Dorothy Pilarski, left, the driving force behind the Catholic Moms’ ministry in the Archdiocese of Toronto, with the mothers’ group at St. Vincent de Paul parish. Photo by Jean Ko Din

Mothers in action: Catholic moms a growing ministry in Toronto

  • May 8, 2016

TORONTO – Catholic Moms is a growing ministry in the Archdiocese of Toronto that is bringing together women looking to grow in their spiritual life and put their faith into action.

In one short year, about 20 groups have been formed in parishes around the archdiocese and a few more are on the way. Rema Celio is a group facilitator at St. Benedict’s parish in Etobicoke, one of the largest groups in the archdiocese with 25 active members. Celio said since the group was formed last July, the ministry has not only benefitted its members, but the rest of the parish as well.

“Women who normally wouldn’t be involved have come out and have made this their thing that they are going to do,” said Celio. “It feels like I’m getting more entrenched in the community.”

The Catholic Moms group ministry is the brainchild of Dorothy Pilarski, founder of the annual Dynamic Women of Faith conference. She knows the benefits of forming these friendships firsthand. Pilarski has been facilitating her own mothers’ group around her kitchen table for more than 20 years. In March 2014, Pilarski met with Fr. Ivan Camilleri, director of the Spiritual Affairs office in the archdiocese, to help make her vision a reality. 

“The vision is that there won’t be a single mother in the Archdiocese of Toronto that won’t have access to a Catholic Moms’ group,” said Pilarski.

At St. Benedict’s, the Christmas season was one of the highlights for the group’s first year together. During one of its meetings in Advent, the mothers were brainstorming ideas for what they wanted to do with their families. They decided to collaborate with the St. Vincent de Paul Society to organize a Christmas food drive. It was the parish’s largest food drive to date.

Celio said she gets a lot of great ideas for activities and projects that the mothers want to contribute to. The next project is to put together care packages to give to local women’s shelters in the fall.

Celio said the group has been an outlet for many of the mothers in her parish. Each first Tuesday of the month, they gather to pray the rosary, share ideas and support each other.

Occasionally, the group also invites speakers to its meetings. Past speakers have included Enza Rattenni, executive director of Aid to Women, and Linda Weisz, a bereavement counsellor. Last month, Deacon Doug McManaman talked about his new book, The Logic of Anger.

“I had no idea that this (group) would affect me the way that it has,” said Celio. “I have forged some really great friendships with a lot of women that I would just normally see in passing and have become so dear to me in so many ways.”

With support from Camilleri’s office, Pilarski is working to host more training workshops and formation meetings for women who are interested in starting a group in their own parishes.

“One of our main goals too is to improve the relationship between the parishes and the schools,” said Pilarski.

“To try to engage mothers that don’t have a lively sacramental life but maybe they’d come out to the moms’ group.”

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