A friend of mine who was recently ordained a transitional deacon asked me to post in the Facebook group, “What can the clergy do to support young moms?”
Our hope is that this can be a resource for you to share with your parish and pastor to better support young moms and the future of the Catholic Church.
These are the responses of over 500 young Catholic moms from all over the country and the world.
Note: Some of these responses were edited for grammar and clarity, but remain true to the message they were trying to say.
We want community and formation.
- Make a group for young families (prayer and potluck or similar) to foster community
- I can’t stand how “young adult” events are almost always single mixers…what about the people who aren’t single and looking for a spouse? It’s like we don’t exist anymore once we get married – there are singles events for the young, and then the rest of the groups are made up of people who are part of a significantly older generation.
- I could manage while I was single and only had two kiddos – my family would watch the kids… But as soon as I was married, and subsequent babies came along, the dynamics COMPLETELY changed. It was like, “Oh good, you found a husband. Excellent! Job well done. Go forth and be fruitful and forsake all community events because they’re only for singles or singles who are looking. Also, we don’t provide childcare, or any support, or encourage young moms or dads groups, so you’re on your own.”
- I went to a retreat for young mothers during Lent and it was amazing. It was a full day. They offered babysitting for older kids, nursing babies could stay with mom. Breakfast and lunch were provided. And the priest who was there just gave a few LEGIT theological lectures based on Scripture, which really fueled the intellect. And they offered Confession and Mass. The rest of the time, moms were able to just sit in the quiet to read, journal, pray — whatever we wanted. It was so fruitful because it met us where we were, but also fed our brains with talk beyond motherhood and gave us a focused space to be immersed in the sacraments.
- Parish sponsored young mom weekly coffee dates/bible studies where the kids can play in the nursery and the moms can grow in communion.
- Actively promote young moms groups (like during baptism prep) and offer up parish space if available for them to meet.
- Life groups/bible studies! Protestant churches do this amazingly and it gives everyone a sense of community AND learn the Bible.
- Our parish has a young adults event once a month. High school students (with supervision of an adult) watch kids 1+ at the school (babies are welcome at the event) and the event is held at a parish member’s house nearby. They have snacks and drinks and a speaker on various topics. We have a Catholic college in town so we get a lot of the professors to give talks or various priests. They also give talks on vary hard subjects, birth control, the church scandals, etc. but being willing to have deep meaningful talks and conversations about the difficult things makes it so much easier to have fruitful conversations with the Church and understanding. After the talk, you can go pick up your kids and come back and just hang out! It is for young adults of all ages but the childcare is gold for young families!!!
Do you want us to come to Mass or not?
- Just be super supportive of bringing babies.
- Have a culture that accepts families & babies at Mass!! Welcome us & don’t make us feel like we need to run out each time our kid makes a peep.
- Just being supportive to young kids. My son has a hard time in church and our parish is full of older people and there are less than 5 young kids (5 and under) in church since the moment a kid makes a noise, people glare at them or make comments like “he was sure rambunctious today.”
- After every Mass, our priest thanks families with young children for being there and to not be ashamed of screaming kids… they’re just prepping their lungs for joining the choir. It’s a great reminder not only for us but also other parishioners without young kids that young kids still belong at Mass.
- The old people that think there should be no kids in church need to hear from their priest repeatedly that babies and toddlers belong in church (unless they are truly melting down and we all know as moms when that is).
- Just be supportive of young kids in general. Thank parents for bringing their kids to Mass. Don’t give stink eyes/stop the liturgy to chastise crying kids. Encourage parents to keep their kids in the sanctuary during Mass instead of mentioning the cry room at every opportunity.
- Encourage them after Mass but more so from the pulpit so it’s public so other parishioners know that the children and babies are welcome. This can reduce comments from annoyed parishioners if they know Father wants the children there.
- I think acknowledging that it’s hard and that we are as welcome in Mass with our kiddos as everyone else.
“Let the children come to me.”
- There is a little play area outside that the kids all run to.
- I’ve seen at some parishes a book shelf or small totes with children’s books and quiet toys. That would be nice to have.
- I love the big backyard space attached to our parish hall. We can see them playing and it’s totally fenced and safe.
- We want fenced-in play areas attached to parish halls!!!!!! We are talking about the lifeblood of the parish here.
- Have family friendly events/service opportunities at the parish.
- A lot of people have mentioned babysitting for talks etc. which I think is a great idea but also just having the mindset that kids are welcome also at those talks is a great way to do it.
- The mindset is the biggie for me. I’ve been to parishes where they weren’t welcoming to children (which is mind boggling!) and I’m currently at a parish where kids are embraced. It’s not even a question anymore if my kids can tag along because they’re just as much, if not more than, welcome and worthy. And also not knocking babysitting! Some events really are easier to focus on if someone else is minding kids, but it takes pressure off you if you know your kids are welcome.
We want childcare.
- My husband and I will go to any speaker/event at the parish if there is free babysitting.
- Getting a babysitter for anything means dropping $50-100. If there is no childcare, we can’t go.
