Thursday, July 9, 2009

Community Longing

Every since we moved to Virginia over a year ago, I've been searching around, trying to find my place in this big city. We came from the thriving "Catholic Disneyland" of Notre Dame, where we were surrounded by budding Catholic families, ample fellowship, playdates galore for the kiddos, and faithful encouragement. My Catholic faith soared as I shared weekly Bible studies with 8 other women and had regular community with like-minded believers, gals walking the walk and talking the talk.

Before that, we were amidst military life and other couples starting out in marriage. I sought solace in the companionship of other women who were in the same realm in life. They were women of great faith--their prayers got them through fearful nights while their husbands were away. When the hubbies returned, we baby boomed with the best of them as we all began to welcome children into our folds.

Before that it was Princeton, land of the academically rigorous and spiritually devoted. We praised and worshiped. We prayed and communed. We retreated and sought solemnity like I had never seen before. My faith came alive for the first time on my own. I became Catholic.

You could say I've been spoiled. Everywhere I've been in the last 12 years of my life has served to be a ready-made group of faith-filled individuals and spiritual community. I've never had to work for it. God provided and I accepted, readily.

I am desperate for something like Kat described in her last post--some sort of Catholic grouping of women with whom to commune, relate, and lift up spiritually. I'm at a loss. It's not that such things don't exist in my world right now, it's merely that at this time with children as young as mine, it's harder for me to reach out and take advantage of different possibilities. God is definitely meeting me, loving me, and challenging me like never before as I seek His Will raising these little angels of mine. But boy could I use some faithful encouragement! Our church currently has a women's ministry that meets in the morning without childcare and our little one naps during that time. I have joined our local MOPS chapter, which has been a HUGE answer to prayer, but I desire more...

How do you find Christian community in your world? Have you started a group on your own or reached out to join something already established? I would love your suggestions and insight as I seek to add a little faithful flavor to my day to day. Blessings!


Mary Alice said...

B -- I know the feeling, and I have one general and one concrete peice of advice:

First, I read somewhere that when you move it takes 3 years to make real friends, the kind that you would keep in touch with if you moved again. We have moved so many times that I had sort of stopped trying, but I think I am actually hitting a bit of a good stride now here in New Jersey, so one thing is to just give it time. You only really need two or three close, like minded friends, since you will have other friends from MOPS, school, etc. It is hard to find them, because they will need to be educated, faithful, young and fun, and the odds are just against us at this point, but they are out there and you will fall into step with them eventually.

Second: There is an Opus Dei women's Morning of Recollection in Richmond, as well as a monthly circle for women cooperators of Opus Dei. Either of these would be great places to get some support, encouragement, and make some wonderful friends, including older women who are established in the community, there advice is priceless. I attend once or twice while I lived in Charlottesville and I have a really dear friend who attends regularly. You would probably have to get a sitter to go, but it would be worth it. I will shoot you both an email so that you can follow up with her if you are interested.

Gail said...

For the past three years I attended Community Bible study, which was great for fellowship with other Christian women, a great children's program, and a great Bible study too. But, I've decided that I really need a Catholic study, and fellowship with other Catholic women, not just Protestants (in my three years, I was only ever in a group with one other Catholic woman). So I approahced a couple other women from my parish, and with the pastor's approval, we're going to try doing a Catholic Bible study once a week during the school year on Friday mornings. This will be geared toward stay at home moms, and children are welcome. At this point, we're not planning a children's program. We're just going to put on a video and give them snacks and toys and pray that they'll let us get through our study on the other side of the room. A pipe dream perhaps, but we're going to try it anyway.

Rachel said...


I am not Catholic, and am not sure what your church offers in the way of fellowship opportunities with other moms, but let me just tell you how I got to networking and creating close friendships with the other moms at my church.

The woman in charge of childcare for pre-3's at our church -- Mrs. P -- started a group for many of the young moms last summer called "Summer Girlfriends." She realized that she was seeing all of us come and go on Sundays and during MOPS and Bible Studies, but we really weren't forming close friendships with one another and most of us barely knew each other. She asked each one of us in person if we would join her for this group, which made me, and I'm sure others, feel so important.

We met weekly on Tuesday nights in a casual setting -- actually, we all brought blankets and just sat on the lawn together in front of the church. Our talks revolved around being a woman of influence. We spent a lot of time talking about ourselves, what was going on in our lives, and really just opening up to one another. Instead of a traditional bible study curriculum, our homework assignments revolved around getting to know one another. One week our assignment was to call another woman from the group and get together with them ... with or without kids. Another week the assignment was to pray for another woman from the group, and then let them know you were praying for them ... things like that.

