Eight years ago Cindy Champlin and seven other mothers ventured out to a meeting at Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community. It was the first meeting of a new ministry for mothers, and they weren’t sure what they’d find there, Champlin recently told the Catholic Courier.
"We didn’t know what to expect. It was all so new," recalled Champlin, who at the time had four young children and was looking for new friends and a deeper faith.
What Champlin and the other mothers found, she said, was a much deeper spirituality and close and lasting friendships. Those eight women have met at least once a month for the past eight years and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, she added.
"I think what surprised me the most is how you learn to really take a deep look at yourself and examine how you deal with your kids and your husband and other people and how your faith plays into that," Champlin said.
Ministry of Mothers Sharing is an outreach of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Paul’s Monastery in St. Paul, Minn. There are Ministry of Mothers Sharing groups throughout the nation, and each group provides participating mothers with a network of mutual spiritual support. This ministry is intended to help mothers learn, pray and minister to each other and introduces mothers to new opportunities for personal and spiritual growth through participation in a faith-sharing group.
Each group’s initial meetings are centered around the book MOMS: A Personal Journal, which was written by Benedictine Sister Paula Hagen, one of the founders of Ministry of Mothers Sharing. The journal is divided into eight chapters that delve into such topics as self-esteem, stress and anxiety, everyday spirituality, feelings, personal goals, friendship, gifts, and new beginnings. Each chapter contains questions that group members answer and then discuss at meetings, Champlin said.
"You do some deep soul searching and digging and answer the questions," she explained.
The questions encourage mothers to take a fresh look at their lives and help them to see that motherhood’s daily tasks, such as scheduling, laundry and child care, are really God’s work, she added.
"Once you complete the journal you decide amongst yourselves what you want to do from there," Champlin said.
The women in Champlin’s group worked their way through the journal in about six months and then decided to keep meeting and keep reading, she said.
"We try to find books that we can read and discuss. It’s always a faith-based book, something that will help us enrich our faith," Champlin said.
Champlin said her involvement with Ministry of Mothers Sharing has helped her strengthen her relationship with her husband as well as her relationships with her children, who are now in their teens and 20s. The ministry also has helped her recognize her own positive traits and qualities and deepen her faith.
"I think the mom plays many roles in the household, so I think that having the support system that the Ministry of Mothers Sharing provides is crucial. It has enriched and deepened our faith by leaps and bounds," she said.
Ministry of Mothers Sharing meetings are very informal and usually are held at group members’ homes, Champlin said.
"Sometimes we meet around the dining-room table. When we meet at my house we meet in the living room. It’s a very informal, comfortable, laid-back meeting, she said.
Limiting the group’s size to eight women also has helped maintain this intimate feeling, noted Champlin, who has helped start five other Ministry of Mothers Sharing groups for the moms of Our Lady of the Lakes. She’s also willing to help mothers in other parishes form their own Ministry of Mothers Sharing groups.
"I would love to see other women experience this. I would be very excited to help pioneer other groups outside Our Lady of the Lakes," Champlin said.
Champlin often meets with mothers interested in learning more about Ministry of Mothers Sharing. She tells them that each woman’s experience is different, but all the participants she’s known have one thing in common, and that is change.
"It changes your life in wonderful ways, not only in relationships within the group, but your relationship with your family, your relationship with God," she said. "Be prepared to have a life-changing experience."