More than 150 mothers, grandmothers, religious and clergy gathered at the Catholic Leadership Centre on Saturday 27 April for the first Mothers Who Pray for Their Children conference in Australia.

What began in Brazil as a ministry for mothers to pray and intercede for their children has now spread across the globe, with groups in Australia, France, Germany, the USA, Portugal, South Africa, Angola and parts of Latin America, and more than 70,000 members in Brazil, where it all began.

Saturday’s conference was the first to be held in the English-speaking world and explored the five stages of the movement’s spirituality: reconciliation, prayer, the Eucharist, penance and mission. Guest speakers included the movement’s foundress Angela Abdo, Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, Fr Rob Galea, Sharon Duiker, Carolina Cetenareski, Fr Vic Ignacio and special musical performances by Alyssa Agius and the Divine Mercy Samoan Choir.

The call to Eucharistic motherhood

Guest speaker Sharon Duiker, a wife, health mentor and mother to 11 children, spoke of the call to be ‘Eucharistic mothers’.

‘We need to be Eucharistic mothers to receive Christ, to be with Christ, to commune with Christ,’ she said. ‘We need to be Eucharistic mothers to have Eucharistic families.’

Being nourished by Christ and the Sacrament of the Eucharist, Sharon shared, is tantamount to ‘consuming the ultimate nutrition for our body and soul—the nutrients that allow us to thrive in our faith journey’, thus becoming stronger and more resilient in the face of adversity and temptation.

Sharon encouraged the mothers present to persevere and introduce their children to Christ from a young age, sharing ‘who he is and how he provides for what they need to stay strong in faith’.

‘Teach them to love him with all their mind, body, soul and strength. It is our necessary duty as mothers and grandmothers to do this ourselves, and to lead the way for our children to follow.’

She also spoke of Jesus being present in our brokenness, and that in the suffering, it is Christ who ‘makes the impossible possible’.

She prayed me into my vocation

Fr Rob Galea, a priest of the Diocese of Sandhurst and founder of ICON Ministry, spoke of the central role that his mother played in his own story of conversion.

He recounted how, at the age of 14, feeling lost, angry and unloved, he rebelled against his parents and ran away from home. This led to a life of couch surfing and an addiction to stealing to make himself feel accepted among peers. By 16, he found himself hanging out in night clubs and in the company of drug dealers. Eventually, after getting into trouble with one of the group’s leaders, a young Rob returned to his parents’ home to seek shelter and protection.

But it would be some time still before he felt any sense of peace.

Fr Rob believes it was his mother’s persistence and prayers that saw him through. ‘You see when you pray, God shows you what your children were made for, even when they don’t see it.’

‘One day, my mum was praying with me. I was just coming out of my addiction …

‘I was still messed up. I was still angry. I was still feeling like I didn’t want to live anymore, even though I had started my relationship with Jesus.

‘She was praying with me and she said, “Rob, I don’t know if I should tell you this … [but] I see a picture of you with young people around you … these young people are sitting in a circle and they’re listening to you. In your hand, you have a guitar, and I see a collar around your neck …”

Fr Rob remembers feeling angry at what his mum was saying. ‘I was furious! I said, “How dare you! I don’t want to be a priest. What are you talking about? I don’t want to be around young people!”

Fast forward two decades and Fr Rob’s music and youth ministry have now touched the lives of millions of young people around the world.

‘My mother knew. She saw—she prayed me into my vocation. She prayed me into where God wanted me to be,’ reflected Fr Rob.

‘So, this is my prayer for you [mothers]: One, recognise your authority. Two, step into that authority. Three, pray for wisdom. And number four, ask God to reveal to you where your children need to be. And pray them in perseverance to that place.’

Our movement is prayer

The mission of the Mothers Who Pray for Their Children movement is to establish networks of mothers who come together in the Church to pray and be formed in their faith. The movement’s patroness is Our Lady of La Salette, with St Monica as co-patroness. St Monica famously spent years praying for her son, St Augustine, to find God and be baptised in the faith, which he eventually did after years of resistance.

Faithfulness and persistence in prayer is what the movement is all about, said Fr Vic Ignacio, the movement’s chaplain in Australia. On Saturday Fr Vic shared snippets of his own vocation story, and the role that his parents played in him becoming a priest.

When Fr Vic’s mother was already in her third trimester of pregnancy, she was advised by her local doctor that there may be some complications with her son’s birth, and that it would be safer to abort the baby.

‘My mother went to church and prayed to the Blessed Mother. She said, “Blessed Mother, please, let my child live. And if the child lives, I offer this child to you.”

He said his parents were surprised when, as a young man, he expressed a strong interest in joining the priesthood. He was two years into his time at the seminary when his mother finally shared what had happened when he was still in her womb.

‘I tried to bargain,’ his mother said to him jokingly, ‘but then I remembered our prayers to the Lord and the Blessed Mother … and here you are.’

‘Your prayers are so powerful,’ Fr Vic said to the mothers gathered on Saturday.

‘That’s the reason why one of our movement’s pillars is prayer. But it’s not only praying … it is committing yourself to your promises.

‘Even if sometimes you feel weak, you feel down … you feel inadequate.

‘Faithfulness will bring you blessings. Faithfulness will let you understand the wisdom of being patient with God, for God always provides, just like our Blessed Mother.’

Saturday’s event also included the launch of the movement’s book, By God’s inspiration: testament to a mother who prays (English translation), in which mothers share their stories, hopes and prayers for the next generation. The book is available on the movement’s website.