Just over 10 years ago, Dawn Iacono started Ministry of Moms Sharing at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Williamsville, N.Y. The group inspires and encourages women in their role as wives and mothers.
Iacono, a mother of four boys, knew she and other mothers would benefit from such faith fellowship.
Mary Criden joined Iacono in asking several other mothers who belonged to a Rosary group to help with a Mother’s Day tea the Friday morning prior to Mother’s Day 2001 to kick off the first gathering.
“It was a labor of love getting it off the ground,” says Criden. The Rosary group, a dedicated group of 15 women with young children who prayed together, brought their special gifts to the ministry. They became the first “Team Moms.”
More than 100 women turned out for the tea. “We created a survey to find out what the women wanted from the ministry,” says Iacono. “It was beautiful how the Lord brought this together; requested by moms for moms.”
The group meets one Friday a month for nine months (the time of gestation for a new life), September through May. Each year, they have explored various topics of the Catholic faith. Past themes include the Ten Commandments, the beatitudes, virtues, prayer, Fruits of the Spirit and getting one’s house in order.
The theme this year is “Recognizing Christ’s Presence in All Things.” According to Iacono, who headed the group the first six years, each theme for those first years came out of her Holy Hour in the church’s adoration chapel.
The meetings generally begin with socialization and light refreshments, then everyone is called to order, most often with the Hail Mary. After general announcements, there may be a speaker, small-group discussions or occasionally a craft or fitness session. The meetings always end with the women praying the Memorare.
There are several Moms groups in western New York and other parts of the country, as well as a Moms book club that meets at a local coffee shop on a separate day to discuss books that are of interest to Catholic women.
“Coming to Moms is a nice reminder and re-enforcement of Catholic faith,” says Criden of the St. Greg’s group. “You learn more about the faith and can bring that home to your family.”
Women join for a variety of reasons. Kelly Chernowski, who has been a member for four years, was encouraged to join by her husband, Joe, who is director of youth ministry at St. Greg’s. “I love that the group includes moms of all ages; it’s nice to share with new mothers as well as experienced mothers,” says Chernowski, who has five children, ranging in age from infant to 10. Christie Thein, mother of two boys age 6 and 12, moved to the Buffalo area from Ohio in 2007 and has been involved for the past three years. “My neighbor invited me to join,” she says. “Jumping in and getting involved has been such a blessing.”
Being new to the area, it was the perfect place for Thein to find new friends. “There is something to be said about friendships where you share the love of Christ with each other.” She adds, “I think the teaching of the Church is crucial. I have learned more in the last two years from these women and their families about living out my faith (than ever before). We need to connect to women’s hearts. Head knowledge is great, but if you can get through to the heart, the Holy Spirit will take over!”
She says that other members have encouraged her in her faith journey: “I had not been to confession since my confirmation, and one of the moms encouraged me to go. That was one of the most important steps to fully embracing my faith. There have been so many graces that have come from the sacrament of reconciliation. I pray that every Catholic will come back home to the sacrament of reconciliation and learn the teachings of our beautiful Catholic faith.”
This is the good fruit the parish was hoping for. “This ministry to moms of all ages in our parish has been a tremendous blessing to our faith community,” says Father Joseph Gatto, the pastor. “The network of prayer, friendship and faith that it continues to foster has been a true grace. We find that as we bring the mom into deeper participation in the life of the Church, we also find the entire family becoming more engaged in parish life. The more we are able to support families as the domestic Church, the more blessed and enriched our faith community becomes.”
Joyce Bila is new to the parish and the group. She and her husband, Nick, recently moved to the area from Long Island. The Bilas have two daughters, age 29 and 35.
Bila joined after being invited by Christie Thein. “I met her in February after the Ash Wednesday service, and we got to chatting. Since I was new to the parish, she suggested that I might enjoy coming to the Moms group. In the past, I was a very active member of my parish in Long Island, which I miss terribly, so this was an opportunity to start over, to reach out and meet other women of faith and become involved in church activities again.”
Bila finds the group to be very welcoming. “Moms has given me the opportunity to meet many like-minded women who, as mothers and grandmothers, need to be spiritually nourished and take time away from their busy lives to do so. Moms, for me, has provided my prayer life with direction and stories of inspiration, as well as provided a relaxed atmosphere for socialization and meeting new people.”
“There are so many things that Moms has helped me grown in my faith,” Thein adds. “I learned to pray the Rosary, go to the adoration chapel and daily Mass. Being Catholic isn’t something that I pull out on Sunday when we go to Mass — it is something that we live every day in my home.”
Christine A. Smyczynski writes from Getzville, New York.
StGregs.org: Click on the “Parish” tab, then “Spiritual Formation,” and then “Moms.”