I am BUSY – Are you?
I am busy. It is the most common response I get to the question, “Do you want to join my Catholic Moms Group?” I can’t, I am too busy. “Do you want to help out at school?” Busy. “Do you want to get involved in local political issues?” Just so busy, no time at all.
I feel so awkward when people respond to me that way, even though I know full well that these ladies are usually saying one of two things. They are either saying, “I have no interest but am trying to nicely tell you to stop asking me,” and I get that. Or they are saying, “My life is overwhelming me and I can’t even shower or catch my breath so I can’t join your little club for bored people.”
Here is my raw and honest truth: I, also, am too busy for my Catholic Moms Group and here’s why. I am a mom to 10 children aged 2 to 20 years old. I have a large household to maintain, along with all the laundry, dishes and chores that come with a 12-person household. I am the Vice President of Right to Life Interior Alaska, I am the Vice President of the Fairbanks School Board of Education, I am running the social committee at my parish and I am personal valet to 8 of my kids who can’t drive.
Yet for 20 years, from the time I first became a mom until now, I have had a heart for mothers groups. I have met some of the most wonderful women I’ve ever known at my first-time mom support groups. Over the years I have attended many, many homeschool groups, toddler mom groups, Bible Study mom groups and more. And I have even tried – a dozen times – to start a successful moms group myself, with no luck.
My husband suggested that perhaps I wanted to attend these groups because I was basically a busybody, and I thought he was right for a while. For a while I gave up the quest to start a great moms group. But in 2019 my husband returned from a military deployment and then retired. We decided that we needed to focus on our family and our parish and that I would quit my Real Estate business (forgot to mention I am a Realtor too).
Yet I still had this burning desire to DO something. I don’t rest well! In 2020 I happened upon the Embrace Grace Facebook Group, and Dorothy was a part of it was well. She reached out to me, as she was curious about a comment I had made about living in North Pole, Alaska. That was the beginning of a movement of the Holy Spirit, for sure. Dorothy told me about her Moms Group and asked me to join her for a Midday Moms Chat about living in the frigid north as a Catholic Mom.
The interview was fun – but more importantly I felt the Holy Spirit really move my heart to trust that this might be the answer to my 20-year search for the perfect moms group. How did I know? I only knew that I felt differently about this moms group than I had about any other project, group, volunteer thing or bible/book club. I had the feeling of being called to great sacrifice. I wasn’t necessarily excited about all I was going to have to do, but rather I felt fear and wonder at the sacrifice the Spirit was asking of me. It wasn’t Dorothy asking me to sacrifice. She was asking me to create a group – a talent I have long possessed and executed dozens of times. It was in the middle of all that, that I had this small quiet feeling that this was going to be special.
I decided to do something I have never done before for a group. I decided to pray and fast and let answers wash over me. The call I got was to sacrifice an entire day to the group every single week. You can easily see why I thought this was near IMPOSSIBLE to do – and almost seemed unnecessary. Why did I need to sacrifice a whole day for a meeting that would only last a couple hours? Regardless, I decided I would do it if we could meet at my house – except the rules were that we had to meet at the parish. How would I ever make this work? I resolved to set aside Wednesdays for My Catholic Moms Group. I just said yes. I didn’t know how it would work, but I decided to just do it.
What a blessing it has been! I knew right off it was God’s Will because boy was it hard! On Wednesdays I get up at 5:45am and launch into waking, dressing and feeding all my people. I pack my van with all of my supplies and disperse 8 of my children to 4 different schools, plus a few neighbour kids we pick up along the way. I pop into the local grocery store for flowers and fresh pastries and anything else I need and head to the church. I spend an hour before the meeting setting up and praying. We meet for 2 hours and then I spend another hour cleaning and reloading my van. I spend 1 hour after that reviewing our meeting and deciding a topic for next week. I do my pick up routine and after school chaos and dinner and then set aside my evening to dive into packing my bins with the decorations and items I will need for next week, researching and preparing fully for the next topic.
Not every Moms Group leader is called to this level of time commitment, but I am. My parish needed this mom’s group. From day one we have had joy, tears, friendships and support. We have been a team to each other and a reliable, trustworthy place to bring our joys, hopes and fears. I know this is what I was meant to do on Wednesdays – nothing else. I can’t not do it! You may think I am just “doing my job,” but it is more than that. I had to carve out and give this time to God so that I could reorient myself to what was important. I have to constantly protect my Wednesdays. I have to fight off my own will and the world that calls to me every single week with some great reason to NOT meet or NOT spend time planning. I have to constantly defend my commitment.
Also, for me, having no other commitments allows me to serve these moms. I allow moms to stay as long as they need. I clean up and remind all the moms who offer to help that they deserve a morning off. They deserve to drink lemonade and water from wine glasses and coffee from a real mug with good creamer. They deserve to let their toddlers go to the babysitter downstairs for 2 whole hours and just take a moment for themselves. This is real spiritual warfare for me. I have so many doubts and pressures that try to pull apart my commitment to be there for the moms in my parish. Yet I needed this. I needed to lay down my life in service to my peers to build the Kingdom. I needed this to be a better wife and a better mother. I have learned to say no. I have learned to prioritize God and other people, and I have finally learned to be a Catholic Moms Group Leader.
April is the new leader of the Mothers Group in North Pole, Alaska. She has run various versions of mom groups for nearly 20 years and feels so blessed by the Catholic Moms Group program which has finally led to a real spiritual movement in her parish.
April is a mom to 10 children from toddlers right up to adults. She recently left a successful real estate business to focus more time on things that directly impact her family. This led to her running for and being elected to the Board of Education for her school district. What a challenge THAT has been in these crazy times.
Hospitality is the Smith Family ministry, as they also administer the parish Social Committee, for nearly a decade now, at St. Nicholas. April loves making opportunities for social engagement in the parish that build up families and the whole community, every single month.