Mothers who Pray for their Children - Restoring families by the power of prayer

Published on 9 May 2023 at 15:10

Last year (May 2023) in Brazil, almost 50,000 women gathered for the 2nd International and 9th National Mothers who Pray for their Children Conference. While you might not have yet heard of this movement—it currently operates predominantly in Portuguese-speaking communities—they have an astounding following, including more than 3,000 groups (almost 300,000 members) in Brazil alone.

Carolina Cetenareski recently moved from Brazil to Melbourne with her family. As Australian and English Province Coordinator for Mothers who Pray, she has being helping to make the movement’s resources and network available in English for the first time ever.

Mothers who Pray was started by a woman named Angela Abdo in the northeast of Brazil as a small group of mothers who were called to pray for their children. Now as a non-profit organisation (almost 13 years later), seeks to restore families by the power of prayer, Carolina explains. ‘We are here to rewrite our story, to forgive and reconcile.’ What they do is establish networks of mothers who come together in the Church to pray and be formed in their faith.

The patroness of the movement is Our Lady of La Salette, a Marian apparition acknowledged by the Catholic Church and ‘the mother who cries for all children’. The co-patroness is St Monica, the mother of once-wayward St Augustine—she was told by a priest that her tears as a mother would not be wasted—and the consolation of many mothers who’ve grieved over the paths their children take.

Carolina has been involved with the Brazilian movement for some time. When she first came across it, she knew immediately that its mission would become her own. The advice of a priest at this time helped her to see this as an authentic calling: ‘Look at your wound, look at your challenges, look at your difficulties. That’s where your mission is.’

Carolina’s own story involves a journey through many difficulties, first suffering through her parents’ divorce and then her father’s severe health challenges at that time. ‘I felt really crushed in my heart, and [was] asking myself, “Why does God allow this?”’ she says.

Then, when she was married, she was confronted with the possibility of being unable to conceive. For three years she and her husband tried without success, and when they did finally conceive, Carolina suffered intense periods of postnatal depression after the births of both her first and second daughters. Living in Brisbane and being so far from home only exacerbated the problem, so after their second child was born, they moved back to Brazil.

Although Carolina grew up Catholic and was initiated in the sacraments, she says ‘Catholic’ was more a label than anything else; she didn’t know much about what the Church taught. The guidance of a priest—who blessed her with the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and spent a lot of time with her discussing the book of Job—helped to launch her on a journey of healing.

‘Miracles happen gradually because God is gentle. He doesn’t come opening the door of your heart by force,’ she says.

While being anointed with the sacrament, she felt God’s presence. ‘I felt [him] telling me, “Come, I’m your Father. You are not alone.” And I had the strength by God, and by prayer, to slowly seek medical help to get better.’

Her healing from postnatal depression was accompanied by a renewed journey of formation, as she acquainted herself in a deeper way with her Catholic faith. ‘I was learning everything from scratch, learning a new perspective on life,’ she explains. ‘I wasn’t the centre of my life anymore. My centre was God and then my family … [I changed] from being Carolina to being God’s daughter first of all, then to being a wife and a mother.’

Carolina was responsible for starting the first Mothers who Pray group in Santa Catarina, Brazil, and 33 women showed up to the initial event—more than she had anticipated. Today, there are more than 50 groups of women in that state taking part.

Then, in 2021, Carolina and her family moved back to Australia for her husband’s work. She brought with her the mission she had been given in Brazil, and a deep desire to introduce Mothers who Pray for their Children to the Catholic Church in Australia and to Australian families. But during their time in hotel quarantine, when Carolina was ‘catching up’ on Australian news events, she became more convinced than ever of the importance of this mission.

After praying a Rosary with her family, she felt content: she still had her mission, and it was here in Australia. ‘Everywhere families need to be restored, but I felt God sent me here for a purpose. So I contacted the Archdiocese of Melbourne, asking for guidance and introducing this initiative.’

Mothers who Pray currently have six official groups in Victoria and New South Wales, and three ‘in call’ (preparing to get started). Like the original Brazilian movement, these groups follow a five-year thematic cycle rooted in the movement’s spirituality: Reconciliation, Prayer, Eucharist, Penance and Mission. The most recent conference in Brazil took place during the last year of the cycle, with the theme ‘Go and proclaim the Gospel’.

Reflecting on her journey to this point, Carolina says, ‘I wasn’t prepared, and I think nobody’s prepared. If you say “yes”, God prepares you on the way. So one thing I tell mothers anywhere I go is “Don’t be afraid, because only God is perfect.”’

Carolina is excited about the growth of the movement here in Australia. Strengthening the spiritual bond between mothers and their children is so important, she says. ‘The invitation is: Come as you are at this exact moment in life. Come to reconcile with God, with yourself and others! Prayer is a powerful weapon, and if done in a group of mothers, it shakes the heavens and brings hope!’

‘It’s not about control. It’s about spiritual authority: that the mother says, in the name of Jesus, “I bless you, and I ask that the blood of Jesus protects you and shields you,”’ she explains. ‘And they’re going to have difficulties and their own mistakes. But who can be more protected than a child that is blessed by a mother? … Being a mother is hard work. It’s hard, but the power of love and the intercession of our Lady can change things. God can do everything.’


Re-published from the original article posted on the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne website -,story%2C%20to%20forgive%20and%20reconcile.

Written By: Christan Bergmann

Communications Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne

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