Single parent ministries are not common in the United States. In fact, two separate women in the Archdiocese of Denver were only able to find one in the entire country. Despite this, both Terry King and Jo Holt resolved to bring single parent ministry to Denver. Neither knew what they other was doing.
Update: Since this story was originally posted, St. Thomas More contacted the Denver Catholic and informed us of a single parents ministry at their parish. The story has been expanded to include this new information.
Terry King has been a single mom for 20 years. She fought to keep her family Catholic, even going so far as to get a court order to pick up her children early on Sundays so that she could bring them to evening Mass.
“It sounds great, but it was really hard,” King said. “The transition time between houses is terrible. They were young kids and were misbehaving, and the whole church was full of happy young couples. I just wanted to cry.”
King says that she wished that another parishioner would offer to help or, better yet, invite her to dinner or a parish event. Even though she was struggling to raise her children in the church, she often felt like she didn’t belong.
“[Single parenting] can be very isolating, especially in the Church, believe it or not,” she said. “Everything is aimed at couples, and it’s all about marriage. It’s hard to just show up by yourself.”
A few years after her youngest child went to college, King graduated from Denver Catholic Biblical School. She said she had been so blessed in formation, and was so on fire for her faith that she knew she needed to give back. She began to look around for single parent ministries in the diocese she could help with.
She discovered there weren’t any.
“I googled single parent ministries, and the only thing that came up was a parish in Texas,” she said.
She told her boss and fellow parishioner at St. John the Evangelist in Loveland, Bob Dehn, about her dilemma. He offered to pay for her to go to Texas and learn how to start a single parent ministry in the Archdiocese.
From there, King says things began to snowball.
“It’s been so cool. I just had this idea in my head, then my boss sends me to see it, and then I saw my pastor and he said, ‘go!'” she said.
The single parent ministry had it’s first meeting Oct. 9. King said the basic structure of the meetings will include either a talk or social time, and then some kind of spiritual formation. She would also like the group to do service projects.
“Even though we’re needy, it would be good to go out and serve others. It takes you’re mind off your own needs, and it’s what we’re called to do, regardless,” she said.
She also hopes to find ways to integrate married families and singles in the parish. She said it can be especially hard for single parents to come to parish events, because they are usually aimed at two-parent families and single parents can worry that they aren’t welcome.
“It’s good that single parents know that their place is right alongside the other families. They’ll feel more comfortable going to parish things with someone else,” she said.
King said the support she has received has been slightly overwhelming. She said this has been a very healing experience. For example, when she addressed the Masses at her parish to tell them about the ministry, she was shocked at the many offers for childcare and other forms of help.
“I just got up and said how isolated I have felt over the years, but I started to think that maybe I didn’t need to feel that way,” King said. “They’re willing to support, but they didn’t know there was a need to support.”
Regardless of what happens, she said she is humbled and excited to see how God has used her experience as a single parent.
“I never would have thought that my single parenthood would have come to this–to something positive,” she said.
For more information on single parent ministries at St. John the Evangelist, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Holt is the Director of Marriage and Family Life at St. Thomas More parish in Centennial. She was approached two years ago by a single parent who challenged the way she thought, so she began to read about single parents and Catholicism.
“I was kind of surprised by some of the research I found,” Holt said. “Sixty seven percent of today’s single parents are not actively attending a local church.”
Holt polled the single people in the pew, and discovered there was quite a bit of woundedness in their relationship with the Church. She also discovered that single-parent families are much more varied than she had initially thought.
“You usually think of single-parent families as being divorced, but that isn’t necessarily true. In our single parent ministry, we have some who are divorced, some who are widowed, and some who never married but chose life for their child,” Holt said.
She said there are also military families with a deployed parent, or families where one parent travels for work for a week or more at a time.
Holt used her research to develop a nine-month curriculum for single parent ministry. She said her program aims at working with single parents intensively for nine months, then sending them out to either guide other single parents, or help other ministries become more single-parent friendly.
“It’s our desire to form them, and then send them forth. We want them to go forth and bring this to other ministries, to lead other single parents,” Holt said. She also said that all the single parents gather once a month for a social night. They use Flocknote to communicate the time and location of the event.
Holt hopes to have her curriculum ready for distribution by January. She says she wants to see every parish in the country offer some kind of support to single parents. However, even if a parish does not have the ability to offer a specific ministry to single parents, there are simple things they can do to make single parents feel welcome.
“It seems like there are a lot of single parents out there who feel like they have been forgotten. Sometime the omitting of something can feel like the exclusion thereof,” Holt said.
She suggested that parishes try to offer childcare during events as much as possible. She also thought that something as simple as a table at “Donut Sunday” with coloring sheets for kids could allow single parents to interact with other adults.
She also said that homilies were frequently mentioned as a source of pain for single parents. She suggested clergy consider prayerfully discerning how they talk about families.
“Do not abandon the truth about the importance of two-parent families, but recognize that single parents are in the audience listening. If you fail to mention them, along with their strength and courage, they might feel unwelcomed in your parish. We want to be a resource for single parents, not something they are running away from,” Holt said.
For more information on Single Parent ministries at St. Thomas More, email email@example.com