Holy Redeemer Moms’ Club focuses on family, faith, and fun
ALEDO — On a recent playdate, 6-year-old Clare turned a plain piece of paper into a colorful Valentine’s card for her mother Stephanie Fernandez that read, “From Clare to momy (sic). I love momy. God loves you.”
Said her mother: “She’s really sweet. She’s always doing nice things like that.”
The houseful of children could have mirrored that of other playdates around the country but for one exception. The home and activities featured a Christian atmosphere.
Catholic activities included the reading of The Story of St. Valentine: More than Cards and Candied Hearts.
The fun and faith-filled day was courtesy of the Holy Redeemer Moms’ Group, which serves not only members of their Aledo parish in Parker County, but also several other area parishes, from as far west as St. Stephen Parish in Weatherford and as far east as St. Patrick Cathedral in downtown Fort Worth.
Although a small parish, the moms’ club boasts more than 100 members, from all walks of life and of various age ranges.
“We are not the largest group in the diocese, but our group is larger than many,” said group leader Angela Wynn, mother of three.
Members don’t know why the Moms’ Group is so popular. Leaders have discussed the phenomenon with no real, firm answer.
“However, I would say our group is unique in its openness, rawness, and faith,” said group leader Chelsea Circelli, mother of three. “This group is composed of very knowledgeable, welcoming, religious, practicing Catholics. And any mom is welcome at our events, even if she isn’t Catholic.”
The group’s mission is to give moms a Catholic support system that promotes spiritual growth through encouragement, companionship, and service to the community, while strengthening their vocation.
Activities include play groups, a speaker series, mom’s night out, a book club, seasonal events like ‘Breakfast with Santa,’ field trips, and service projects such as visiting nursing homes.
Wynn believes the ministry is vital because it supports families and the community by encouraging the mother.
“We are here to be a friend in a lonely world,” said Wynn, a professional photographer.
The Need and the Seed
A longtime member, Fernandez remembers having her second child and being thrust into the stay-at-home mom world for the first time. Previously, her life and friends had mostly been at work, and suddenly she was home all day with a non-verbal two-year-old and an infant.
“It was really hard,” Fernandez recalled.
The following summer she volunteered for Vacation Bible School and met Jennifer Rudd.
Rudd broached the idea of expanding the parish’s small, fledgling moms’ group and the two immediately bonded.
“I needed it,” Fernandez said. “I needed to meet more people in our community with little kids and, particularly, strong Catholic women who understood and respected my faith and values. Meeting other moms was so difficult before there was a group.”
Their plans were immediately embraced by their parish.
“By creating a community focused on connecting moms, our parish seemed to, all of a sudden, become so much more welcoming and vibrant,” said Fernandez, whose family joined the parish in 2010.
Rudd’s friend Anna Miller joined the small group and they put all their mom energy into helping it grow.
“We just happened to be at the right place at the right time,’’ Rudd recalled of their efforts that began in 2011. “Our parish was starting to grow quickly.”
The two set up events and handed out newsletters to moms they would see at Mass. Word spread primarily from mom to mom. Anytime there was a new family at Mass, the women would introduce themselves and tell them about the moms’ group.
The moms’ group offers an outlet many did not have otherwise.
“Gatherings are where moms can meet to share their hopes, fears, and insights, in a format that works with their schedules,” Wynn said.
“A first-time mom will find just as much benefit, enjoyment, and community as a mom of multiples, a young mom, or an older mom,” Circelli said.
For many of the moms, the most prevalent reason they joined the bustling group is a sense of community.
“The moms in our group are looking for a community of moms who share and help build their beliefs as well as community for their children — a group of like-minded peers, similar in age, to grow up with,” Circelli said.
Founded in Faith, Grounded in Truth
A central theme for the group is prayer.
The group offers morning and evening faith-based book clubs, where moms can intimately share about their faith, current struggles, and joys. They seek support from one another in prayer and share in Advent or Lenten devotions.
Prayer is also found at planning sessions and before mom’s night out events. Requests for prayer are often posted on the group’s Facebook page.
