Our Story - Ducks Need Ducks

Several years ago I felt a very strong desire to connect with other Catholic moms.  As a wife and mother trying to live out her faith and create a Catholic home, I felt I needed an environment where I could develop friendships with other women who were experiencing some of the same joys and challenges that come with trying to live a Christ-centered life.

I knew what I needed, but I didn’t know where to find it.  After several attempts googling ‘Catholic Moms Groups’, I came up short.   I found many Christian moms groups in my area but to my amazement I could not find anything Catholic.  I found book clubs and bible studies, but nothing specifically for moms.  After many searches I began to ask around.  Finally someone mentioned that there was a moms group about 30 minutes away at the largest parish in our diocese, St Gregory the Great in Williamsville, NY.   

I started attending the St. Greg’s Moms Group, and what I found there was exactly what I needed: a hot cup of coffee that I didn’t make; a chance to sit down for 90 min without my children asking me for juice or needing a diaper change (they provided babysitting for my kids!); adult conversation with intelligent, fun, interesting Catholic women;  new friendships with women who had children similar in age to my own with whom I could relate, and also women with older children from whom I could learn.

As I continued to attend these great monthly meetings, I felt a tug in my heart to start something similar closer to home - I figured that if I was looking for a group like this, other moms in my area probably were as well.  Plus, I needed something closer because driving through Buffalo snow is not fun in the winter.

But things always seemed to get in the way of this idea.  It never seemed to be the right time until 2010, the year that my parish announced that one of our parish goals was to reach young families.  Despite the fact that I was pregnant with our 4th child and felt pulled in a million directions, I knew I was being called.  I had to give it a shot.  So I threw together a mission statement and a tri-fold brochure for our moms group and presented it to the pastor and the Evangelization Committee.  They agreed that a moms group would fit the parish focus perfectly and my proposal was accepted.

At the same time, God just so happened to bring amazing Catholic women into my life, people who I had never met before who quickly offered their help when I mentioned that I was thinking about starting a Mom’s group.

One of these great women was Mrene, a wife and mother of 8 at the time (now 9).  Mrene had been very involved with the St. Greg's Moms Group over the years so when I asked if she had any resources to share, she went to the post office the next day and mailed me some information to get started.  This was exactly the blue-print I needed.  (You can read a lot of these ideas in the pages that follow.)

Another woman that God brought into my life was Sarah.  Sarah and I met on the first day of preschool for our children.  I don’t remember what exactly she said that made me think she might be interested in starting a Catholic moms group, but I felt a strong nudge (thank you, Holy Spirit) to come right out and ask her if she’d like to help. Surprisingly, she said yes!  God always puts the right people in our path if it is of His will– we just have to be open and trust in His plan.

It seemed as if God continued to hand pick the women he wanted to start this group.  Through word of mouth, personal invitation and some simple bulletin announcements women began hear about the idea and step forward.  Before long I was hosting our first  planning meeting at my house with Sarah and team, along with our kids playing all around us. 

We started the meeting with a prayer.  I shared with them what my experience had been at St. Greg’s, and then we all brainstormed ideas for our own group which we called the Niagara Falls Catholic Moms Group.  It quickly took shape as we decided on our various roles.  We were all very excited as we planned out our first year.

We knew that we wanted to stick with a similar model to St. Greg’s Moms meetings which meant we needed to find someone who could share her witness at the first meeting.  After some time spent in prayer, the Holy Spirit nudged me to ask Christie, a mom from St. Greg’s who had shared her personal story with their moms group the previous year.  
I tracked her down and asked her if she would speak at our first meeting.  Not only did Christie drive 30 minutes and give up her Saturday morning to speak at our meeting, but she also calmed all my jitters when we talked on the phone the night before and she helped me work out the last minute kinks.  We have become great friends and continue to work together to plan moms meetings and connect Catholic moms. 

The story doesn’t end there, however.  It wasn’t long before I knew that God was calling me to do more.  In February of 2012 I teamed up with Julie, a Catholic wife and mother of six children with whom I work in the Lighthouse Catholic Media apostolate.   

Julie was very active in her parish in Florida running the bible study for ten years.  She led table discussions, often lectured at her meetings, and even coordinated babysitters.  She and I talked a lot about the idea of Catholic moms needing other Catholic moms.  She suggested we start a blog called Catholic Moms Connect.  We’ve been collecting and sharing ideas with moms all around the world ever since. Catholic Moms Connect is now a vibrant ministry designed to encourage women to celebrate faith-filled friendships and to support each other in our God-given role as Catholic mothers.

