See You in Heaven
The Inspiring Story Behind the Confraternity of Catholic Homeschool Mothers
“Let us bring true feminine charm back into our world. Let us promote motherhood instead of fashion-hood. Motherhood is truly a noble and proud profession. Let us do our best to preserve the grace.” —Rosie Gil
Those who have joined the Confraternity of Catholic Homeschool Mothers (CCHM) come from all walks of life, and have heartening tales to tell of what it means to them. Many of them joined the Confraternity because they feel that reading See You in Heaven – a biography of Rosie Gil – has helped them unearth the jewel-ridden treasure of their vocation to motherhood. Some of them joined because they have bound themselves to the beauteous, yet crucifying path of being a homeschooling Mom in today's America, and they just can't do it alone anymore.
See You in Heaven is an intensely moving account of the life of Rosie Gil written by her daughter, Maria Thompson. Rosie, who died in 2010, is known as a woman who exalted the vocation of motherhood and embraced her God-given femininity with a magnanimous heart. As a homeschooling mother of eight, she embodied sanctity by fulfilling the duties of her state in life with extraordinary fidelity and love. Rosie and Robert Gil have eight children and 34 grandchildren. They took in eight foster care children over the years as well. Rosie went way beyond the “call of duty” in nurturing her family, doing everything from giving her children gentle-hearted catechesis lessons to creating a Catholics phonics program, to sewing dolls and whipping up fantastic homemade meals. In addition to taking care of her own family, Rosie also reached out to engaged couples by teaching NFP with Robert, visiting elderly women, and helping younger women improve their physical and emotional health.
Katie Williams, president and founder of the CCHM, first decided to read See You in Heaven when Fr. Joseph Mary Wolfe, who serves as a chaplain for EWTN, personally suggested it to her.
“I purchased a copy, and it took me no longer than an hour to read it,” Katie says. “It really spoke deeply to me. I was so inspired by Rosie's way of life, and how she lived out the Gospel as a homeschooling mother.”
Like so many mothers, Katie felt that the book and its pre-eminent message gave her the strength she needed to continue journeying along the “narrow road.”
“My life was so counter-cultural – I was a stay-at-home, homeschooling Mom, who was not doing what the world considers successful,” she comments. “The book showed me that I was indeed taking the right path in life – a hard path, but nonetheless, the right one for our family. No other book has ever answered my questions, eased my struggles, and given me so much assurance in such a loving way.”
Lacking a devout Catholic maternal figure to model herself after, Katie soon took Rosie into her heart as a real sort of “mother.” Over the years, Rosie's words and example continue to enlighten her and her husband Sean as they raise their eight boys.
“I often savor Rosie's wise words, and I find the guidance I need by looking at her exemplary life,” Katie shares. “Rosie was a homeschooling Mom who lived recently in America. She did what I'm trying to do right now. She is so easy to relate to, and I want to try to walk in her footsteps. When you find someone who lived a lifestyle similar to yours, and they were filled with joy and holiness, you want to emulate them.”
Soon after delving into See You in Heaven, Katie felt inspired to give the book to other mothers who were in need of support.
“I wanted to dig deeper into Rosie's thoughts, and spread the message of her book,” Katie shares. “I soon began to think that there must be other women out there who felt the same way.”
One thing led to another, and on Jan. 1, 2016, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Katie founded the Confraternity of Catholic Homeschool Mothers.
According to their official brochure, “The Confraternity of Catholic Homeschool Mothers is dedicated to the mission of living out the traditional role of the mother in her domestic church with the purpose of increasing the holiness of the mother, strengthening her marriage, and promoting religious vocations among her children. This Confraternity is inspired by and is based on the life and spiritual writings of Mrs. Rosie Gil.” It currently has over 100 members.
“Being in the Confraternity helps me know that there are other homeschooling mothers out there who are doing what I am doing each day,” Katie says. “It helps us to realize that we are not alone. It gives us hope to know that other families are choosing the same path that we are.”
The history behind Katie's devotion to her vocation of motherhood is intriguing. Although Katie nearly completed her doctorate/PHD in counseling psychology as a young woman, she left her promising career to raise her children. This monumental decision was made after she had an insightful conversation with one of her college advisers.
“Since I had recently gotten married and was pregnant, my adviser asked me what I was planning to do about my studies,” she says. “I told him I planned to stay home with the children until they were about three, and then return back to work. I said that I really wanted to help families in a Catholic way, and by being a counselor, I could do so. However, my adviser, who was a leading research expert on suicide, got a very serious look on his face, and told me that, more than anything, children need their mother around them when they are teenagers.”
At this pivotal moment, God spoke to Katie's heart in a powerful way – one that still resonates within her today.
“Right then, I realized I wasn't going to 'outsource' my motherhood to someone else, but I was going to take care of my children myself,” she says. “I realized that if I worked as a counselor, I would just be putting a Band-Aid on the problem, and not getting to the real root of it. I saw that if I really wanted to help cure some of the ills of society, I would need to stay home and not outsource my motherhood.”
Impressively, Katie is just one of numerous mothers who have similar testimonies about how Rosie has touched their lives and called them onto something higher.
“Years ago when I was single, I was very successful in the way the world views success, making a large amount of money and being in control of my own practice as a doctor,” says Dr. Audrey. “My heart wasn’t at peace, however, until I gave up everything to have the ultimate career – a full-time wife and mother in the home. I happened to read See You in Heaven one day. My heart melted in love to see the immense beauty, intense love and infinite value in homeschooling and being an ordinary mother in the home. The CCHM has been such a blessing in my life. To have the support and encouragement of other traditional mothers fills me with so much joy and helps me to grow in holiness while living out my blessed vocation of motherhood.”
Fr. Joel Martin, OSB, a close friend of the Gil family, who offered the eulogy at her funeral, found Rosie to be a saintly, authentic Christian.
“Rosie Gil was a very devout woman who frequented the sacraments offered at our monastery,” Fr. Martin says. “She was an extremely humble woman with a profound understanding of what it meant to be a good mother, and love one's faith and one's family. Her whole life was surrendered to God, and through God, it was surrendered to her family and her children. That was her vocation, and that was her life. Rosie was all about responding to God and making Him real in the life of her family by being a nurturing, caring mother.”
Although Rosie was somewhat hidden in her earthly life as a mother in the home, Fr. Martin believes that she is now making a remarkable influence in the world today.
“One of the beautiful things about Rosie is the wonderful effect that she is now having on people,” he says. “She was a quiet woman who listened more than she talked. She never published anything in her life because she was all about just taking care of her family. However, now after her death, her family is putting together books of what she did and wrote.”
In fact, within the simple, sweet covers of See You in Heaven lies a compelling means of conversion and inspiration.
“See You in Heaven is making waves in the Church!” he remarks. “Many women have read the book who were not really open to the way she lived; but after reading about her life, they are truly changed and desire to live as she did. It really changes them. I believe this is because women naturally resonate with the story of a mother surrendering her whole life for her family and her children. The mother is at the heart of the institution of the family, and that is what Rosie was all about.”
Copies of See You in Heaven can be purchased at www.seeyouinheavenbook.com.