At the end of the summer, we were encouraged to continue meeting in small groups within the church. Many women chose to meet as couples with their husbands, but I knew Jon wouldn't be able to handle another committment right now, so I inquired about joining a small group with women only. Turns out there wasn't one ... unless I wanted to lead it. I wanted to say "NO! NO! NO!" But, lead it, I did. And it has been wonderful. We meet one night each week and now we are actually taking turns as leaders so that nobody feels overwhelmed. These women have been a tremendous support and encouragement to me.

I know it would require going out on a MAJOR limb, but I'm almost CERTAIN there are other Catholic mothers living close to you who are also searching for the kind of fellowship you are after. They just need a leader to get them together and get them talking. B-Mama, you would be AMAZING at this ... you have such a sweet spirit, you are funny, outgoing, and don't take yourself too seriously. Maybe you could take a leap of faith, really put yourself out there, and start your own group of summer girlfriends! Just an idea ... :)


Right Said Red said...

First, let me second MaryAlice's suggestion that you attend Opus Dei events. If you are not up for starting something yourself, this is a GREAT way to get fellowship and much needed spiritual guidance. The babysitter will be well worth the money.

I had this same problem in our area, so with my pastor's permission, I started a woman's prayer group. We opted to meet in the evenings, away from children, at my home. At first there was only 2 other women, and then we grew to about 10. It was a great way to get to know other women in the parish. In the beginning we prayed the rosary and then we would socialize. As time passed we added a "bible study" component. I ran the group for around 3 years.

Eventually, I tried to get another mother to host on occasion and nobody stepped it up. I have now taken over a leadership position for women's ministry in our parish and we have a monthly meeting with our pastor. The group is huge (so not very intimate), and the new commitment left me little time to continue hosting the prayer group. Since none of the other women wanted to organize and host it, it has fallen apart. This is one of the hard things I am realizing--often others are not as motivated. I needed to step back, and nobody else felt called to step up, so the group died. Such is life. I am praying hard to not become bitter or feel resentment on this issue. As I feel the group served a purpose for a time, and at this moment is isn't God's will for the group to continue.

I think all the wonderful communities you have lived in have prepared you to create a good community where you live. You know "what" you seek, so take some time and pray about how God plans for you to get there. It might be starting your own prayer group, it might be attending Opus Dei events, OR it might be both. But you have to DO something, as good communities don't form without great leaders like you!

Blair said...

I've always been blessed to be in good communities of Catholic women. In our early marriage, most of my friends were those I'd met at church in high school and college. We'd meet at daily mass and have little playgroups with our firstborns. Later on I joined a lay movement that brought me great fellowship with other Catholic women. Now, as a homeschooling mom, most of my good friends have that in common. We have a fabulous homeschool group at our parish and we meet up for playdates, moms' nights, field trips, and other classes. Our husbands are friends and we're all walking the same walk. I think as kids become school age you'll naturally find friends through school or a homeschool group. We're hoping to add a more spiritual component to our group, although some of the ladies are involved in things like Opus Dei or Familia. I hope you find a community soon, B!

Monica said...

I'm not sure what part of VA you're located in right now, but I know that there are a lot of Christendom College grads that live in the VA area and have young children. You might look around there to begin your networking if you're close. A lot of them have also migrated toward the D.C. area, if that's closer to your area.

AWOL Mommy said...

So, I did it here. I was attending our Army church's weekly women's Bible Study dutifully for a couple of months before God dropped it in my lap. The level of responsibility is huge, but the rewards and the discipline it has instilled in me to hammer out the time for Bible Study are worth it. I have had similar frustrations to Red - with other ladies failing to step up and just general low attendance - but I try and remind myself that even if it is just me and my Bible for the 90 minutes, it is worth it.

I do want to say, however, that I think childcare is important. However you swing it, I think it is a good draw and really enhances the flow of the study. We are blessed that the childcare workers at our Parish are paid from parish funds, but I have known other groups that do it through a collection from the group. Honestly, I think it is perfectly legitimate to deduct a portion of your monthly tithe in order to provide childcare for your children and those of the other attendees.