- Confession with babysitting. Faith formation with babysitting. Mass with babysitting. EVERYTHING with babysitting. That is all 🙂 lol. Seriously though.
- Provide childcare for young adult events. They often have neat events for 18-35 year olds, but at the same time, encourage young people to get married and have big families early. Not fair when those who do can’t go to fun things with others their age – all because they did the “right”/church encouraged thing.
- Try your best to have childcare available for parish events that would be good for young families. In my city, a parish does a marriage enrichment/family month long seminar with dinner but no childcare is provided, so no young families come.
- A nursery for during Mass, at least sometimes! I know we want our kids in Mass with us but every once in a while it’d be nice to get to really focus.
- I would love to have childcare so I can give of my time and be involved in more at my church.
- Be friends with young parents.
- Spend time with the families.
- I think if I could ask for one thing from my pastor it would be to feel befriended. There are so many things that people tell you to “ask your priest” about but if I just see him at Mass and don’t build a friendship then it’s hard to feel comfortable and safe asking him things. So maybe just being accessible?
- Just… talk to us. Get to know us personally. We feel so forgotten in the pews (cause we’re rarely in them due to chasing a toddler). I personally love building relationships with our priests and it’s hard for me to find an easy way.
- I feel supported when the clergy does simple things like give my kids high fives & are friendly with them.
- What I love about my priest is that he has such a good relationship with families and kids in the parish. He will talk & hang out with older kids after mass, play with babies, talk to couples, etc. It’s really cool to see him interacting families and EVERYBODY. It really makes you feel welcomed.
- If parishioners invite you to a social thing, go if you possibly can! They want to develop relationships with you and want their kids to do the same! I’ve had a lot of priests turn us down consistently (I’m sure because they’re so busy,) but it makes a big difference. If you’re invited to a birthday party for a kid you baptized and show up, laugh, eat, and just be your happy human self, it speaks volumes to everyone there and long term encourages vocations to the priesthood because it reminds people that priests have fun and make real connections with people too!
Mass is hard.
- A lactation space to nurse discreetly for those who want it/have noisy eaters.
- Our parish does a kids coloring bulletin each week.
- Mass helpers. Older kids who are gifted with babies, teens, young adults, old grannies… Make themselves available during Mass to help hold and sooth kids, especially in big families. Something as easy as a name tag to identify their openness to helping a family and taking the awkward out of families asking someone for an extra hand. If ushers and KC’s can wear name tags, why not another group of people? 😜 I feel like this would go a long way to building intergenerational community in a parish.
- Encouraging and supporting children at mass and the sacraments. Cry room with plenty of space where babies won’t disturb others. LABEL the cry room. Not an overflow room. Not for those who are late or want to enhance their hearing aids. Not for the 9 extended family members of one toddler.
- Cry rooms add pressure, stress, and embarrassment. Be openly happy when you hear and see babies and young children in the congregation.
- Have a wiggle room instead of a cry room and have it set up in a way that works for moms (enough space, have toys, make it easy to hear the service etc.)
- My parish has coffee in the parish Hall after every Mass.
- Our priest records his homilies – I can’t hardly pay attention when I have the kids with me
Baptism is hard.
- I was recovering from birth, not sleeping at night, and learning how to take care of a brand new baby, and it was so difficult for the baptism to actually happen because of all the hoops we had to jump through. I just wanted my baby baptized.
- Make it easier to access the sacraments!!
- Babysitting during meetings/classes. Children are not allowed at baptism classes or first communion prep classes so that discourages many parents.
- How am I supposed to get my baby baptized if babies aren’t allowed at the class but my baby is breastfeeding?
- Make it as easy as possible for new parents to baptize their babies. One class every other month and having to come into the church office to get forms between the hours of 10 and 3 are not helpful.
- No formal baptism class—each couple must meet with Father and discuss their intent to baptize, etc. and he might do some catechesis in that meeting (if necessary). But for big families that have had like 6 kids baptized, I don’t think he even meets with them…..easy to schedule and there’s no red bureaucratic tape. I’m not saying to get rid of the catechesis or classes–because many couples are uncatechized but to make it more personal and easy to access. So many times I hear of babies going unbaptized because a class stands in the way—and these are devout, catechized Catholics.
- Make baptisms feel welcoming. We just had our son baptized, and it felt really isolated after Mass, without even an announcement to the parish that a new soul was being welcomed into our community.
Confession is hard.
- It’s really hard for us to make it to early morning and Saturday afternoon confession.
- Confession at a non-dinner/nap time. Even better- confession with babysitting.
- Confession play dates. They started doing them every so often around here. You take turns with other moms going to confession and watching kids either at a house or at a church (and the priest makes the hall available for kids to play).
- Childcare available during confessions AND confessions offered throughout the week at all different times of day – nothing like trying to juggle kids, confession lines, and nap schedules all at once!
We want to pray.
- Events like child friendly adoration.
- Perhaps a mom-friendly adoration hour where young children are welcome…we avoid holy hours because our toddlers would be way too loud!
