A mother’s helper
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
Christian mother’s organization may lend support at a time when it’s most needed
An organization whose beginnings date back to the mid-1800s may have even more relevance today. The title, “Archconfraternity of Christian Mothers” may sound a bit archiac, but the group’s intent is timeless. The mission of the group reads: “The Archconfraterinity of Chrsitian Mothers under the patronage of the Mother of Sorrows aims to lead wives and mothers to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church so that they may be impregnated with the Spirit of the Gospel and radiate the Life of Christ to their families and the world.” In other words, the group proposes that mothers guide the destiny of their children and that they may need some encouragement along the way.
The director of the U.S. component, founded in 1881, is Father Lester Knoll, a Capuchin Franciscan from St. Augustine Province in Pittsburgh, Pa. The Capuchin fathers and brothers have directed the organization since it was erected at St. Augustine’s Church. Additional confraternities may be affiliated with the archconfraternity when the ordinary approves. Since that date in the 1800s, over 3,500 confraternities have been affiliated with the Pittsburgh archconfraternity.
The movement actually began in France in the mid-19th century when a group of mothers began to meet and pray together. They discussed their concerns for their children and rearing them in the faith. The archconfraternity was his first assignment after Father Lester’s ordination. That was 60 years ago. Father Lester recently visited the Syracuse Diocese to promote the organization. He said that today’s busy lives can wreak havoc on family life. “In the typical young family today, the husband and wife both work, the kids may be in school and they need to be chauffeured to all kinds of activities,” Father Lester said. “All of this means a weaker foundation in the family’s faith. We’d like to evangelize mothers so they can, in turn, evangelize families.”
He said there is a hunger for “the spiritual and the Scriptures” and that mothers need support in such a materialistic world. The archconfraternity proposes that through a parish program, mothers of all ages and circumstances can meet one another in a supportive, Christ-centered setting. In the past, many families included grandmothers and aunts who were there to help with the children and to lend a hand. Many times these women served as mentors to the younger mothers. That scenario has become less and less common over the past several decades.
The Archconfraternity of Christian Mothers provides resource materials and easy-to-follow guidelines for getting a parish group up and running. The website alone can provide direction for anyone interested in starting a group. There are three steps recommended: a day of retreat to invoke the aid of the Holy Spirit; teaching the foundation of personal prayer using the Mother Love Prayer Book; and growth in the Catholic faith through sound teaching in small faith communities.
Another reason for the significance of this type of organization today, according to Father Lester, is the need for women to understand how important their role is within the family and society. “Earlier in history, women have had a low self image, less education and an overall negative self image,” Father Lester said. “This organization gives a healthy affirmation of a very important role women have. That is to teach kids how to love and to be love. As they [women] become more aware of that importance, they become more confident and we see them flourish.”
Father Lester is hoping to gather new members across the Syracuse Diocese and is willing to visit and expound upon the history and vision of the Archconfraternity of Christian Mothers. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus has connections with the group as do a few other parishes in the diocese. He said there is a general hunger for Jesus among the population. Individuals try whatever they can to fill a void that can only be satisfied by a personal relationship with Christ.
“They know something is missing,” Father Lester said. “When they were baptized they received the Holy Spirit, so the Lord is very near but they sometimes can’t grasp that.” He recommends getting back to small Christian communities so that women can help support one another as they face challenges that come with raising children today. When the culture of the times presents such conflicting images and lessons, he said, there is no objective truth represented. “Everyone has a strong, clear opinion on something,” Father Lester said smiling. “You do and I do, too. We’re both right. These days you can’t tell someone they’re wrong. It’s impolite.”