A recent story out of the United Kingdom made the kind of headlines you hope never to read — especially right before Mother’s Day. A woman, apparently desperate for a fourth child, forced her 13-year-old adopted daughter to artificially inseminate herself with semen purchased over the Internet. Six attempts, two years and one miscarriage later, the then-16-year-old daughter gave birth to a baby boy. The mother later was sentenced to five years in prison for child cruelty. There was no mention of what happened to her children. 

Supporting mothers who are balancing the demands of everyday life along with the challenges of passing on the Faith is a full-time challenge.

Alarming stories such as these show motherhood to be in crisis, and they underscore how critical faithful, loving mothers are in today’s society. Faithful parents are the key to providing a faith-filled response to an increasingly secularist and immoral culture, experts say. And if parents are the key, mothers are the brass. They are the natural nurturers, the traditional passers-on of the Faith. 

Embracing this traditional role of motherhood these days often is seen, via a secular-world lens, as taking two steps backward. But the qualities most needed (and most lacking) in this secular world — patience, commitment and gentleness — are the qualities found in faithful mothers. 

Building upon these qualities, mothers become the nurturing crux of the family cell — a journey that requires effort both on the part of mothers and on the part of the Church. Mothers must exhibit both a willing, steadfast commitment to the Faith — one exemplified in the Blessed Mother’s ready and willing “yes” to God — and in turn they need the support of the Church in practical and spiritual ways. 

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A mother holds her children during Mass in 2011 at Jesus the Divine Word Church in Huntingtown, Md. CNS photo/Bob Roller

For mothers, Mary is the key. As the first Christian and one conceived without sin, she’s the “go-to example” for holiness and spiritual growth. But in order for mothers to be effective witnesses to the Faith, they also need catechesis. This means being educated in the Faith beyond “pre-Cana” and baptism classes. Parishes must prioritize consistent, quality adult faith formation opportunities, including time for questions and answers. During these programs, parish-provided day care is critical. If resources are available, older children can participate in their own faith lessons, thereby providing mothers with an organic faith-based conversation starter. 

In the pews, mothers must be supported, too. A heated exchange raged through the blogosphere recently about the presence of children at Mass. While particular circumstances may vary from church to church, the bottom line is clear: As a pro-life people, we must welcome babies and small children to the celebration of the Eucharist. Mothers need to feel supported and welcomed, and they won’t feel either if the Church doesn’t fully open its arms to their children. 

Parishes also must keep in mind the realities of the modern mother. Two-income homes are commonplace, and stay-at-home parenting often is extremely difficult. Day care becomes a necessity — the same day care that New Republic writer Jonathan Cohn recently called “mediocre at best.” There can be an opportunity here for parishes and schools to offer affordable day care and relieve huge concerns for families. Supporting the mother in the realities of everyday life can’t help but make her a more patient, more faithful role model at home. 

Mother’s Day comes once a year, but supporting mothers who are balancing the demands of everyday life along with the challenges of passing on the Faith is a full-time challenge that we cannot fail to meet. Faithful mothers are too critical for our society and our Church.

Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor; Sarah Hayes, executive editor