A focus on mothers need not be limited to one day per year, as a group from Ithaca’s St. Catherine of Siena Parish has demonstrated.
In addition to celebrating Mother’s Day on May 14, eight parish women are in the midst of the Ministry of Mothers Sharing (MOMS) program. The program began April 25 and meets every Tuesday night at St. Catherine’s through mid-June.
MOMS is a national ministry of the Benedictine Sisters of St. Paul’s Monastery in St. Paul, Minn. The eight-week series provides support and an emphasis on spirituality through journal writing, discussion and group prayer. It addresses such themes as self-esteem and self-acceptance; stress, worry and anxiety; spirituality; feelings; goal setting; friendships; celebration; and discernment of one’s spiritual gifts.
“It’s familiar self-help topics with a spiritual aspect. It just taps into something that people are ready to talk and share about,” said Beverly Way, who facilitates the St. Catherine’s group along with Kerry Curran and Karen Trible.
Although many mother’s groups are available, Curran said she and other women were eager to form one in a Catholic setting.
“When you become a mother or father, you kind of get your connection (to the church) from going to Mass every week. But trying to talk about marital issues and spiritual issues doesn’t come up at Mass,” she explained.
MOMS can be started at any parish, any time of the year. It is open to mothers of all types — those who go out to work; those who stay home; those who have infants, toddlers or older kids. Way observed that several women at the first meeting have children under the age of 2.
“I’m having flashbacks as I see these people going through the toddler/new baby stage,” said Way, 40, whose two children are 6 and almost 3. “Being a new mom is a very vulnerable time in your life. I think you can feel very isolated. Once (the children) start walking, you’re lucky to have a conversation of more than 15 seconds with anyone.”
In fact, a major topic of discussion at the April 25 gathering was how the participants found the time to come.
“I think that’s what we talked about the first half hour — what we had to do to get there,” said Curran, 32, who has a 1-year-old and another child on the way. She noted that the conversation was spirited all evening: “It went really well. People were very talkative; it went about a half-hour to 45 minutes longer than it was supposed to.”
The first night’s topic, self-esteem and self-acceptance, sparked deep reflection on Curran’s part: “Is my identity still in there? Who am I as a mother, who am I as a Catholic mother?” she asked rhetorically.
Curran added that it’s nice to share such reflections in a trusting, understanding environment: “We were there for a good reason. People could kind of be honest.”
“It’s a faith-sharing experience. You get to hear straight from the heart what’s going on with people. It just creates and strengthens the friendships,” Way said, observing that personal reflection is “not necessarily something you would talk about with people you haven’t known very long. But you start right off the bat like that.”
Way likened the MOMS experienced to the Virgin Mary visiting Elizabeth — “women recognizing the value of this role they were going to play, this image of a supportive community of women.”
MOMS offers the option for participants to stay together as small Christian communities when the eight weeks have expired. For instance, Way took part in MOMS four years ago and that group has remained close. Curran said the new MOMS contingent appears likely to make similar lasting bonds, based on its cohesion at the first meeting.
“Wow, this is like friendship on speed-dial,” she exclaimed.
Strong connections can also extend beyond the mothers: Curran said plans were in the works to have husbands and children meet at a separate location on the same nights as MOMS meetings. Way added that fathers from her first MOMS group eventually started convening on their own as well.
“I think it’s infectious, this wonderful opportunity to get together with like-minded people,” Way said.