby food and formula after all the Masses to donate to Catholic Parish Outreach. Once a year the group organizes a Diaper Drive to collect diapers and wipes to donate to Project Gabriel, a parish based, hands on program that assures pregnant women that they are supported and will be helped.
To involve the husbands, the ministry organizes adult only events throughout the year usually hosted in a member’s home. The adults gather for a Road Rally, a Halloween scavenger hunt, a Christmas party and a Mardi Gras celebration. Sarah, whose husband works out of his home office and travels says, “Working at home and traveling can be isolating. The Mother’s Group social events are a great way for me to feel connected to our parish and get to know other fathers.”
Since most of the members don’t have extended family in town, the ministry recognizes the need for quality childcare and has a babysitting co-op ministry. The Co-op is a group of parents who provide safe and dependable childcare in a Catholic home by trading babysitting time (not money) among them. Members meet separately from the Mother’s Group, with calendars in hand and get their babysitting needs taken care of by other mothers. Julie credits the Co-op for helping her transition back to work when she began working part-time. “Without family in town to help with childcare, it’s great to have a group of friends in faith that I can depend on for support.”
While The Mother’s Group primarily ministers to young mothers, these young mothers often transition on to other ministries continuing to get involved and share their gifts of time, talent and treasure. Pope John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and the whole world in which we live.” Members are meeting the needs of their evolving, modern parish family through The Mother’s Group ministry. Nurturing the family on a solid Catholic foundation is of the highest importance for raising children, building the community of the Church and most importantly giving glory to God.