Priests’ moms find peace within group

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To find out more about the group, contact Rita Lee at ritaclee@me.com.

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Carla Sperry never expected to be looked at as an expert in the Catholic faith. “Sometimes, even when my son was in the seminary, people would come up to me and say, ‘Oh, you’re the mother of a seminarian!’ and they would think that I would know so much about our religion.”

A growing group of moms is finding solidarity with other mothers who not only understand that, but ride the same roller coaster of emotions as their children further discern or live a religious vocation. Sperry, whose son — Fr. Scott Michael Sperry — was ordained to the priesthood last year, is part of this group of moms who cling to their rosaries and each other every first Saturday of the month.

The group doesn’t have a formal name, but its purpose is clear: to pray the Joyful Mysteries for their children discerning or living a religious vocation.

Rita Lee prays silently near her son, transitional Dcn. Ryan Lee, shortly after his ordination May 31. Lee organized a prayer group for moms whose children are discerning religious vocations. (Catholic Sun file photo)
Rita Lee prays silently near her son, transitional Dcn. Ryan Lee, shortly after his ordination May 31. Lee organized a prayer group for moms whose children are discerning religious vocations. (Catholic Sun file photo)

Rita Lee, a parishioner of St. Thomas the Apostle in Phoenix and the group’s founder, sits right in the middle of the group’s target audience. Herson, Dcn. Ryan Lee, is in his final year of discerning the priesthood and is living the vows of a deacon in that transition period. She learned during annual meetings of seminarian parents with the diocesan vocations director that some mothers felt sad about their sons’ calling, while others felt mad and many felt blessed.

“Fast forward a number of years and I guess the Holy Spirit finally spoke to me and gave me the grace to think that possibly we could come together as a group of mothers of seminarians, priests and religious, to pray specifically the rosary for our children,” Lee said.

The group currently consists of 30-35 members, who meet at a different parish each month, ensuring that no one has to consistently drive a long distance.

Anne Sanfilippo, a parishioner of St. Bernard of Clairvaux in Scottsdale, enjoys interacting with mothers of newly ordained priests and seminarians in the group. Her son, Fr. David Sanfilippo, has been a priest for 21 years and currently serves as the diocese’s Vicar of Priests.

“If they have any questions, it’s nice that they have somebody to fall back on … to say, ‘I’m feeling kind of sad and happy at the same time about the vocation. Did you feel that?’ And yes we did,” she said. “In our humanity, in our worldly thinking, we tend to think of it as a loss, but in the heavenly thinking, it’s truly, truly a blessing beyond words.”

Mothers who attend the meetings come to talk and laugh but mainly to pray. “We came together and we wanted to have our main focus be specifically on prayer, we didn’t want to be just another social group,” Lee said. “We pray the Rosary and we talk about problems, issues, challenges or graces that we or our children might have.”

Patty Bolding, co-organizer of the group, noted that the group meetings help ease her worries about her son, Fr. Robert Bolding, who serves as the President Rector of St. Mary’s High School.

“There’s nothing you can do for them, other than pray for them, so that’s probably what this group has been most rewarding for,” she said.

All mothers are welcome to join the group, Lee said, “Every mother whose son is a priest or seminarian anywhere in the world, any mom whose daughter is a consecrated religious, all are very welcome to join our group and we would love to have them.”

— By Lindsay Wantland

 

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