Virtual community growing by leaps and bounds as members look forward to bringing online companionship into the real world

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — When Katy Conners, mother of six, wants to know where to get chocolate coins for St. Nicholas Day, where to find a church with evening adoration, or how to navigate cellphones with teenagers, she knows where to go: the Detroit Area Catholic Moms Facebook group. 

Conners created the social media page in August, just two weeks after moving to Bloomfield Hills from Elm Grove, Wis., near Milwaukee. Since then, more than 900 other women have found there a place to virtually mingle, get advice and relieve pandemic fatigue with other local Catholic moms. 

Conners, 37, knows how to bring people together. In 2007, while still living in Wisconsin, she initiated playgroups and in-home Bible studies with other Catholic moms, and in 2011 started the Milwaukee Catholic Mamas Facebook group, which now boasts more than 2,800 members. The page offers subgroups for natural family planning, mental health, mothers of children with special needs, homeschooling, and even “bookworm” and toy swap pages.

“I was used to having those local connections and resources, and my dream with the Detroit page was to connect moms in the area in a similar way,” Conners told Detroit Catholic. “Moms who share the Catholic faith have different goals for our families. It’s nice to have a page where we all have the same baseline values.”

Katy Conners is pictured with her husband, Brad. Conners started a similar page when she lived in Wisconsin for Catholic mothers, which now boasts more than 2,800 followers. (Courtesy of Katy Conners)

Conner saw a gap in ministries to families with young children after she and her husband “outgrew” the young adult demographic. She knew firsthand that parents with growing families need support from one another.

Brianna McVeigh, a mother of four all under the age of 8, is also new to the Detroit area. She grew up near Flint but spent the last three years in Cambridge, Mass., while her husband attended law school. When they moved to Canton for his job last summer, she was looking to connect with other mothers of young children — preferably Catholic moms.

“It’s extremely hard to find community during COVID,” McVeigh said. “How do you get to know people when you can’t even meet face-to-face?” 

Shortly after joining the Detroit Area Catholic Moms group in August, she posted an invitation to others on the page to meet for a playdate at a park. As a result, McVeigh and her children enjoyed several park outings with new friends in the fall, including families who attend her family’s parish and school, St. Michael the Archangel in Livonia.  

“Motherhood can be a very lonely ministry,” McVeigh said. “You can feel isolated, and while the Catholic Church is rich in so many things to do, it’s easy to get overwhelmed if there’s not a personal invitation.” 

Conners and two others are the group’s administrators; they approve members to join and manage posts. Only members of the Facebook group can view the page’s content. 

“It feels like a safe community because it’s all local, Catholic women,” McVeigh said. “It feels much more real than other online communities because you know you might a actually have the opportunity to meet these women and form friendships as families.”

A handful of local Catholic moms who met through the Facebook group arranged for a “rosary meetup” in a park last fall. While COVID-19 has prevented large gatherings, several moms say they appreciate the sense of community the group provides. (Courtesy photo)

Elisabeth Kujawa, a mom of three children ages 4, 8 and 12, is a member of St. Peter Parish in Mount Clemens. 

Kujawa has been a member of another Facebook group for pregnant Catholic moms since 2015. The group is based on one’s due date, allowing members to share age-specific information about their children as they go through each stage of development. Members are from all over the United States and Canada. Gatherings are organized occasionally to allow families to meet.

“It’s been an incredible source of support as my children have grown,” Kujawa said.  “It really shows how a Facebook group can bring people together virtually.”

Thanks to her positive experience with the pregnancy group, Kujawa enthusiastically joined the Detroit Area Catholic Moms group in August, shortly after Conners created the page. She helped organize two rosary meetups for the group and hopes to make the rosary gatherings a regular occurrence next year. 

“I have lots of ideas, but I’m waiting for COVID to pass,” Kujawa said. “I’m excited to do meetups and to see each other’s churches. I know this will be a great opportunity for sharing knowledge and developing friendships.”

Members of the group post prayer intentions, book recommendations, daycare information, liturgical resources, Catholic business recommendations and parenting advice. To foster discussion, Conners sometimes poses questions to the group such as, “What are you grateful for?” or “Tell us something wonderful that happened in your home this week!” Recently, one mom began “Wednesday Worship” mornings on Zoom for any interested members.

Mothers of young kids aren’t the only women on the Facebook page. Those with teens and adult children are welcome, too. Kujawa appreciates posts from moms who have already experienced some of the issues facing mothers of younger children.

Julie Szymkowski of Farmington Hills (second from back), is seen with her son Tyler, 24, daughter Courtney, 20, and husband, Tom, in August. As a mother of adult children, Szymkowski is able to offer advice and recommendations for newer moms in the group. (Courtesy of Julie Szymkowski)

53-year-old Julie Szymkowski of Farmington Hills joined the group for fellowship with other faith-filled Catholic women. She is the mother of Courtney, 20, and Tyler, 24, and has been married for 32 years to her husband, Tom.  

“I so wish that I’d had the ability to connect with other ladies of faith like this when my kids were younger. The recommendations on different ways to pray and celebrate the liturgical seasons would have been fruitful for my family and me,” Szymkowski said. “It’s important for one generation to pass the faith on to the next generation through the family.”

The Facebook group has been a new and valuable resource for Szymkowski.

“Having a combination of new and more seasoned mothers offers a unique dimension to this online exchange,” Szymkowski added. “This sharing of faith from one family to another helps faith bloom and thrive in our domestic church!” 

Conners has been pleased to see the Detroit Area Catholic Moms page growing in numbers. She looks forward to the opportunities for the group when the pandemic is over, when people can cultivate relationships in-person. 

“I think with COVID, people realized through this Facebook group, ‘I’m not by myself. We’re in this together,’” Conners said. “There’s so much negativity in the world, and this group is just the opposite. I think the Holy Spirit really wanted this for us.”

Detroit Area Catholic Moms

The Detroit Area Catholic Moms Facebook group is private, but those interested in joining can send a request through its page.