By Debbie Shelley 

The Catholic Commentator  

Shouts of glee come from a classroom in the activity center of St. John the Baptist Church in Brusly as young children paint like little Picassos. Later, they glue paper cut outs of a crown, cross and dove on popsicle sticks through a craft project reinforcing a lesson on the Trinity. Meanwhile, their moms run errands, focus on the work they do from home, or pamper themselves during a break from mom duty provided by a new ministry at St. John called Mothers Day Out (MDO).  

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Children in the Mothers Day Out Program at St. John the Baptist Church in Brusly engage in a craft that reinforces a lesson on the Trinity. Photo by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator 

 

MDO is a faith-based, part-time childcare program for children 1-3 years old that takes place Tuesdays and Thursdays at St. John in Brusly. 

Katie Roettger, director of the program, said after the flood of 2016 it took her 90 minutes to get to her job in Baton Rouge from her home in Addis.  

“Through a lot of prayer I had the realization that there were a lot of moms in West Baton Rouge Parish crossing the bridge and fighting traffic every morning to get their children to Mother’s Day Out programs in Baton Rouge because there wasn’t anything like that here,” said Roettger.  

She pitched the idea for MDO to St. John pastor Father Matt Lorrain and the parish council, who gave their support. Everything then fell into place, according to Roettger.  

“We got an overwhelming amount of toy donations and people willing to help,” said Roettger.  

When the children arrive, they go to a learning station, which is followed by “circle time” where they are taught different words, nursery rhymes and other lessons.  

The most important aspect of the program is socialization, according to Roettger.  

“I found that a lot of children are isolated in their homes and don’t get to interact with other kids, so when they go to school they are having more difficulties,” said Roettger.  

The mothers said they appreciate the time off the ministry gives them.  

Amber Cavaness works from home as a social worker and is on the phone a lot, so keeping her son, Jackson, 1 1/2 years old, is difficult. She squeezed as much work in as she could during his naptime.  

“Since he became ‘busy’ my production declined,” said Cavaness. “And he needs more stimulation than I can provide while working.”  

Cavaness said Jackson is happier at home and is sleeping and eating better and is more independent.  

“He comes home with artwork, it’s so cute,” said Cavaness, noting the teachers taught the children a “Jesus rap.”  

As for herself, Cavaness wryly smiled, “I’m not in trouble with my boss anymore.”  

Marlies, who prefers to use only her first name, said MDO positively impacts her son, Ty’s, life.  

“I left work as an engineer to stay home with my child (15 months old). But the first year I suffered from major post partum depression. I discovered that I still wanted to be at home with my child, but I needed a break,” said Marlies.  

She said she feels secure about leaving her son at MDO.  

“It’s a Christ-centered environment. I love each day when he brings home a piece of paper telling me what they’ve been doing, and they’ve been coloring and dancing to Jesus music,” said Marlies.  

She said of the teachers, “They are not doing it for the money, they are doing it because they love kids, which is fantastic. I feel like I’m bringing my kid to my sister or mother.”  

Marlies notices the benefits Ty receives from MDO.  

“When we go to the park he will go up to other kids and play with them, whereas before he would just play with me,” said Marlies.  

She said she is happier and more energized as well.  

“The first day I took a nap and got some things together. It was the rest I needed. Last week I went shopping. It’s the first time I’ve done things for myself in a year and a half,” said Marlies.  

Melissa Barbato, whose daughter, Giulia, attends MDO, said they make more connections within the St. John community through the ministry.  

“We had her in a program across the river, but when this came open we jumped on it,” said Barbato. “It gives us an opportunity to interact with some of the families of our church parish and for Giulia to socialize with other kids.”  

Barbato mused, “She barely said goodbye this morning when her teacher asked, ‘Do you want to come paint Giulia?’ I think she said goodbye.”  

After she leaves, Barbato said she gets things accomplished.  

“I’m able to schedule appointments and commitments and not feel like I’m taking time away from Giulia. I’m able to handle the administrative things as a mom.”  

She added, “It recharges my mom batteries.”  

MDO enriches her family’s time together and faith lives, said Barbato.  

“We talked about Jesus before, but now Giulia has a sense that Jesus is her friend, which is wonderful,” said Barbato. 

She believes MDO is a great start for Giulia’s future involvement at St. John, noting Father Lorrain reminds people at children’s baptisms that Jesus told his disciples to “let the children come to me.”  

The Mother’s Day Out program has been successful so far, said Father Lorrain.  

“We already had the facilities in place to support a program and it provides a needed service to our young families,” he said. “The sights and sounds of young children on Tuesday and Thursday mornings also add a touch of joy to our church campus. I am grateful to the teachers and parents for taking the initiative to start this new ministry.”