In the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, Celeste Behe, who home-schooled her nine grown children and writes for the Register, created the diocesan St. Monica Ministry, which began in January of this year.
“The St. Monica Ministry offers prayerful support to families and friends of loved ones who have fallen away,” Behe explained. It is open to both men and women and not only parents of prodigal children. There is a support-group aspect through fellowship after Holy Hours and monthly prayer meetings.
In Behe’s own family, she is praying for some of her children to return to the Church, despite them growing up going to Mass, praying a nightly Rosary, and enthroning the Sacred Heart in their home. “It was a wonderful life, and I’d do it all over again,” Behe said.
The drift began when a son decided at the age of 17 that there was no God. “I didn’t see it coming,” she admitted. “I hoped he was just going through a phase. That was 16 years ago.” He eventually led three of his siblings down the same path.
Behe said she feels an affinity for St. Monica for having carried the same cross. “I can also relate to St. Monica’s ordinariness. Though her son was a brilliant scholar, St. Monica herself was a woman of simple faith. I can imagine her trying to connect with her son on an intellectual level and succeeding only in feeling intimidated. I’ve been there!”
When Behe’s son broke away, he made a public renunciation on Reddit, introducing himself as the son of Michael Behe, the prominent Catholic biochemist.
The announcement was posted on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. “It was a difficult time for us,” Behe admitted. “The Blessed Mother was our lifeline.”
She and her husband didn’t know any other parents of prodigals. “We had no one to ask for advice,” said Behe. “Should we make our son go to Sunday Mass with the family? Did we have an obligation to tell our friends that our son was the bad companion that the Catechism of the Catholic Church warned against?”
The St. Monica Ministry came about when Bishop Alfred Schlert of the Allentown Diocese asked her to facilitate an event for families in the diocese that were praying for fallen-away loved ones. Every month on the second Wednesday evening is a Holy Hour with a priest, during which all are invited to place lighted candles of petition before the Blessed Sacrament. There is fellowship afterwards.
“The ministry also holds two meetings per month, during which we share resources, recite the Rosary, and talk about both our struggles and our hope,” Behe said. “We also do a book discussion. Right now, we’re reading Brandon Vogt’s Return.”
The Holy Hours include a “Rosary of Supplication for Our Prodigals,” with original meditations that appeal to Mother Mary for the return of those fallen away. The Rosary of Supplication, along with Holy Hour resources and meeting guidelines for interested parishes, are contained in the forthcoming “St. Monica Ministry Manual for Parishes.”
For more information, visit the website at AllentownDiocese.org/stmonicaministry or sign up for the newsletter by emailing StMonicaMinistry27@gmail.com. You can also contact Behe at that same address to request her as a speaker on this topic.
Armstrong, Patti Maguire: (c) 2023 EWTN News, Inc. Reprinted with permission from the National Catholic Register – http://www.ncregister.com.