For the past 20 years, thousands of women throughout the United States have benefited from a ministry geared specifically toward their sacred role as mother.

National Staff of Ministry of Mothers Sharing — Sr. Paula Hagen, Jean Glaraton and Mary Boespflug, national director.

Ministry of Mothers Sharing is a national women’s prayer group sponsored by the Benedictine Sisters of St. Paul’s Monastery in St. Paul, Minn.

A 20th anniversary benefit and celebration at St. Patrick’s Church in Scottsdale, Sept. 8, is expected to draw hundreds of women for an afternoon of stories, speeches and memories.

Past, present and interested mothers are invited to the party, which begins at 2:30 p.m. The $20 registration fee will directly benefit the ministry.

In 1986 Sr. Paula Hagen, OSB, founded the effort at St. Timothy Parish in Mesa, responding to new mothers wanting to meet each other. It is estimated that half a million women in more than 100 dioceses since 1992 have experienced the peer ministry that involves prayer, study and fellowship.

“It has been a real grace and blessing for me to meet and work with so many very talented women in the leadership that has evolved around the United States,” said Sr. Paula. “Ministry of Mothers Sharing was the first step to helping hundreds of women realize that they truly were ‘Called and Gifted’ to serve Christ in their vocation of motherhood.”

The ecumenical, parish-based program, co-created by Vickie Jennett and Tricia Hoyt, is based on the theology of “Called and Gifted for the third Millennium.”

In the two decades since its start, the ministry has developed outreach programs, has nearly completed a Spanish-language component and has also dropped its famous MOM acronym.

It is now known simply as “the ministry” to avoid confusion with mom-and-tot social groups, and to increase awareness that it is a ministry open to any mother; step-mothers, widows, grandmothers; mothers of adopted children; mothers of young children and mothers of adult-age children.

“Women need to experience, in a faith community, the kind of hospitality that goes beyond coffee and doughnuts. They need to know they belong,” Hoyt said. “They need to know that in their parish a community of people genuinely care about them, will support them, can pray with them, and will be there if there is a need. This ministry provides that.”

The eight-week program seeks to help women with their spiritual identity while building self-esteem. Participants form a network of spiritual support where they can easily share, pray and minister to each other while learning how to communicate and use prayer rituals in their families.

Sr. Paula said parish communities benefit as a result of offering the ministry because family spirituality grows, and participants of the program move on to other parish ministries, or train to lead a new group of women entering the program.

After completing her initial training, Mary Carrillo facilitated a group in 2005 at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Avondale as a way to support friendships. Delighted with her experience, she also helped St. Clare of Assisi in Surprise form a ministry.

Carrillo experienced herself how the ministry references the sacredness and value of each mother, builds trust and support among members and leads to deeper understanding of their faith.

“We can see other women at church, but we don’t get to know them until we sit across from them, in a safe and intimate space, and hear their fears and struggles,” Carrillo said. “It’s a powerful opportunity to be loved and love one another.”

For the past four years, Carrillo, along with the support of several Valley parishes, has done an outreach ministry at The Michael House in Glendale, which serves pregnant, homeless mothers and their babies.

“The sacredness of motherhood crosses all kinds of boundaries. We can relate to these women because we are all mothers, and they don’t have to be Catholic to understand we care,” she said. “Because of the relational aspect, bonds are created in this ministry. It’s a support system of Catholic mothers, and you can never have too many Catholic moms.”

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‘The ministry’

The 20th anniversary benefit and celebration of Ministry of Mothers Sharing will take place 2:30-4:30 p.m., Sept. 8, at St. Patrick Parish in Scottsdale, in Fenlon Hospitality Center.

The $20 registration fee may be sent to: St Patrick Catholic Community, 10815 N. 84th St., Scottsdale, AZ, 85260, or call Mary Jo McLaughlin at (602) 957-8949.