When her last son was about to begin his senior year of high school, Laurel Howanitz suddenly became frozen with fear about the looming prospect of empty nesting. "How will I handle being alone? Will I find new purpose?" she wondered.
Laurel's family moves often for her husband's work and she values the faith-based friendships she makes in each new city. To allay her new fear of empty-nesting, Laurel, who knew no one at the time, asked for and received permission at her parish to invite women to gather to pray for their college-aged young adults. Her initiative resulted in the founding Praying College Moms-- a Catholic support group for women whose purpose is to pray to "keep our college kids Catholic!" she says. The ministry, which began in Vienna, VA, has grown to many parts of Virginia, Texas, New York, North Dakota, and Mexico.
"Six years ago, I prayed and prayed someone would show up for the first meeting," Laurel says. "We now have monthly rosaries, yearly retreats and seminars, have started a National Prayer for College Students Day, send care packages to our own students as well as to homeless college students, and we are even going to print our books, And So We Pray 1 & 2 in Spanish! Who knew the direction Praying College Moms would take?" she said.
Praying College Moms turn to Our Lord--the Almighty, the Omniscient One, Pure Love--the best parenting guide we have. Our Lord directs us in prayer, and, sometimes...often, in fact...He sends us the kind of help we're looking for through the supportive words or the gentle touch of a friend. There's nothing like the wise counsel of another praying college mom--someone with a connection to Our Father, a desire to parent well, and the willingness to be a good listener and friend.
Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10 affirms this: "Two are better than one...If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one. But woe to the solitary person! If that one should fall, there is no other to help."
When we gather together as friends, Christ is present and working for our benefit. Our friendships deepen. We feel accompanied in our sorrows and our joys. Our Lord encourages our mutual support of each other. So does Pope Francis!
In many societies, we are experiencing a profound poverty of relationships as a result of the lack of solid family and community relationships. We are concerned by the various types of hardship, marginalization, isolation and various forms of pathological dependencies which we see increasing. This kind of poverty can be overcome only through the rediscovery and valuing of fraternal relationships in the heart of families and communities, through the sharing of joys and sorrows, of the hardships and triumphs that are a part of human life. (12/8/13)
Let's be community-builders, helpmates and friends in our homes, neighborhoods, and parishes. Our lives will be enriched and the Lord's kingdom will grow...and grow...and grow.
PS. I need your support! Please write to me with your stories of success or sorrrow (or both). Names are changed to protect your privacy. By sharing your experiences with me, you will be helping other moms, for I am actively writing book 3 for Praying College Moms.