Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 16, 2009
Church teaching brings new life
Moms' group studying encyclicals spurs couple to have another child
WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Sonja Cloutier (left) holds her son Ryder, one fruit of the Mothers' Study Group. With them are Meaghan and Wyatt Sheehan (centre) and group organizer Debbie LeBlanc.
BY RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
ST. ALBERT - Sonja Cloutier is a changed woman. And she credits a group of young Catholic mothers from the Sturgeon region for her transformation.
Since Cloutier began studying the Catholic faith with the group her faith has grown and so has her commitment to human life. In fact she decided to have a new baby, Ryder, after learning about the Church's position on marriage and sexuality.
"This group changed me completely," Courtier says. "Now I have a true openness to life in my marriage."
The mother of three is a member of MSG, short for Mothers' Study Group. The group's purpose is to study, form friendships and help young mothers to raise their children in the faith.
Debbie LeBlanc of St. Peter's Parish in Villeneuve formed the nine-member group in September 2007 to provide support for her own newly-married children: Meaghan Sheehan, 22, who married at 18 and now has three children, and Matthew, 21, a father of two.
"They were young and newly married, starting their families and nobody is married in that age group because people marry later in life now," LeBlanc explains. "So they were very isolated and I wanted for them what I had when I was raising my (five) kids, which was lots of families with children trying to live their faith."
Group members, all young mothers in their 20s, meet once a month at LeBlanc's home, where they sit around the kitchen table to sip tea and read encyclicals, Vatican documents and books on marriage, family and human sexuality.
"Everybody reads a few paragraphs and then we stop to discuss," LeBlanc explains.
They first studied Humanae Vitae, the papal encyclical issued by Pope Paul VI in 1968 that affirmed the Church's teaching on married love and condemned artificial contraception as morally wrong.
TRUTH AND MEANING
The group also studied an apostolic letter called the Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, which was put out by the Pontifical Council for the Family in 1995. The document provides guidelines for sex education within the family.
Currently MSG members are studying a book on disciplining children called the Twelve Steps to Discipline and in the near future they plan to tackle a book called Character Building.
"It's a good book (about) raising your children in the virtues," LeBlanc explains. "It goes through a list of different virtues and explains how you can form (your children) in each of these virtues."
Cloutier says membership in MSG has completely changed her life.
Before joining the group the member of Holy Family Parish in St. Albert was somewhat indifferent to contraception, thinking of it as a choice.
Humanae Vitae changed all of that, making Cloutier and her husband Ray totally open to life. The couple decided to have another baby after she studied the papal encyclical.
"So there is new life in this world because of this group," Cloutier said. "Now I understand what the true values of the Catholic Church are and what it really means to live them and to live them with other people."
All group members practise natural methods of family planning, as prescribed by Humanae Vitae.
For Meaghan, LeBlanc's daughter, MSG has been equally productive. The group not only has provided the young mother with support and friendship but also with valuable tools to raise her children.
"I've learned a lot," she says. "We grew up very Catholic but this is a much more in-depth look at certain aspects of the faith and why we practise what we practise."
Meaghan, who lives in Morinville with her husband Trevor and attends Mass in Mearns, got married almost four years ago when she was 18.
FIRST TO GET MARRIED
"I was probably the first of my friends to get married let alone have children; you know, people think I'm crazy but I think they are missing out," she says.
"I think nothing makes you more unselfish than having children. They bring the best out of you."
LeBlanc said MSG members are struggling with the realities and the challenges of living their faith.
"For some having a greater understanding also gives them a greater responsibility to live it," she said. "They know it, they have it, they are trying to live it but there is not a lot of support out there for these families. The truth is something like 90 per cent of Catholics contracept so where is the support going to come from?"
MSG is open to new members but LeBlanc suggests parishes set up their own groups.