Even if this Moms Ministry hadn’t blossomed, I still would have felt so blessed because the Holy Spirit brought so many women into my life who has become some of my closest friends today.  But our group has blossomed!  Four years later God continues to bless our efforts.  Not only does the Niagara Falls Moms Group continue to meet monthly, but new ministries are sprouting up from within such as a play group, Marian Consecration groups, a Marriage Matters date night ministry, service and outreach to single mothers in our community and more.  Amazing things happen when Catholic moms connect! 

A well-known priest in our area, Fr. Joe, is known for his catchy little phrase ‘ducks need other ducks’.  It’s so true - Catholic moms need other Catholic moms - ducks need other ducks.  Some of us already have our ducks and some of us don't.  If you don’t, you need them.  You need themyour spouse needs them, and your children need them

Scripture tells us in the book of Sirach,
Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter, whoever finds one finds a treasure.  Faithful friends are beyond price, no amount can balance their worth.  Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; those who fear God will find them.” – Sirach 6: 14-16

Learning, living, and sharing our faith are not always easy.  Our job as mothers bears great responsibility - to get our families to heaven.   It's so important that we have friends who share our values as Christians and who encourage us to grow in our spiritual life.  

Please open your heart to the idea of joining or starting a moms group in your area.  It can be 3 women or 30.  It can be in someone’s home, in the parish hall, or at a local coffee shop.  It can be as simple as praying the rosary with little ones at your feet.  Don’t worry about the details yet. Just pray about it, and ask our Lord to open the doors if it is His will.  If and when He does give you the nudge, I hope this book will help you get started.


 Our Story Continued - More Ducks

The following stories were submitted by women who have been involved in the St. Gregory the Great Moms Group or the Niagara Falls Catholic Moms Group.  If you want a glimpse of the impact a moms group can have on a woman’s life, keep reading.

Sarah:  I was attending preschool orientation with my daughter, Olivia, when I met Annie.  Little did I know that my life would change this day?  She was nine months pregnant at the time, attending the orientation with her son.  We were sitting in the little kid chairs at a little kid table, and I'm not even sure how we sparked a conversation, but it led to Annie asking me if I would be interested in starting a Catholic Moms Group.  I immediately said, "Yes!" and we exchanged email addresses.  I have to admit, I was surprised to hear back from Annie.  People say they want to do a lot of things, but not many actually do them (including myself!).  It was a pleasant surprise.  This Catholic Moms Group might actually happen...

My youngest daughter, Claire, was eighteen months old at the time.  After she was born, I experienced post-partum depression and was still having somewhat of a difficult time.  I felt very lonely.  My close circle of friends was not mothers, yet, and although my husband and extended family were supportive, I ached for other mothers to relate to.  At the same time, I was stagnant in my faith-life.  We attended mass regularly, but my faith was not on fire.

Rather than seek out the Lord, however, I was waiting for Him to seek out me.  Little did I know the Catholic Moms Group would be God's answer to my unspoken prayers!  He dropped this opportunity in my lap at exactly the right time in my life.  The Lord was inviting me into his heart, and my heart became wide open.  It didn't take a long time to realize that I had met some really special women.  It hasn’t always been easy for me to make friends.  My college friendships were short-lived, and any women I seemed to meet these days had different values or interests that made it hard to want to pursue a meaningful relationship.  But these mothers I was meeting through the Moms Group were turning out to be faithful, graceful, and genuine women.  We had the same core beliefs as Catholics that guided our actions in the rest of life.  They began to be an inspiration to me, both as mothers and the way they were living out their faith.  I began to pray more, read more, listen to Catholic radio, watch EWTN, and seek out answers to my questions.  I began attending daily mass with my children.  I wanted to do service for others.  My heart was finally on fire for the Lord, and I had found mother-friends that I could depend on.

The Moms Group has truly changed my life.  These women have made me a better person by bringing me closer to God.  As a mother of three now, our once-a-month meetings are a rare chance for me to bond with other women and celebrate my faith in a special way.  If I find myself veering away from goodness, or even if I'm just having a tough time at home with the children, I need only speak to one of my friends through the Moms Group and I'm immediately lifted up.  Now THAT'S the kind of circle of friends a woman should have.

Christie:  When my family and I moved to the Buffalo area we went “church shopping”.  We found a vibrant parish with many young families but we never really got involved in parish life.  We were at this church for three years, going through the motions and coming to Mass on Sundays, but we never felt as though we were part of the community even though we would see many friendly faces. 

Don’t ever underestimate the power of an invitation!  One day in September my neighbor invited me to go to the MOMS groups with her.  I went to the first meeting but when she couldn’t go the next two months, I did not go back being the introvert that I am.  But she didn’t give up on me.  The next year, she invited me to become part of the Moms Planning Team with her.  We went to the first planning meeting and I knew that I was supposed to be there.  The Planning Team helped me to step out of my comfort zone.

