A Personal Reflection: Edel helps Catholic moms connect, rejuvenate

By Kathryn Whitaker
Guest Columnist

Moms, when was the last time you had the opportunity to “refresh, renew and inspire” with fellow mothers in the trenches without refilling a sippy cup, averting a pre-teen’s eye roll or washing 10 million loads of laundry?
July 25-27, more than 200 women from around the country descended upon Austin for the first Edel Gathering, named after Venerable Edel Quinn. It was the brainchild of Catholic bloggers and authors, Jennifer Fulwiler (“Something Other Than God” and ConversionDiary.com) and Hallie Lord (“Style, Sex, and Substance” and MoxieWife.com). Their goal was to make women feel valued and inspired.
In her opening remarks, Lord reminded us, “It is good that you are here.” In the midst of our busy lives, each of us had made the commitment — financially, emotionally and physically — to rejuvenate our weary mom hearts. And God delivered.
I enjoyed every aspect of the weekend: the speakers were fantastic, the food was great and I loved dressing up and being pampered. But what I enjoyed the most was making connections with real moms in the trenches, navigating motherhood just as precariously as I am. 
When I learned about the gathering, I reached out to four women whom I had only “met” in cyberspace and invited them to stay in my home for the weekend. We initially connected on social media — Twitter, Facebook, blogs and Pinterest — and while our interests vary, our home states are not the same and our family sizes are different, we share one thing in common: our faith. We are unashamedly Catholic and the Edel Gathering allowed us to share that passion in real life.
“There is no blueprint for how to have a perfect Catholic family,” said Marion Fernández-Cueto, our first speaker, who is an award-winning journalist and master’s candidate at the University of St. Thomas Center for Faith and Culture. As moms it’s easy to get caught up in that imaginary checklist we’ve created for ourselves that determines if we are Catholic enough, religious enough, pious enough. Fernández-Cueto reiterated that no such list exists. If you’re going to compare your family to any family, make it the Holy Family. Let Jesus, Mary and Joseph be your shining example of righteousness, forgiveness and love.
It was over drinks at Guero’s Taco Bar, Blue Bell ice cream late one evening, a hilarious karaoke session and quiet moments of nursing in the mother’s lounge that I was reminded of that we are not alone in this motherhood gig. Our vocation as mothers should not be lonely or isolated. Just as priests and religious draw union through community, so should mothers.
As we shared coffee and talked during the gathering, I realized that these women shared my frustrations in potty training a stubborn child, helping a teenager find his way, embracing church teachings and nurturing marriage. And just as each of us in attendance appreciated those challenges, so do the moms sitting in the pews at my parish.
Motherhood is hard. Yes, it has its shining moments, pin-worthy accolades and marvelous memories. But it also requires us to dig deep, to nurture sweet souls to Heaven even when they’ve spilled the last of the good milk, to love in the middle of tantrums and to trust that we’re getting at least a few things right.
The Edel Gathering connected me with spectacular role models, introduced me to inspirational and very funny women and allowed me to be myself. It encouraged me to not only nurture those relationships I’ve created through social media and the blogospheres, but also to reach out and build relationships women sitting beside me at Mass, in the carline at school or at the doctor’s office with a sick child. 
As C.S. Lewis wrote, “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become –– because he made us.”
The next time you find yourself reaching for a tissue because your day as a mom has been that bad, reach for another mom instead. We’re here. And we have your back.

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