AUSTIN, Texas -- A pair of Catholic authors has found a new way to give mothers some time off while helping break the social isolation that can sometimes come with modern parenting: throw a weekend-long party just for moms.
“We just felt a need to bring all these women together and just let them relax and be pampered and put their feet up and just be rejuvenated through relaxation,” conference co-founder and author Hallie Lord told CNA.
Along with fellow mom and author, Jennifer Fulwiler, Lord decided that mothers needed some way to connect with each other and have a refreshing weekend away from their daily responsibilities, which are admittedly difficult, but also “so beautiful.”
Their solution was the Edel Gathering, a weekend full of fellowship, relaxation and pampering for moms that would help renew them to go back and fully live out their vocations as wives and mothers, knowing that they are not alone in their struggles.
The Edel Gathering, held in Austin, Texas, from July 25-27, featured talks from Catholic speakers, a karaoke dance party and plenty of downtime to socialize or relax. More than 200 women from around the country came to the inaugural event.
“I think when you take all the wonderful retreats, and you put it together with a party for Catholic moms, then you’re really getting to the point where Catholic moms can put that together and have this great package of things that they need and maybe are missing in their day-to-day life,” Lord said.
Named after an Irish laywoman, Venerable Edel Quinn, the conference focused on helping mothers realize that they are not alone in their daily struggles. Many miraculous healings and interventions have been credited to the Quinn, but one in particular stood out to the organizers.
One night, a woman with several young children, who was friends with Edel, was walking across a bridge in Dublin in a state of deep depression and despair. She was tempted to end her life by throwing herself into the water below, but was distracted when she saw her friend Edel walking by in a crowd.
The woman was happy to see her friend back in Dublin, but when she tried to find her in the crowd, Edel was gone. The woman later read that Edel had actually died doing mission work in Nairobi shortly before she saw her on the bridge.
“As I said at (the conference), it is my fervent hope that none of the women there faced that kind of crisis, but … I think every mother out there has those moments where they look heavenward and say, ‘I don’t think I can do this for another day. I don’t even know if I can get through this day. This is so hard, and I am so ill-equipped,’” Lord reflected.
“We just wanted to feel like we could come together and petition Edel Quinn to become a part of our lives and be with us in those moments and strengthen us and reassure us that, yes, you can get through this.”
Lord and Fulwiler wanted to make sure that no attendee felt left out, so they included ample time for socializing as part of the scheduled events.
“It really worked out wonderfully. I don’t feel like there were any cliques or that anyone felt excluded,” Lord said.
On Friday night, guests were welcomed by a "Crazy Shoes and Cocktails" party to help women get to know each other before the event began. On Saturday, attendees listened to a talk by award-winning journalist Marion Fernández-Cueto and were then given a few hours to check out vendor tables or have some quiet time in the mother’s nursing room before another talk by Catholic mom Haley Stewart of the blog Carrots for Michaelmas.
In the evening, guests sat down to dinner and a talk from Jennifer Fulwiler. After that, moms were encouraged to hit the dance floor with a karaoke dance party.
“Everyone felt so uninhibited and so confident. All of those fears and insecurities that we usually carry around as women, somehow they all dissipated,” Lord said.
She and Fulwiler are already hard at work planning next year’s conference, to be held in Charleston, S.C., July 10-11.