Lastly, I am constantly reassessing whether my commitment to this group is putting a damper on my home or family life, and I think that the line is very thin at this point. At our phase of mommylife, with zillions of cloth diapers to deal with, nursing, and children who still do not sleep through the night, I think it wiser to join an existing group if at all possible. All of this mambo jambo to say, "find something." It will work itself out and the group will be so blessed to have you.

B-Mama said...

Girls, these are such rich ideas--I'm taking hearty notes and am inspired to try some avenues for community. Awol, I hear you on trying to balance the desire for community with the needs of family. Realistically, right now most ventures outside our home take away from my time with the kids, our family, or as a couple with my husband. Perhaps this is a season in life where outside connections are less the focus and I just need to be okay with that?

Mary Alice said...

I think that even in this season you need some time for outside activities, you need to make sure that the activities you do are really worth it. I have found that I have had to drop some things, and add some others, to balance all this.

Juris Mater said...

B-mama, I'm not adding anything new here, but I agree that you need outside activities, with childcare provided, and that it will take some serious patience and time. We've lived here for 3 years now, and I'm just starting to love it because we've finally set, for the most part, some great circles of friends right in our area. Lifelong friends, sisters, lovely couples who we're traveling the journey with. This has been our first move to the great beyond (beyond grad student/established community living), and it's taken fully 3 years.

For starters, once you find another couple who's been here longer and is likeminded, find out who their friends are, find out where they participate in spiritual formation, try to socialize with them in groups, so you're moving out and around a little and casting your nets wide. You and GG are an incredibly magnetic couple, that's a real gift... everywhere you go people want to know you and befriend you, it's just a matter of getting around enough to find those people you long for. Don't chalk it up to an anti-social season in life... it's just how things go when you move, and it's a cross especially for those who thrive on social life!

One more thing, I've been noticing lately how my friendships suffer when I don't have time alone with my friends (sans kids). As you all know, it's flat-out impossible to carry on any type of meaningful conversation with another mother when our 7 combined preschoolers are running around like little barbarians. Playdates are great, but they've become unsatisfying for me socially. I'm making a shift to either (1) bringing along a mother's helper on playdates to manage at least some of the kids, so that I can having a decent conversation with the other mom, and the two families split the cost of the mother's helper or (2) supplementing weekday playdates with weekend/evening social time. Just slipping out from 8-9 in the evening with another mom to have a glass of wine on the porch is enough for me. Then, we have an actual friendship going, so that during the playdates we can enjoy our kids without getting frustrated that we never have a chance to really talk.

beachbabies said...

i am totally sympathetic. I went to a catholic college and stayed in the area after graduating. Later we moved states and i was alone alone alone. i was so hard and very awful. we are back in the area, though, and my life is richer for the old and new friends i have been albe to contact.
where in VA are you? coz if you are in our area, you are more than welcome to join in, really.
if we aren't in the same area, you have my prayer and thoughts.
email me:

Kyra said...

Where do I find community...this website! LOL I am lucky enough to have a lot of family in the area who are moms, and so I start off with my sisters and cousins because I know these are the people I am likely to see the most often with the least amount of effort, and we are often together anyway for playdates.

Although I have people I consider good friends in the area, we seldom get together anymore because my life has become so child-centric there never seems to be occassion for that kind of free time.
One thing I find particularly challenging in my situation is being a single mom in my twenties. The reason being that the demographics of my closest female friends seems to be split between my friends who are married with children, and my friends who are single. I feel like I can't do "couples" events with or relate to my married friends, whereas when I get together with my single, childless friends I can't really relate as well to them anymore either.

This is slightly off topic but I was wondering... we have a situation in our parish right now where young married couples with children are just not present and active or they are leaving in droves because the feel of the parish is just kind of...blah. I was wondering if anyone has experienced a similar situation? How do decide when God is asking you to become more involved in helping the parish thrive vs. when God is calling you to go somewhere else?

Kate E. said...

It has been years since I was a practicing anything, but I still wanted to share a bit of advice from back in my church Youth Group days. We had a nice active group of about 5-7 regular teenagers with usually about 10-12 showing up for various things. One of the things we did was that 3 or 4 of us (boys and girls) would watch the kids I think about twice a month while there was a young mom's bible study group.

So for those who are seeking childcare for a church group maybe you could link up with the teen group at your church? We all loved it, the church (or someone...maybe the mom's?) pitched inf or pizza for us and the kids and it even though I didn't really get it at the time I bet it was a big relief for the moms.

Good luck B-Mama!