- Family friendly adoration where it’s okay to have loud kids/crying babies, etc.
- Family Holy Hours and family Rosaries or Divine Mercy Chaplet. Of course we can always do these prayers at home, but I also want my kids to be around the Church and people who love the Church so that it feels like home, not just a place we go on Sundays.
- Child friendly adoration times. That doesn’t mean child care, although that could be an option, but a time when nursing mothers can bring their babies and not be anxious the whole time about disrupting others.
- Reach out to them, sometimes nobody does.
- All priests should get a referral list of trusted mental health providers.
- Organizing a group of people who can go make home visits to help moms clean, babysit, cook, etc. Let’s get the community to help out young moms in the trenches!
- Have a ministry to organize meal trains for new moms. Some have no family or friends around, especially if they’re new to the parish, so they don’t have anyone bringing meals postpartum.
- Home visits to new moms or pregnant bedridden moms so that they can receive the Sacraments and have adult conversations while not having to worry about going out
- Encourage the parish to make scheduled home visits to moms of young children to help out in any way (ie cleaning, cooking, watching older ones, having an adult conversation with the mom, take care of baby so mom can nap/shower/have alone time).
- Would it be too much to ask for someone to organize meal trains or a welcome wagon of sorts for families with new babies or a major life change? Not everyone has a group of close friends able to help them out this way, and to be able to reach out to your parish and say, hey… please help… Again, this would have people meeting and helping people, and supporting families with young children and babies.
Natural Family Planning
- NFP resources. If they don’t want us using birth control, help us and make it easily accessible to learn.
- Understand the different methods of NFP and why many couples struggle with it. Most priests are just told the very basics and it makes it difficult to speak to a priest who has no concept of the struggle of having an unplanned pregnancy when trying to avoid using (and following the rules of) NFP.
- Provide NFP resources regarding the different types and contact info for instructors.
- Talking about different types of NFP, and maybe even offering help to those who can’t afford to pay for a class.
- Acknowledge the fact that NFP is expensive and birth control is free. So many priests preach about NFP and truly have no idea what they are talking about. Not to mention, young couples typically don’t have the funds to pay extra. Finding ways to financially support young couples practicing NFP would go a long way.
- I never hear about NFP at church. And have really only found support online in Facebook groups. I recently had a mom tell me NFP was too hard postpartum and because they were done having kids her husband got a vasectomy. When I told her I was using Marquette and how easy it was, she just stared at me like she didn’t know that was an option. I don’t think she had any support from anyone else.
Working moms need support too.
- Young adult events in the evening/weekend for working parents. My parish has evening/weekend sports leagues and monthly theology talks that are awesome and make it easy to bring kids to most of the time.
- Do things during times when working moms can come. Especially adoration and young adult group type stuff. Our parish just started young adult group board game night with childcare provided and it was awesome to have community. 🙂
- Not shaming working moms or parents who can’t afford Catholic school or choose to not homeschool. It’s really hard working and existing in the secular world, and bridging the two.
- Mom’s groups outside of 10am because not every mom can make that.
- When daily Mass is at 8am, it’s like you’re telling all working people that you don’t want us here.
Maternity leave for parish staff.
- As one who works for the Church, it’d be very helpful to have maternity leave instead of having to take sick days for leave. And also to recognize that my primary vocation is still my family, not working for the Church.
- I’ve had to take vacation days for both my kids. And then it just got changed this year that we have to use all our vacation days every year so we can’t roll them over anymore. Now only sick days can be accrued. But they don’t accrue as quickly as vacation which is really really frustrating to me.
- I won’t have enough sick time for a real maternity leave until I’ve worked here for three years and that’s if I don’t use any until that point
Dads need support too.
- I know the question is specifically about moms BUT it helps moms if their husbands have some kind of faith based support/fellowship group with other young married men!!
- Young dads need friends too!
- Monthly Husbands+Dads group. Helping the men understand how to be a Joseph to their wife and family; and giving the guys a place to find support and gain ideas on enjoying life as they balance all that is expected of them as the spiritual leader, (co-)provider, etc.
- Have a changing table in BOTH women’s and men’s washrooms if there isn’t one.
- Offer spiritual direction.
- Have memorial Masses for miscarried babies.
- All the daily Mass times around here are geared toward retired people.
- A few years ago my parish advertised that the priest would give a special blessing to any expecting mother who asked for one, using a beautiful rite—this could be offered for pregnancy and other things as well.
- Good ideas are being rejected for the sake of old people not changing, and needs aren’t being realized! So many people have allergies! No one cares…. so the young families leave.
We still want community and formation. We would like the sacraments to be more accessible. Please help our families feel welcome. We need your support.
Thank you so much for asking.
I am making a blog post of responses from priests so that we can build the bridge and have this important conversation. Please share this post with your parish and pastor, and ask them to consider emailing me at email@example.com to add their feedback to the next blog post. I was hoping to post it this week, but I only have a couple responses so far.
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I’m looking forward to chatting with you next time! Until then, let’s take small simple steps towards being more intentional.