Do you feel alone sometimes while your son is on this path of discernment? Hopefully, this blog is one way for you to see that you are not alone and that other parents have had the same concerns and worries, hopes and dreams for their son. The first Meet the Parents post on this blog was about taking advantage of any opportunities your diocese provides for parents to meet or attend other events like ordinations.
If the idea of a group of parents is too much, your vocation director can put you in touch with 1 or more parents that can address your individual concerns. You will be surprised how “normal” the parents of seminarians can be. The post Objection Series: “How could this happen in our family? We aren’t the model Catholic family!” can give you a preview of what other families of seminarians are like.
This post takes a different view of the experience of parents as they follow their son on his discernment/vocation journey.
This article appeared in the Catholic Sun, a newspaper for the diocese of Phoenix AZ in November 2015.
Priests’ Moms Find Peace Within Group
Carla Sperry never expected to be looked at as an expert in the Catholic faith. “Sometimes, even when my son was in the seminary, people would come up to me and say, ‘Oh, you’re the mother of a seminarian!’ and they would think that I would know so much about our religion.”
A growing group of moms is finding solidarity with other mothers who not only understand that, but ride the same roller coaster of emotions as their children further discern or live a religious vocation. Sperry, whose son — Fr. Scott Michael Sperry — was ordained to the priesthood last year, is part of this group of moms who cling to their rosaries and each other every first Saturday of the month.
The group doesn’t have a formal name, but its purpose is clear: to pray the Joyful Mysteries for their children discerning or living a religious vocation.
Rita Lee, a parishioner of St. Thomas the Apostle in Phoenix and the group’s founder, sits right in the middle of the group’s target audience. Her son, Dcn. Ryan Lee, is in his final year of discerning the priesthood and is living the vows of a deacon in that transition period. She learned during annual meetings of seminarian parents with the diocesan vocations director that some mothers felt sad about their sons’ calling, while others felt mad and many felt blessed.
“Fast forward a number of years and I guess the Holy Spirit finally spoke to me and gave me the grace to think that possibly we could come together as a group of mothers of seminarians, priests and religious, to pray specifically the rosary for our children,” Lee said.
The group currently consists of 30-35 members, who meet at a different parish each month, ensuring that no one has to consistently drive a long distance.
Anne Sanfilippo, a parishioner of St. Bernard of Clairvaux in Scottsdale, enjoys interacting with mothers of newly ordained priests and seminarians in the group. Her son, Fr. David Sanfilippo, has been a priest for 21 years and currently serves as the diocese’s Vicar of Priests.
“If they have any questions, it’s nice that they have somebody to fall back on … to say, ‘I’m feeling kind of sad and happy at the same time about the vocation. Did you feel that?’ And yes we did,” she said. “In our humanity, in our worldly thinking, we tend to think of it as a loss, but in the heavenly thinking, it’s truly, truly a blessing beyond words.”
Mothers who attend the meetings come to talk and laugh but mainly to pray. “We came together and we wanted to have our main focus be specifically on prayer, we didn’t want to be just another social group,” Lee said. “We pray the Rosary and we talk about problems, issues, challenges or graces that we or our children might have.”
“There’s nothing you can do for them, other than pray for them, so that’s probably what this group has been most rewarding for,” she said.
All mothers are welcome to join the group, Lee said, “Every mother whose son is a priest or seminarian anywhere in the world, any mom whose daughter is a consecrated religious, all are very welcome to join our group and we would love to have them.”
— By Lindsay Wantland