by Susan Fotovich McCabe
Special to The Leaven
Change is inevitable, especially in families.
Currently, the spiritual family of the Marian Mantle Group is preparing for change as they usher in new leadership, some 15 years after the group’s inception. Marian Mantle Group is a prayer and support ministry of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas for those with a loved one who has left the Catholic faith.
Still guided during the transition by its founder, Mary Ann Gardner, the group recently welcomed longtime volunteer Betsy Meunier as its new director. Meunier plans to continue the work of the ministry, prayerfully supporting the lives of countless families affected by this struggle.
“I will continue to hold dear and listen to what Our Blessed Mother tells us and listen to her,” Meunier said. “We want to see how Our Lady wants us to lead.”
The ministry was born from Gardner’s own heartache when her son ceased to be a practicing Catholic. She and her husband searched for a way to bring their son back to the church.
There wasn’t much they could do in the conventional sense, however, since he was an adult. But they prayed and, as they prayed, they met other families experiencing the same heartache. That experience eventually served as the foundation for the Marian Mantle Group.
Today, the ministry is active through prayer groups scattered around the United States and in eight other countries, including Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Poland, Saint Lucia, Singapore, Mexico and India.
Members gather in homes, schools, churches and online to pray for their prodigal. There are strict rules about not pressuring the prodigal.
In fact, the ministry maintains anonymity for each prodigal, even when it ends with a success story. Gardner and Meunier frequently talk with churches and other groups to raise awareness about the group.
“I truly hope you remember that there is another mother who understands what it is for each of us to hurt because a grown child is in trouble,” wrote Gardner on the ministry’s website.
“Turn to the Blessed Mother in your trials. Our Lady of Sorrows was there as her Son was crucified. In her, you will find understanding, comfort and the most powerful intercessor of all the saints. When you turn to her, you can expect she will take your cares to the feet of her son Jesus.”
The ministry and its mission recently captured the attention of the Vatican.
In the July issue of “Reflections on the Pope’s Monthly Prayer Intentions,” Pope Francis writes about lapsed Christians, saying, “It is not hopeless and we are not helpless.”
He went on to say: “That is the motto of a group of people who pray for loved ones who have wandered away from the church. They share a deep concern for the lost sheep. They’re called the Marian Mantle Group.”
Marian Mantle Group’s website and contact information were included in the reflection.
Meunier reminds families that it isn’t always parents and grandparents who are hurting from a child or grandchild leaving the church. It includes siblings as well.
Likewise, she and others in the ministry suggest families resist the urge to pressure, nag or guilt their prodigal into returning.
Instead, she recommends praying the rosary daily, saying grace before meals when your loved one joins you and even giving your loved one Advent candles.
“These are little steps,” she said. “Remember to be thankful for little signs of progress, too. For example, be thankful when your prodigal joins you for Mass.”
Ultimately, she says, prayer is significantly more powerful than anything else. However, it remains in God’s hands, a sentiment echoed by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
“Archbishop Naumann recently told our group that we should pray for serenity and peace, as well as for changes to the heart of the person who is being prayed for,” Meunier said.
“Most importantly,” she added, “he reminded us that it works in God’s time.”
To find support for the prayers you have for your prodigal, go online to: www.marianmantle.com; send an email to the ministry at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or call (913) 526-8977.