I met another mom from the MOMS group on a baseball field while our boys played baseball and after a few weeks she invited me to a prayer group at her home.   I went but at first I felt very much out of place.  These girls seemed to have known each other forever.  I didn’t realize that many of them had just met.  It’s funny how our minds can play tricks on us and make us feel like we don’t belong.  Throughout the next year these moms became like sisters to me and they truly helped me to grow in my prayer.

The friendship between me and this baseball mom who had invited me to her house and to the planning meeting continued to grow.  Soon she gave me a Lighthouse CD.  When I listened I became hungry to learn more about my Catholic faith.  I began to listen to many CDs and I started reading great Catholic books. 

Through the invitation of another friend I came back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation after being away since High School.  It was then that a light bulb went off inside me. 
Many more invitations followed.  My husband and I were invited to a group for married couples in our parish that one of our Moms had started with her husband; soon my husband was meeting some great Catholic men that have become like brothers to him. 

Now, parish life and home life are intertwined.  Our church has become our second home.  The parish that seemed so big when we moved has now become part of our family.   The Moms group has shown me what living in community looks like.  You bring Mom to Church and you bring the whole family.

Sarah A:  In the fall of 2007, I was expecting my first child.  My husband and I were still relatively new to the WNY area and I had yet to find any women who I could truly call a friend. I was working full-time and we felt like small fish in a big pond at our parish.  When we became parishioners at St. Gregory the Great Church in Williamsville, I saw a write up about an upcoming MOMS meeting listed in the bulletin. I was so eager to meet other Catholic moms that I emailed the coordinator, at the time, for more information.  Although I didn't officially join the group until the following fall, I was excited to learn all that I could about the MOMS group and what they did in the parish.

Fast forward, five years and it is difficult to imagine my life without the St. Greg's MOMS group and the many women who I now call my closest friends.  Monthly fellowship, dynamic speakers, discussions and sporadic service has allowed my faith to flourish and grow.  Through this group I became involved in a small book club, Bible study and a playgroup.  I learned to love the rosary and my relationship with Our Blessed Mother grew, with each child I was gifted to bring into the world.

When I was dealing with postpartum depression the women in this group gave me strength through their companionship and prayers.  When I need a friend to help watch one of my sons, at the drop of a hat, someone always comes to my aid.  When I need encouragement, inspiration or someone to just listen I have found friends who aren't afraid to see the true me.  These are women who will discuss issues such as Natural Family Planning, how to bring up little ones in the faith and how to encourage our spouses in fostering their spirituality.   Through these women I have received countless recommendations on excellent spiritual reading, CDs that I can listen to and pass along to others, Christian movies and music and local religious events in the community.

This past year I was even given the privilege to co-chair MOMS with a friend.  Although I sat back at most of the meetings, I was able to assist my friend with the "behind the scenes" aspects of our monthly meetings.  This year was filled with grace as well as presenting many challenges in my personal life.  Without the support of the MOMS group the burdens that I carry would have seemed even heavier and without Jesus at my side I would have felt alone for truly, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13).

About 2 years ago Jesus called me to start living my life for Him.  At that time, Jesus had spoken to me in ways that made me realize I could never question His existence or presence in my life again.  At this time, I was desperate to talk with other people who had a similar love of our Lord.  My friend Cathy had invited me to come to Moms and I was so happy to be there (just mad I had waited so many years to come!!).  The moms speaking were so joyful, and you could see love in their eyes.  Hearing other moms witness about their lives being lived in the truths of the Catholic Church was invaluable to me.  Honestly, I had never met mom like these! While books have helped me feel not alone in my faith journey, meeting 'live' faith-filled moms is awesome.  I have learned so much talking about ways to bring our faith into our homes and live our faith outside of our homes as well.  Every time I come to Moms, I meet someone new who inspires me in one way or another to continue to try and live God's will in my own life.  There is also a certain 'spill-over' effect: once you get involved in Moms, you find your family getting involved in other ministries at church as well- I think my whole family, including my husband, has benefited from Moms spirituality.   I like the bible verse about the Lord lighting one step along our path at a time.  Moms nourishes me spiritually and helps me along my path.  Praise God for Moms!! 

Amy:  Our years in Little Rock, Arkansas, were short but proved to be four of the most powerful years of my life.  I can honestly say they were life changing.  We became friends with several other couples who still to this day we keep in touch with and share our faith with.  My husband, even after all that time praying, eventually came back to the Church (a reversion like me).

