Finding comfort in the community of MOMS
From left are SI’s first MOMS group: Liz Valadez, Staci Fleming, Joey Buckingham, Jaime Lindauer, Dawn Hahn and Mary Abinante. Not pictured are Maureen Barry, Jackie Cimento, Teresa Garrett, Katherine Kemji-McDonald, Rosalba Petrini and Teresa Toepel.
Every child in need of comforting knows that the best place to find solace and support is in a mother’s embrace.
But if you’re a mother feeling alone and empty, where do you find support?
Thanks to SI’s Adult Spirituality Program and Jaime Lindauer, mothers at SI are taking part in the Ministry of Mothers Sharing (MOMS) program that forms a community to support one another.
Since this faith-based group was founded 20 years ago by Sister Paula Hagen, OSB, of St. Paul’s Benedictine Monastery in Minnesota, a half million women have gone through the eight-week program, meeting once each week to cover topics such as self esteem, stress and anxiety, everyday spirituality, personal growth, friendships and discernment of gifts.
Lindauer, her husband, Jeff, and their son, Jackson ’11 (now a sophomore at Fordham University), came to San Francisco from Arizona nine years ago, and the move proved a difficult one for her. “I didn’t know a soul when my family moved here, and I even had a cable car hit my car while I was driving. I found myself crying from time to time and hated being out here.”
A veteran of a MOMS group, she looked for a similar program in San Francisco but couldn’t find one. She complained to Sister Paula, “who replied to me like a true nun and told me that I needed to be trained as a facilitator so I could help other women as well as myself.”
After her training, she served as a MOMS facilitator for eight years at St. Mary’s on Union and Steiner, where she worked with several SI moms, before approaching Principal Patrick Ruff with the idea of offering the program to SI moms at the school. He put her in touch with Rita O’Malley, who heads the school’s Adult Spirituality Program, and with O’Malley’s colleague Mary Abinante, who had instituted the MOMS program during her work as a pastoral associate in an Oregon parish.
Abinante and Lindauer then led 10 current and former SI mothers in the program starting last September, following the course outline first codified by Sister Paula.
“Moms get caught up in giving themselves to everyone else’s needs, and they wind up feeling personally and spiritually empty,” said Abinante. “Most women of our generation believe that the best way to pray is to go on retreat and get away from it all, which many women can’t do. What we teach in the MOMS program is that the work of being a mother is a holy calling. Finding God in the day-to-day work of motherhood is also a very Ignatian thing.”
Women who go through the program can also be trained to facilitate their own groups, leading to a ripple effect. While that hasn’t happened at SI yet, both Abinante and Lindauer expect that to happen soon. Given the success of the first MOMS program, a new group is scheduled to form in April for another 8-week session.
The program works well “because the moms who gather form a network of mutual spiritual support and enjoy a group experience of learning prayer while they minister to each other,” said Lindauer. “We also introduce mothers to opportunities for personal and spiritual growth in a faith-sharing groups, and they ultimately improve their communications skills and learn ways to use ritual prayer at home.”
Some women, once they become mothers, “suffer a loss of self-esteem,” she added. “Every woman worries about making the right decision. Should I breast feed or bottle feed? Should I use cloth or disposable diapers? Some feel fearful about making the wrong decision and start second-guessing every decision they make. Before I had Jackson, I had a prayer life and thought of myself as a spiritual person. Because of my husband’s career, we had to move 17 times in 22 years. I worried constantly about the effect this would have on our son and began parenting from a place of fear rather than love. Through the program, we discuss the advantages of parenting from a place of love, which leads to more peace and contentment.”
“Some women feel disconnected from their parishes,” added Abinante. “These gatherings helped give them an experience of owning their own spirituality and prayer life as well as learning new forms of prayer and ritual activities, such as the Examen, centering prayer, candle lighting, blessing with water and scripture-based prayer.”
Both Lindauer and Abinante begin their sessions with meditation and readings that lead into group sharing. “The power of community is phenomenal,” said Lindauer. “This isn’t group therapy or counseling, just mothers sharing their own stories. We ask the women not to offer advice, as we all like to solve each other’s problems. If something bubbles up, we sit with it, discern and pray for each other, and we promise to pray for each other every night during the eight weeks. The community we create goes a long way to restoring self esteem.”
Those who have gone through the program at SI sing its praises. One mother noted that the gatherings were “the best activity I have participated in during my five years at SI. I loved the spiritual component.”
Another praised the program for helping her learn “so much about parenting and self-awareness” and to help participants see “that they aren’t alone in their struggles.”
If you are interested in taking part in a future session, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have questions or would like to talk about the MOMS program, feel free to contact Lindauer at Jaime@lindauerfarms.com. The program costs $100, and financial aid is available.
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