Moms' groups offer valuable outlet - Catholic Courier

Moms’ groups offer valuable outlet

With Mother’s Day being celebrated this weekend, many moms are basking in the rare opportunity to shed their daily duties and worries. But how do they achieve serenity on other days of the year, given their frequently hectic lifestyles?

Laurie Hoffman pondered that dilemma after moving to Elmira in 1999. Guided by a desire to connect with other women to talk about issues related to raising her two small children, Hoffman sought to form a group. How it would unfold, she wasn’t quite sure at the time.

“We put it in God’s hands, and however it worked out, it worked out,” said Hoffman, a parishioner of St. Mary’s Southside in Elmira.

It’s worked out very well — the group is still going strong six years later, and has spawned an offshoot coalition in Schuyler Catholic Community. Both are known as the Christian Mothers’ Group, meeting once a month for prayer and reflection.

Meetings consist of reflection on Gospel readings, as well as ample time for general discussion, with a different member leading each session. Hoffman said she adopted the format from a small Christian community to which she belonged at St. Mary’s.

Moms from all parishes, denominations and marital statuses are invited to attend the Elmira group while dad and the kids stay home. The gatherings are currently held in members’ homes on the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. New members are always welcome, and can find out the monthly meeting place by calling Joette McCawley at 607/795-1564.

Hoffman said subject matter runs the gamut — from pacifiers, potty training and tantrum-throwing, to issues pertaining to older children such as teasing and peer pressure.

“We discuss ways to help kids live out their faith, sometimes in a world with very opposite values of what we believe,” Hoffman said, adding that the discussions have helped her appreciate the value of consistent mothering: “We don’t always have to do great things. But just focusing, and offering our daily activities and trials to God, is a wonderful witness to your children.”

Hoffman said conversations often last well into the evening. Although it’s challenging for her and other moms to find the time to attend, they’re glad they make the commitment.

“I feel so lifted up from the meetings — for weeks,” she said.

The St. Mary’s gatherings were so invigorating for Sue Schaffner and Jeannie Gill that in 2003 they formed their own group closer to home through the Schuyler cluster (St. Mary of the Lake, Watkins Glen, and St. Benedict’s, Odessa). This Christian Mothers’ Group has the same schedule as St. Mary’s Southside — first Tuesdays at 7 p.m. Meetings are held at the parish center of St. Mary of the Lake Church, 905 Decatur St., Watkins Glen. For more details, call Schaffner at 607/535-4336 or Gill at 607/535-0125.

The 12-member Schuyler group patterns itself after St. Mary’s Southside with its prayer-and-discussion format, and offers the same spirit of inclusiveness as St. Mary’s. In fact, the two groups occasionally plan joint activities.

For Gill, spirituality is the key component in her Christian Mothers’ Group.

“We have mothers of 20-year-olds as well as of 2-month-olds. There’s never been a main theme, other than learning from each other through Scripture,” she said.

Gill echoed Hoffman’s remarks about the value of participating even in the face of schedule crunches, saying, “It forces you to stop … it may be exactly what you need.”

A similar discussion-and-prayer group is emerging at Elmira’s Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. It began in early 2004 as Moms of Teens, then was modified to Parents of Teens when membership expanded to men. Lisa Rustici, the parish’s sacramental-preparation administrator, said the group is currently on hiatus, and she expects it to reconvene this fall after finding a monthly time slot that fits the greatest number of schedules.

Rustici said meetings thus far have included such important topics as teen suicide, sexuality and getting teens to continue practicing their faith.

“I think it’s really needed. It’s amazing what people are dealing with,” Rustici said. “People are brave when they come and say ‘we are having an issue.’ And, they learn that they’re not alone.”

Rustici said she is seeking input for future Parents of Teens topics. Those interested in the group should call her at 607/734-0727.

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