When we moved three hours away to another office in Arkansas, my faith was strong, but tested.  It was important I find like-minded people to continue my faith journey.  It was a struggle, but eventually I did find other families who were very devout. 

This was a period of transition for us.  I do believe that when you are on a faith journey, there are darker times than others.  We were in this particular area for over 9 years and it brought both many joys and many sorrows.  I struggled with my faith and fell many times.  I recall reading something about Mother Teresa struggling in darkness and was almost relieved.  I didn’t understand why I could be in darkness.  I even went to several different spiritual directors in hope of finding the light again.  Each one I met with did his very best, but I still struggled.  About two years before we moved to New York, I joined a MOMs group.  It was a pivotal moment for me.  I had been teaching in the classroom for two years again, and was teaching religious ed on Sundays trying to fill that faith void that was so deep in my heart.  Nothing seemed to fill it. 

This particular MOMs group was just what God ordered.  I rekindled a few relationships that had not been taken care of when I went back to work and I jumped in feet first.  It was such a relief to belong to this group.  It filled everything that was missing.  I needed ducks!  I hadn’t realized how much I missed my “ducks” from back home.    A priest where I live now once gave a great talk at a MOMs meeting up here.  He said, “Ducks need ducks.” We moms need each other.  We need that community of believers that do what we do and struggle where we struggle and can lift each other up when one falls.  My “ducks” were just what I needed to lift me back up and onto the faith journey I had started years before. 

Two years later, we found ourselves moving to a brand new state, and a completely new area of the country we’d never been before.  Western New York.  With this move, my faith once again went through a bit of an adjustment.  I had been slightly discouraged after finding out that there was “so many” Catholics according to citi-data, only to find out that really, the percentage of actual practicing Catholics was much smaller.  It was disheartening because I had set myself up to believe that there was a strongly practicing Catholic in every house of my neighborhood.  I mean, there are seven Catholic churches within a seven mile radius of my house for crying out loud!

Little did know that these churches sprouted up because of the different nationalities conflicting with each other.  They would rather have their own churches, with their own tradition and customs, than to merge with other groups.  I have been rather naïve when it comes to the Catholic Church coming over to America…. J

The first thing I did was to see if there was a MOMs group at the parish we attended.  Of course, as luck would have it, the church we decided to attend was the “furthest” one away- a whopping seven miles.  Seriously, you should hear how people balk at us for driving “so far” out of our way.  It’s funny, when you consider the place we moved from had one Catholic Church in the entire area, and at one point, we lived over 30 minutes away from it…  Perspective…it’s all about perspective….
The church did have a MOMs group, and a perpetual adoration chapel, which was the bonus!  The MOMs group wasn’t exactly like my group back home, but the Ducks were the same nonetheless!  I had found my home. 

This particular move has been the most spiritual one yet.  I have been blessed to meet women who have some of the deepest faith I’ve ever personally witnessed.  Their faith is unwavering and it’s contagious.  I want to be better because of them.  Their love of Jesus and His true presence in the Eucharist is beautiful.  Blessed beyond what I deserve, I recognize that nothing I have I came to myself.  My faith journey, my family, my blessings, all came from Him.  The good times, the dark times, the spiritual and non-spiritual were all a part of my journey and while I didn’t take the exact path God probably planned for me, I did finally realize where I needed to be.
I look forward to the continued journey and what adventures He has in store for us…

Sandra from It’s Tidy Time
This weekend I had the privilege of speaking to a fabulous group of women about organizing, Catholic Mom’s Connect..  This crew of ladies make up an incredibly encouraging group and they do a terrific job of reaching out to people in need.

These beautiful ladies invited me to speak to them and we discussed how to gain balance in your home, how organizing plays a role and why it’s important to set and stick to your priorities.

How encouraging to listen to like-minded women regarding their family sizes and schedules, routines, habits and trouble areas.  Almost all of us suffer with the same stumbling blocks and hiccups when it comes to balance and finding a way to manage in such a hectic world, yet there’s certainly hope.  When you go out on a limb and boldly confess your weaknesses, you might be surprised how many people are ready to encourage you and give you a shoulder or a hand when you need it most.

CMC, I applaud you all and thank you for having me in for a visit, I look forward to hanging out again :)

Do you have a group of women who support and encourage you in life?  If you don’t, I highly encourage you to do a quick search in your area for a local gathering. You might think that sounds awkward, like the first day of kindergarten, but these women’s groups exist for you.  You can find support, deep friendship, and encouragement and their doors are wide open! Besides, who’s going to understand you better than a group of women who are experiencing much of what you’re experiencing?

Take a leap, get out there, and have fun!

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