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Ode to a single parent

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Hey, single mom walking through Walmart with a screaming toddler and fussy infant at 10 p.m. I see you doing groceries at this late hour with your exhausted kids in tow because you don’t have anywhere to leave them after working your two jobs.

Hey, single dad, whose beloved wife died too soon. I see you cleaning up after sick kids who keep you up all night, only to have to go to work in the morning.

I know because for a brief moment — a week or so — I, too, was a single parent. My husband was out of town on business and I was alone with the kids. Except I was not alone. I had the help and support of family and friends. And God gave me the grace to get through each day. Still, I had to deal with sick kids, work, and keeping the home standing. My husband’s absence was palpable because we work as a team and my teammate was in China.

As much as I may have felt stressed that week, though, I realize now that it is nothing when compared to the life of a single parent day in and day out, or to families where one parent travels with much greater frequency. You have my utmost respect and I offer you my prayers as you endure this challenge.

I think of our Blessed Mother, Mary, who, after Joseph died, was left alone to carry the grief of the death of their Son. How did she do it? How do you — single parents, or parents whose spouses travel often — do it?

In his post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), Pope Francis states in No. 252:

Single-parent families often result from “the unwillingness of biological mothers or fathers to be part of a family; situations of violence, where one parent is forced to flee with the children; the death of one of the parents; the abandonment of the family by one parent, and other situations. Whatever the cause, single parents must receive encouragement and support from other families in the Christian community, and from the parish’s pastoral outreach. Often these families endure other hardships, such as economic difficulties, uncertain employment prospects, problems with child support and lack of housing.”

Psalm 46:1 says that “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress.” Never was this truer than with the examples of the many saints who were raised by single parents, such as St. Augustine and Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio; or who were single parents themselves at one point or another, such as St. Monica, St. Helen and St. Margaret of Cortona.

“Follow the Way of Love,” a pastoral message from the U.S. bishops to families issued in 1994 for the International year of the Family, speaks directly to single parents: “…to be faced with all the responsibilities of parenting by yourself is a challenge that touches the very core of your life. We bishops express our solidarity with you. We urge all parishes and Christian communities to welcome you, to help you find what you need for a good family life, and to offer the loving friendship that is a mark of our Christian tradition.”

Encuentros Familiares, the archdiocesan movement for families with teens, has answered this call by providing “Encuentros Uniparentales,” retreats for single parents with children ages 12-21. The parent portion is in Spanish and the youth portion is in English. The weekend provides an opportunity for spiritual growth and dialogue, as well as offering practical tools to benefit the family. The experience continues with weekly meetings at the Ignatian Spirituality Center of Miami (also known as Casa Manresa, 12190 S.W. 56 St., Miami, FL 33175). The meetings are for both parents and youth, and feature engaging and enriching talks.

Despite this wonderful resource, I can imagine that single parents may sometimes feel overlooked, ignored and out of place in the Church.

But I see you, single parents, knee-deep in the weeds, perhaps desiring with all your heart to parent with another the children whom God has entrusted to you. Or perhaps you feel overwhelmed just handling the day-to-day logistics of raising a family. Maybe you wonder if your next paycheck will be enough to cover all your expenses. Or maybe you just feel alone.

Except you are not. Because someone greater than I is seeing you. God sees you, and grants you His mercy, His grace and His love.

Comments from readers

Alejandra S. Draper - 05/09/2016 10:00 PM
Very well stated Angie. It is very sad for me to know so many single parents (family, friends, co-workers) that are struggling. Many times through no fault of their own; but many times because they made the wrong choices. The world we are living in is hard enough for two committed parents! I observe and wonder how they can deal with the every day situations that arise in life .......I wonder about their future (both the parent and the children).As a "mature" woman my heart aches for them. I know that God's heart aches for them more.
Sister Lidia Valli - 05/09/2016 09:21 PM
Thank you for sharing the importance of welcoming and helping single parents family. May our Lord help us to be even more sensitive to the needs and the struggles faced by single parents.

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