Mothers groups provide support, socialization and snacks

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Tricia Sevidal was a woman on a mission. She, her husband and their young daughter had moved from Maryland to Virginia, and she desperately wanted to find a new community of friends. Each day, she would take her daughter to a playground or on a walk around the neighborhood in the hopes of striking up a conversation with another mom. 

Instead, she found companionship through a mothers group at St. Mark Church in Vienna. The church nursery where they met became a safe place to talk about parenting challenges and joys. They talked about preschool and how to celebrate baptisms and first Communions. They traded recipes and encouragement. Eventually, they gathered at each other’s homes for pool parties and holiday get-togethers. 

“It gave us a place to grow in our motherly vocation within the framework of the church,” said Sevidal.

That was more than 20 years ago, but Sevidal still considers the women she met there some of her closest friends. Her three daughters also remain friends with the other children. “The Lord answered my prayer for friends with the St. Mark’s playgroup,” she said.

Young mom Stephanie Pacheco joined a mothers group at St. Philip Church in Falls Church that was founded two years ago by Christina Landauer. Unlike most of her peers, Pacheco got married and started a family shortly after graduating college. “Everything I had known socially was gone,” she said, and though she was close to some of her college friends, “I still needed day-to-day accompaniment for my stage in life. I needed mom friends.”

pretty in pink

Allison Lunsford and her daughter, Lillian, 1, do a puzzle during the moms group at St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax March 7. ZOEY MARAIST | CATHOLIC HERALD

Now Pacheco runs the group in the hopes of offering socially isolated moms a welcoming community. “It's so important that some institution meet mothers when everything else is gone, and the church is perfectly poised to do that,” she said. “The church is there to meet us at every stage of life.”

Over the years, Pacheco has come to see many of the other women as role models. “I think it's quite difficult to live the stay-at-home mom thing,” she said. “To see older moms who have survived and who have a really calm, faithful way about them —  it's helped me trust the wisdom of the church to try and to live it out.” 

The St. Philip moms have morning playdates, usually with a snack and a children’s activity. The moms recite a rosary, even with all the little interruptions. Mom Karina Rook recently spearheaded an evening speaker series with free babysitting in the hopes that working mothers can join, too. Members are encouraged to attend the kid-friendly Holy Half Hour, hosted by the Youth Apostles, where children can ask questions of the priest during adoration.

Mothers at a group at St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax have bimonthly morning meetings and evening Bible studies. They also make meals for new mothers. On a recent morning, four mothers and their nine children met in the Our Lady of Guadalupe room in the parish hall. Toddlers played with a blue toy accordion while older children squished Play-Doh and raced Hot Wheels. Animal crackers were eaten by all. Moms discussed how to craft Easter egg Stations of the Cross, and the upcoming Lenten soup supper they were hosting.

baby

David Healy, 9 months, crawls during the moms group at St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax. ZOEY MARAIST | CATHOLIC HERALD

Member Allison Lunsford quit her full-time job after the birth of her second child and soon began looking for fellowship with other adults. She knows her children enjoy the meetings, too. “I think they need to have social activities as much as we do,” she said. 

Lunsford also meets with moms in her neighborhood, but she and the other St. Leo moms enjoy sharing the journey of motherhood with women who share their worldview. “There is so much today about your kids (being) successful, doing soccer and Spanish, and attending the best school,” said Jane Dudik, another St. Leo mom. “There are far more important things in life.”

“(I love) the fellowship with other Catholic moms as we strive to raise little saints,” said Lunsford. She also values the example of the other families. “Family dynamics are changing so much and I want my kids to grow up understanding what marriage is, what a true family is supposed to be.”

The St. Leo moms group has been around for some 15 years, but other groups pop in and out of existence as the need arises. Many women, like Sevidal, form lasting friendships. But whether the fellowship lasts for a morning or a lifetime, moms groups provide vital peer support and understanding to young moms. “Other women came and went but in that moment there were times of grace and blessing and feeling a part of something bigger than yourself,” said Sevidal. 

Find a moms group

St. Philip Church in Falls Church: stphilipmoms@gmail.com

St. Leo Church in Fairfax: healym08@gmail.com

Check your parish website to see if there’s a moms group at your church.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017

@ZoeyMaraistACH