Janine McCarron, Cynthia Wallace and Kelly Keifer of St. James Parish, Pennington, are enthusiastic about the Moms of Teens Ministry, which they say, is all about “parenting teens and drawing from our Catholic faith.” Jennifer Mauro photo
Janine McCarron, Cynthia Wallace and Kelly Keifer of St. James Parish, Pennington, are enthusiastic about the Moms of Teens Ministry, which they say, is all about “parenting teens and drawing from our Catholic faith.” Jennifer Mauro photo

By Jennifer Mauro | Managing Editor

“An Army of Moms.”

Those are the words three women of Pennington’s St. James Parish use to affectionately describe the Moms of Teens Ministry in the Catholic Community of Hopewell Valley. After all, it takes a village to raise a family – a faith-based village.

“The community is critical to the success for all of us. That’s one of the beautiful parts of being Catholic,” said Kelly Keifer, who, along with parishioners Janine McCarron and Cynthia Wallace, started the Moms of Teens ministry three years ago.

The group gathers monthly at noon in St. James Church, which makes up the Catholic Community of Hopewell Valley along with the linked parishes of St. George, Titusville, and St. Alphonsus, Hopewell. Meetings begin with a potluck lunch and conversation, followed by prayer and spiritual reflections and exercises based on materials such as the teachings of Pope Francis and resources from Ascension Press, Formed and Nooma, to name a few.

“It’s a structured but casual setting. We never wanted the moms to have homework. We’re busy enough,” Wallace said with a laugh.

All three women have more than one child: Keifer is mother to two teenage boys, McCarron has four children ranging in age from 7 to 19, and Wallace has three children, ages 11-17. The women are all also involved in various ministries in the parish.

Gathering together, they say, allows mothers in the group to discuss what issues their children are facing at school and in the community, share concerns about social media and how to encourage their children to be involved in youth ministry and keep kids active in Church after Confirmation.

“The main focus is parenting teens and drawing from our Catholic faith,” McCarron said.

Wallace agreed. “Our kids are coming home with serious questions from the secular world. How do we help guide them to follow a faith-based life? That’s really how this group started.”

In creating the ministry, the women researched Catholic and Christian-based materials, and consulted those in the parish with religious education and formation experience.

McCarron stressed that forming a curriculum was – and still is – all about tapping into resources. “Sometimes we do have questions that are beyond what the three of us can answer. We don’t have all the answers,” she said, explaining, for example, that the group has had a priest speak at one of the meetings.

Faith is always forefront, Wallace agreed. “We focus on what God wants us to do and how we follow Jesus.”

Added Keifer, “We’re walking the same walk, facing the same issues. We need camaraderie as mothers. That helps us when we have to get in the trenches. We’re able to build each other up.”

It’s also a friendly boost when the ministry’s members happen upon each other in everyday life.

“It’s just a delight to see all the other moms from our group with their children and spouses at church or out in public,” McCarron said. “I wouldn’t know these moms otherwise because our kids don’t all go to the same schools or play the same sports.”

Keifer encourages mothers who may be interested in starting a group at their own parish to attend a meeting in St. James Church when the ministry starts up again in the fall. “Join us and see what it’s about,” she said. “Hopefully, they’ll be inspired to copy what we’re doing – there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel.”

Wallace agreed. “You don’t have to be a theologian. We are all learning – we’re all on this journey together. If you have the desire, just do it.”

For more information on the Moms of Teens Ministry, visit stjamespennington.org/moms-of-teens-ministry.