Lisa Hendey, author of the Catholic Post Book Group’s May selection, The Handbook for Catholic Moms, is the creator of CatholicMom.com (www.CatholicMom.com), a website focusing on the Catholic faith, Catholic parenting and family life, and Catholic cultural topics.
She’s host of the popular podcast “Catholic Moments” (www.CatholicMoments.com), and also a prolific online writer at Catholic Exchange, Catholic Online, Faith & Family Live!, and many other places. She also runs a home-based web design business. She lives in California with her husband and two teenage sons.
I had the privilege of getting to meet and interview Lisa last month while she was in Chicago. Following are some highlights from our discussion:
Q. Why did you decide to write The Handbook for Catholic Moms?
One of the big issues for me at CatholicMom.com and in preparing to write the book was reaching out to the women who were frustrated and burned out and in very emotional situations in fulfilling their vocation as a mom. I wanted to write something that would be encouraging for my two sisters and my girlfriends, for the moms in my life and those I've encountered through my work on the website.
I look at my own family and see real moms, each living in unique family and employment circumstances, and I want to support them all. We are the Body of Christ in so many different ways, and what I wanted to do with the book was to provide support for any type of mom. I wanted every mom who picks up the Handbook to feel they have something to take away from their experience of reading it.
The other thing I was definitely not trying to say, "I’m perfect, look what I’m doing". I’m far from it! But I have a sense of optimism about the joy of a Catholic mom's vocation, and I wanted to share that through The Handbook for Catholic Moms.
Q. What is the main thing you hope women will take from the book?
I want moms to realize that every mom has her own unique journey. There’s not a cookie cutter for how to be a mom.
There are things in the book that are not realistic for every mom in every point of her life. I’m not saying, “Do all these things.” I’m saying, “Moms, let’s take care of ourselves, let’s take care of each other. If we don’t care for ourselves, we do a disservice to our families. It's acceptable to take the time and energy to nurture yourself emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually. By truly caring for ourselves in these ways, we better serve our families, our communities and our Church.”
In a particular way, I want moms to come away from the book with the knowledge that our Church has created all these beautiful tools for us to nurturing ourselves spiritually. I love sharing encouragement and tips from people who have given real world examples, like how to fit prayer into a mom's busy schedule or how to create a "culture of faith" in our homes.
Q. One of my favorites elements of the book were the stories of your life and the lives of other moms that can reach out to moms in different situations. They were very “real” and healthy in helping moms know they are not alone in their struggles. You share, for instance, about how you weren’t as always accepting of your husband’s faith journey before he converted to Catholicism.
My biggest regret is that I judged myself for that situation, and I judged my husband Greg. What’s very odd is that the point of his conversion came when I had finally received a little peace about the situation and stepped back from worrying over it so much. And now I can look back and realize good came from the very situation that had caused me so much stress and anxiety.
I specifically started CatholicMom.com because of the fact that I felt such a responsibility to pass on my Catholic faith to my sons, and my husband and I were not of the same faith. I know I wouldn’t have started the website had that not been the hand that I was dealt. You can look back at the situation and say, "I wish it had been different", but good came from it. I also have so much respect and admiration for my husband's spiritual journey and the fruit that it has born in his life and in our family's life.
Q. What was your favorite part of writing The Handbook for Catholic Moms?
Honestly, I was so happily surprised by how willing so many people were to share their stories for the book, and how big a community of people got behind the message of encouraging moms in their vocation.
That’s how I was able to write the book through the course of surgery and radiation (for breast cancer), and everything else that was happening in my life -- So many people were praying me through the challenges and helping me to accomplish the project.
Every day during the process of writing the book, I would announce on CatholicMom.com and Facebook and other places, “This is what I’m writing about today,” and by the time I got to the library to write I had 10 or 15 stories or quotes or other ideas to be included in the book. I truly felt as though I had other people walking with me as I wrote.
Q. Ten years ago when you entered the digital world, how much experience did you have?
Absolutely none! Our Catholic School principal asked for a volunteer web designer, and I stepped up. I had no experience whatsoever, but I was given a little training for this. I realized I loved working on the computer! That’s strange because I was a French major, and my master’s degree is in human resources. I’m not a techy person by any means, but when I started it I realized I enjoyed it. My inherent curiosity and motivation to learn new things has served me well in ensuing years.
The digital age provides a wonderful means to an important end, which is our joy about sharing the Gospel message. It makes sense to me that to be an effective apostle, you have to embrace communications where you are. If that means going to YouTube, we go to YouTube. My conviction about the message I’m sharing allows me to work through obstacles instead of just giving up.
Q. What do you like most about the work you do?
I love getting out and interacting with moms. I love getting to meet, either online or in person, different people who are working to share our faith. I love going out to parishes. I love the tech side of it. That’s really surprising to me as I’ve said because it is not my background.
Q. What is your vision for CatholicMom.com and your online work?
Every day I wake up and say, “Okay God, what do you want me to do today?”
I feel so blessed that God has gifted me with this apostolate and that I can serve and glorify Him in this way, through the website and all we are doing. I am also grateful to realize that God has given me certain abilities and the means to follow His plan for my life. My "vision" for the future of CatholicMom.com is to continue to follow His will, to reach out and support Catholic moms in any way that I can, and to be on the forefront of embracing new means of social communications to carry out this mission.
Q. Where do you see technology taking your ministry in the future?
I love that we can employ the New Media in so many creative and uplifting ways to share our faith. Podcasting is something that I really love. At CatholicMom.com, we’re in the initial phases of an App for the Iphone and the Ipad that will incorporate the podcast, our videos and the blog. Apps are the next thing for those of us in new media; people don’t necessarily always sit down in front of their computers. The trend in technology and communications is toward great mobility. Those of us working in Catholic New Media and evangelization need to learn to format our information in a way that is easily accessible for people in a variety of different ways.
Q. Is it different to work in New Media than in traditional media?
It’s funny when you write for online audiences, it does change the way that you write. It’s not so much that you “Twitterize” (or keep it super short) but you tend to write in a more concise way. When I write for Faith& Family Live blog, I’m tend to write shorter pieces and build more interactivity into my writing. Online trends and the development of social networking venues like Facebook and Twitter are definitely impacting the way we interact with our audience as writers. But the importance of the messages, supporting the true teachings of our Catholic Church and expressing our zeal for our faith, remain timeless themes regardless of the technology involved.