“Our moms are constantly praying,” Circelli said. “Our focus through and through is to draw women closer to Christ. Even when we host fun playdates for the kids we focus on liturgical events like ice cream on Fat Tuesday, sweet breads for St. Lucy’s feast day, or making valentines for friends and learning about St. Valentine.”
Wynn said their group is different from non-faith-based groups because of the religious nature of most of the gatherings. But all moms are welcome.
“Being a mom can feel very solitary, even with tiny humans by your side,” Wynn said. “So many of the blogs on the Internet make mothering look so beautiful, but really being a mom is hard and isolating and frustrating even. One of the most refreshing aspects of our group is how real everyone is.
“We aren’t negative or sarcastic about the woes of motherhood, but we recognize and acknowledge that mothering is not all butterflies and daffodils.”
Circelli added that although it is seemingly such a natural job, being a mother requires just as much devoted intention as a well-invested marriage, a fruitful friendship, or a productive job.
For example, the mother of three said, “Being a mother does require forethought, planning, and prayerful consideration. And yes, in our group we can lean on one another, pray for each other and spend time throughout the week together, whether at a playdate or a mom’s night out. At these events, in this group, moms will be open and honest about the challenges of motherhood – a unique attribute to this group.”
Listening to other members talk about their struggles is cathartic for many. Wynn said it has really humbled her.
“I am not the perfect mom and that is OK,” she said. “Getting to know other moms has helped me to see that they are still figuring out motherhood as well.
“Sometimes I think my messy house and messy mothering is helpful for new moms to see. Maybe they pass judgment on me at first for not keeping things picture perfect, but later in life when they find themselves juggling more than they can handle alone they will remember me and my ‘mostly’ crazy happy home and not lose hope.”
Longtime members note that with the continued exposure to and conversations with other moms, they find it is easy to develop good friendship qualities, be a better listener, and be a better mom, learning from other moms in the process.
A Helping Hand
The group practices what it preaches, such as providing meals to moms who have recently given birth or are going through a difficult time.Personal contact, especially in this day and age, is important, members say. Moms need real people who they can call and drop in on at a moment’s notice.
“This group challenges, supports, and loves me,” Wynn said. “Absolutely these women are my community and it’s beautiful to know I can call upon them for any kind of help I might need.
Wynn said the group can shed beautiful light on really hard times.
“Our group wants to share the truth they know,” Wynn said. “Our group is filled with strong families with virtue. Our group is light to this world. I love knowing that my kids will have these virtuous families to look upon as they grow up.”
Recently, a mom who had just joined the group needed help with her baby after her fiancé had locked the two of them out of their home. The group showered her with clothing, food, help finding a new place to live, legal advice, baby furniture, and more.
A mother of twins whose husband lost his job was embraced by the group and given diapers and other necessities to ease the financial strain.
A Light for Children, Too
Although the children may not realize it yet, they are benefitting in the same ways the moms are from the group — surrounded by Catholic peers and other moms who also love and care for their children in a unique way, steeped in faith, and not just because mom and dad celebrate the liturgical seasons at home and take them to Mass, Wynn said.
“They have the joy of celebrating feast days and seasons with friends,” she said.
Those children range from newborns to kids in college. Even after the children have grown up, moms stay with the group to help with activities, and offer support to younger moms.
Holy Redeemer’s pastor, Monsignor Publius Xuereb, is an avid supporter of his parishioners’ visions.
“I could come to him with any idea, and we would have his support, and he would also share his wisdom on moving forward,” Wynn said. “It’s so apparent that he loves to see families of all ages gathered in his parish seeking the Lord. Even when my child is in the narthex screaming at Mass, he looks over and smiles joyfully, saying, ‘Aren’t they precious. You are doing an awesome job. Keep up the good work.’”
Wynn said she is proud to be part of a moms’ group that affects so many lives.
“We are a unique and welcoming faith-based Catholic community of moms, willing to pray, serve, share, and love throughout a variety of activities geared toward moms and children of all ages and stages,” Wynn said. “Or, more plainly, there is a need for community and we provide it.”