By KATIE BORKOWSKI
The Confraternity of Christian Mothers began in 1967 at Church of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Parish in Sioux City with the intent of helping young mothers rear their children.
“They discussed problems they had and solutions,” said Mary Ann Schulte, who now leads the group.
She explained when Nativity Church was built, Father Leo Harpeneau – pastor at the time – announced The Confraternity of Christian Mothers group would start.
“Father Harpeneau had been at a parish before where this (group) was,” she said. “I belonged at that time but wasn’t active, because I was working. I wasn’t active until years later.”
The group has now evolved into the Mater Dei Confraternity of Christian Mothers comprised of mothers and grandmothers.
“As time went on, mothers went to work, so it became more grandmothers who were the members and more of a social group,” said Schulte.
The women meet at 9 a.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at Mater Dei – Nativity Parish Center to share a Mass together, breakfast, a short sharing of their faith, prayer for the concerns of members and fellowship.
After breakfast, said Schulte, the hostess committee has a short spiritual program with information to help the women.
Schulte leads the group and Lois Wilkerson is the treasurer of the Confraternity of Christian Mothers. One charity the group supports is Mary’s Choice.
Schulte attributes the longevity of the group to the camaraderie of the women.
“The ladies like to see each other and spend time, especially going to Mass together,” she said. “Many of the programs are very spiritual and help us in making decisions during the day. Some of them solve problems for us. We like to have discussions.”
Any women over the age of 18, even if not married, is encouraged to be a member of the confraternity. The unmarried members are considered associate members. New members are received into the group in May.
There are about 25 to 30 women who usually attend. The age range of the members is from about 30 (young mothers, who can’t always attend) to the age of 90.
“We have a lot of members who are deceased or have moved out of state,” said Schulte. “When you join the Confraternity of Christian Mothers, you are always a member, even if you move out of state. You don’t have to join again at another parish.”
When a member of the confraternity dies, a Mass is celebrated for them as well as the Confraternity of Christians Mothers praying the rosary at the woman’s wake.
The yearly membership fee is $3, which helps “to say the Masses, the postage for a letter that goes out to the membership and any other incidentals,” said Schulte.
History of the confraternity
The Confraternity of Christian Mothers sprang up from the needs of a group of mothers in France. It was at a time about the middle of the 19th century, when the modern forces undermining family life began to seriously challenge Catholic values.
A few mothers began to meet and talk about the struggles they all were facing. Together they prayed for a solution. They talked about their problems in raising their children and prayed for one another. In mutual concern and prayers, they found the courage to carry out their important vocation (Mother Love Prayer Book, page 8).
The movement gradually solidified, and on May 1, 1850, the first conference of Christian Mothers was held in Lille, France. Louise Josson de Bilhem, one of the original women who met, became the selected leader. Over time, the French mothers sought and received recognition from their bishop for the growing organization. Once that approval was given, the organization grew rapidly throughout France and neighboring countries, and soon more than a million women were enrolled as members (Mother Love Prayer Book pages i and 9).
When Capuchin Franciscans came to the United States to minister to German immigrants, they brought along the popular organization for mothers. On Jan. 16, 1881, the Confraternity of Christian Mothers was canonically erected at Pittsburgh, Pa. Later it was raised to the rank of an Archconfraternity. The Capuchins have staffed the central office of the organization throughout the years (Mother Love Prayer Book, page 9).
For more information or to become a member of the Confraternity of Christian Mothers, contact the Mater Dei Church office at (712) 276-4821.