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June 8, 2015 | Volume 90 Number 16

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photo:  Children mostly sat on steps during service.
Children — mostly — sit on steps during service.

Moms’ group supports young mothers, children

A bout 30 children ages five and under each placed a flower in front of the statue of Mary at Church of the Ascension in Virginia Beach in celebration of the May Crowning.

Afterwards, despite their fancy clothes, they squirmed on the altar while singing as a group and then as their mothers said a decade of the rosary.

Like other gatherings of the VB Holy Mamas, a Catholic mother’s group in Tidewater, the morning was chaotic but full of joy. The multi-parish group brings Catholic mothers with young children together each month for fellowship, religious activities and community service.

The organization has 25 mothers and 30 children ages four and under and is growing, according to Jacqueline Branning who organized the group with her sister, Katrina Rudolph. (Mrs. Branning, a parishioner at Church of the Holy Family in Virginia Beach, has three children ages two, three and four. Mrs. Rudolph is a parishioner at St. Gregory the Great in Virginia Beach and has three children ages 11 months, two and nine.)

photo: Moms chat after dinner.
Moms chat after dinner.

“My sister and I started it in hopes of forming a community of moms where we could come together and talk about the joys and struggles of motherhood while deepening our faith,” Mrs. Branning said.

In addition to weekly activities that the mothers attend with their children, a monthly “Moms’ Night Out” further cements the bonds between the women, she said.

VB Holy Mamas is more than just a social organization though. It’s an opportunity for the mothers to foster their faith and to help their children develop their own spirituality.

As Holy Trinity Parishioner Tiffany Murla, who participates in VB Holy Mamas with her one-year-old son, explained, “It seems like if you are surrounded by other kids and raised in the same way, it makes you stronger in your faith and more able to embrace your faith because those other children believe the same things you do.”

The VB Holy Mamas celebrate the liturgical seasons together, and its members pray for each other, both as a group and individually, Mrs. Brannan said.

On the first Friday of each month, they have a “Children’s and Mothers’ Holy Hour” at eucharistic adoration at Church of the Ascension.

There they sing, pray a decade of the Rosary and pray for each child by name, Mrs. Banning said.

The VB Holy Mamas gather the second and third Thursdays from 10 to 11:30 a.m. in the youth room on the second floor at Ascension.

The children play with each other while the mothers participate in a religious activity such as scripture reading or a book study. With children running and crawling about with cries of glee, frustration and woes, the scripture and book studies are definitely not as solemn as one might expect in a religious education activity, but the mothers continue nonetheless. “I love that a typical meeting is crazy and chaotic because we have 20-plus kids, but as mothers, we still push through the scripture,” said Kim Hamrick, a parishioner at Ascension. “It really mirrors life. Even in the chaos in raising children, we have to push through and strengthen our faith for our children.”

photo: Fall trip to a fram
Children pet a baby goat on their fall trip to a farm.

On the fourth Thursday of each month, the mothers and children visit the residents at Marian Manor, a diocese-sponsored assisted living community in Virginia Beach where the children sing and visit the residents. Deeona Nussbaum, activities director at Marian Manor, said the residents enjoy watching the children play and talking with the mothers.

“They absolutely love having them come,” she said.

In months that have a fifth Thursday, the group normally has a play date or goes on a field trip. They’ve been to local parks, a petting farm and a pumpkin patch, Mrs. Branning said.

Some meetings have fewer members than other gatherings.

“It’s the reality of motherhood — things come up, kids get sick, moms get tired, but in the end, we’ve had a consistent, solid group,” Mrs. Branning said.

The group has proven to be a support for the women as they deal with good times and bad, from the woes of miscarriages to the joys of parenthood and from the frustration of child-rearing struggles to the delight of triumphant times, many of the members said.

Cristina Pocta, a parishioner at St. Gregory's who has a three-year-old daughter, said she moved here from New York City and is glad to be part of the Catholic mothers’ group. “It’s so important to know you aren’t on this journey alone. The women are here to support each other and to grow together,” Mrs. Pocta said. “It’s been amazing.”

While several group members described motherhood as being crazy and chaotic yet rewarding, they said the image of motherhood today is often seen in a more negative light.

“I feel like the secular world is telling us that motherhood is not important, that it’s not glamorous, and we should hurry these years up,” Mrs. Croft of Holy Family, Norfolk, said. “But God says something different. These years do matter. This group restores the dignity and the privilege of being a mother.”

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