The Power of Motherhood

Dear friends,


It is such a simple, common, everyday word, yet so complex, so full of meaning.

Play a word association game with it. What first comes into your mind when you hear it? Probably something like “nurture” or “supportive.” Think Mother Nature or Mother Earth. But we also use mother to mean strong and powerful—as in that infamous phrase “the mother of all battles.”

There is a paradox in there. It is one that we see in our religion when we think of Mary, the mother of God—at once humble and exalted.

In this month when we honor mothers, we can learn from that paradox, learn something about how we should treat each other, how we should approach the world around us.

Almost all mothers would do anything for their children—would give them food before eating it themselves, would sleep in the rain so their children would have shelter, would shiver in the cold so their children were warm. And it is because they are willing to sacrifice so much for us that they become such powerful figures.

On a very pragmatic level, this is a power that we at Catholic Relief Services try to use every day. One of our most successful programs is called Savings and Internal Lending Communities — SILC for short. These are groups of people from very poor communities that we bring together so they can pool some of their money, learn to save, learn to borrow, learn to lend. They decide on a regular savings program. And they decide how to lend out the money to their members, how it will be repaid, what the interest rate will be.

One of the reasons SILC programs are working so well, really having an impact on the economic development of these communities, is that most of their members are mothers. And like most mothers everywhere, they put their children first.

There are many other examples of this in our work. In our work with those with HIV, mothers provide much of the community support, checking to see if patients need anything, if they are sticking to their medical regimens. Another example: in emergencies we prefer to hand out food to mothers, who will give food directly to their children.

You can see examples in the scriptures of the ideal of such compassionate humility and service—from Christ washing the feet of the disciples to his sacrifice on the cross. These show us that true power does not derive from strength and force. It comes from nurturing and supporting. It comes from love. It comes from the ideals we associate with mothers.

This is the model we try to follow in our mission. We want to know from those we seek to help what they need, how we can be of service. In that way we know our programs will be more successful. And we want to know that from you as well: how we can be of service to you in carrying out the message of the gospel to help those in need.

And where did we first learn this most important lesson? From our mothers, of course. Let us honor them this month, and every month of the year.

Thank you for your continued support.

Ken Hackett

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