Busy moms find prayer, support and friendship

SOMERS POINT — A small prayer group for young moms, formed several years ago, has blossomed into the Ministry of Motherhood, a vibrant organization that unites women from the parishes of St. Joseph, Somers Point, Our Lady of Sorrows, Linwood, and St. Katharine Drexel, Egg Harbor Township.

“There are many moms’ groups out there, and they are doing amazing things,” said Jean Tenaglia of St. Joseph Parish. “But our moms know that this is something different.”

The spiritual support is what bonds the mothers in this group. What started as a small group, where meetings took place in each other’s living rooms, has evolved into a ministry that provides moms an opportunity to come together to pray, to share their faith experiences, and to live the Gospel message.

“As mothers, our lives are very busy,” said Tenaglia, who has four small children. “In our prayer meetings, we recognized the common needs we have as we care for our families and for ourselves.”

The mothers saw an opportunity to reach out to other women. After meeting with their pastors, the Ministry of Motherhood was born.

Tenaglia said that there were no expectations or formal agenda for those first meetings in the spring of 2008. “Whenever two or three are gathered in his name,” Tenaglia said as she explained that gathering in prayer is and has been “the core of the ministry.”

As attendance grew, young moms, experienced moms, and even a few grandmoms brought their new ideas for the ministry. “We found that these moms were really committed to the projects and activities that began to take hold,” Tenaglia said, “and they were willing to share the responsibility for them.”

The idea wasn’t to add to a family’s already busy calendar. There is a monthly schedule of activities that provides opportunities for moms to grow in faith and friendship. Mothers are encouraged to attend and participate throughout the year, as they are able. There is no obligation, and no membership fees.

Making Christ the center of family life is the mission of the ministry. There are monthly prayer meetings, annual women’s retreats, and opportunities for Eucharistic Adoration. There are out-reach projects, like the Pennies for the Poor project that raised money to help build a house for the poor. There are events where children and family members are invited to participate, like the May Crowning and the Couples’ Mass.

The spiritual and spirited events bring moms a special kind of support as they share with and learn from each other.

Small Christian Community

“In all of these aspects, the Ministry of Motherhood (M.O.M.) is like a small Christian community,” said Sister of St. Joseph Dorothy Urban, pastoral associate at St. Katharine Drexel.

Sister Dot talked about the monthly prayer meetings where she was moved by the heart-felt faith sharing among the women. “What impresses me is the spirituality of these moms,” she said.

“I was a stranger when I first came to the prayer group several years ago,” said Alice Reemmer from Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, Linwood. “I am so excited about how the ministry has evolved,” said Reemmer, who helped launch the group’s outreach project Pennies for the Poor.

The prayer meetings seem to be everyone’s favorite monthly outing, Tenaglia said. “After prayer, we talk about the month that just passed. We share the moments when we felt God’s presence.”

During the meeting, the Gospel is read and discussed. “We sit and listen. We really get to hear the message,” said Tenaglia, adding that attending Sunday liturgy with small kids can get challenging. “Sometimes, the only prayer we have is that we get through the hour,” she said, laughing with motherly experience.

The monthly meetings include time to catch up with the other moms and to snack. But the real connection comes from the way the moms live out the Gospel message in their own busy lives, Tenaglia said. The moms use email to offer a message of support to someone who needs it. They take turns making meals for families who are facing health issues or another crisis. They write down their own intentions and ask for prayers.

“The power of prayer is what connects this group,” Tenaglia said.

Upcoming Event

The Parish of St. Katharine Drexel is hosting the next M.O.M. event. On Nov. 11, New York Times best-selling author Immaculée Ilibagiza will share the story of how her life was transformed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Reemmer heard Ilibagiza speak at a presentation in Atco. “I was impressed with her deep faith and her powerful expression of forgiveness, especially in the face of the horrors she experienced in Rwanda,” Reemmer said.

During her presentation, Ilibagiza also shared the sometimes-funny stories portraying her relationship with Mary and Jesus.

“Immaculée gave me a deeper appreciation for my own family,” Reemmer said, “especially in those rough moments when I find it hard to be loving as I should be. I now try to step back and try harder.”

Reemmer felt so strongly about the message that she made a proposal to the moms, and was instrumental in convincing Ilibagiza to return to South Jersey. In anticipation of the event, the M.O.M’s book club is discussing Ilibagiza’s book, “Our Lady of Kibeho.”

“Immaculée’s presentation will illustrate the power of faith, forgiveness and reconciliation,” said Sister Dot. “The need couldn’t be greater, especially as we move toward Advent.”

The event is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 11 at 6:30 p.m., at the Church of St. Katharine Drexel. It is open to all who are interested. Tickets are being sold at the parish offices of Church of St. Katharine Drexel in Egg Harbor Township, Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Linwood, and St. Joseph Church in Somers Point.

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