Becoming a new mother to a tiny human being can be difficult in many ways; rewarding and satisfying, but also sometimes stressful and lonely.
Having friendships and a community of other mothers to rely on can make a huge difference, which is why St. Brigid’s Parish, a Catholic Church in Pacific Beach, stepped in to help fill this vital need.
“Friendships with other mothers, whether older and more experienced or new, help many people realize that they are not alone and that their feelings are valid and real,” said Jacqueline Weeman, director of family life and spirituality ministry at St. Bridget.
The church offers several ways for young mothers to connect, such as a young mothers fellowship and prayer brunch, walking group, and children’s mass.
Although many attendees are parishioners of St. Brigid, it is not required. The church also offers a group for couples, and some of the attendees are non-Catholic, while some couples are of mixed religion.
The brunch group meets for a few hours once a month. Accompanied by children, mothers discuss a topic related to motherhood, pray together, share their experiences and simply enjoy each other’s company.
Jessica Barajas said she got the idea to start Moms Brunch when she was nearing the end of her pregnancy with her first child about eight months ago.
“When I was very pregnant I saw another pregnant mom and that day I decided to contact Jacqueline and start the band,” Barajas said.
Her vision is to have a group of children growing up with like-minded mothers and extended families, all sharing their spiritual growth together.
Members of the brunch group range from full-time working moms to full-time stay-at-home moms, new moms, and even a few pregnant moms-to-be.
Barajas described the clusters as sometimes chaotic and sometimes peaceful, with mothers, infants and toddlers gathered in one room while attending the sessions. The number of participants varies from month to month.
“Most of the time we just share life when we come together,” she said. “We are able to have a lot of good, very meaningful conversations. Certainly different from a typical Bible study.
The time the group spends together, members say, gives them a good perspective on motherhood beyond the daily grind.
“As a new mom, your spirituality may be in question. It’s beautiful to hear from other women and how they’re doing motherhood and what they’re going through,” Weeman said of the brunches.
The biggest reward is having the ability to relate to other people during what might otherwise be a difficult and lonely experience as a new mom, Barajas said.
Elaine Mariski agrees. She and her husband, Mark, have a daughter, Brielle, who recently turned 21 months. Elaine is pregnant with their second child. She got involved in the brunch group after being involved in the church’s married and engaged young adult group.
“Motherhood in general can be isolating, especially for those of us who are away from family,” Mariski said. “It’s nice to meet up with other new moms who share your experiences.”
She explained that for her, one of the most rewarding aspects of the brunch group is having friends who have become her adoptive family.
“When we come together, our relationships go beyond the superficial,” Mariski said. “We can invite each other into our homes and be messy and busy and late and loud, and other moms understand and that makes sense.”
The brunch group has already turned into a walking group, as several mothers have discovered that they live next to each other.
“Some of us like to walk, so we meet every Wednesday,” Barajas said. “It’s good because babies are welcome.”
Barajas added that she hopes the mothers’ group will continue to grow.
“I would like to diversify the activities we offer; maybe a day of group camping or a hike,” Barajas said. “Everyone is welcome and I wish more people could join us.”
The church also offers a children’s mass, with coffee and snacks afterwards, which Weeman said she plans to expand.
“We’ll soon have an open room with toys where kids can play together and parents can chat and get to know each other,” Weeman said. “After that, we will start Sunday school again for preschoolers. This should help the children get a little more involved during mass.
As a new mother herself, Weeman said she understands the struggles and joys of her fellow parishioners.
Weeman and her husband, Scott, met at the parish. For a few years they ran the young adult ministry program for ages 18-39.
Scott recently quit his job at the church to work on his non-religious career. Jacqueline, meanwhile, quit her job as a nurse to work at the church in the family ministry position and be with their children: Dorothy, 3; Annalee, 1 1/2 years and Walter 7 months.
“I’m at the same stage of life as a lot of parents in the church,” Weeman said. “This is a time in your life when you need other people at the same stage, as well as people in front of you to provide an outside perspective. The whole parish has recognized the need to have someone to help with this stage of life.
Weeman’s goals include expanding the ministry beyond current offerings.
“As Catholics, we love families and children, and we lead with the fact that families are welcome,” she said. “But it’s easier for parents to get involved when child care is offered. So we want to provide daycare and things for kids under five.
Weeman said she also wanted to be able to offer a mothers group for moms at any time.
Knowing the difference of having friendship and support available to new mothers, Weeman said she looks forward to making a difference in even more lives.
“It’s been a really nice trip the last few years,” she said. “(There are) so many people with new children and it’s such a huge need. We are all different and unique, and helping people discover that is truly beautiful. I’m very excited about what’s to come.
St. Brigid Catholic Parish is located at 4735 Cass St. in Pacific Beach. For more information, call 858-483-3030, visit saintbrigidparish.org or her Facebook page. The parish offices are open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.