New Book Offers Advice for Catholic Moms of College Kids

Maribeth Harper wants to help you accompany your kids to college. Instead of moving on to campus with them and auditing their classes, her advice is to be with them in prayer every step of the way.

With the wisdom of a mother who has just finished sending her own four children off to college, and the experience of a woman who has learned to parent by placing her young-adult children in God’s hands, she has written a new book called …And So We PrayGuidance for Moms of College-Aged Young Adults. It offers 33 chapters of reflection, advice and prayer, to cover the 33 weeks of the academic year.

During the time her children were in college, Maribeth says she really experienced how practical and applicable to real-life the Catholic faith can be, and how it helped her meet the spiritual, moral and parental challenges that she and her husband faced during those years.

The idea of writing a book came to her after she met Laurel Howanitz, the founder of Praying College Moms.  This ministry, which had about 200 women meeting in small groups, was using a very good protestant book for their discussions over the last five years, but they really wanted something with a Catholic perspective. Maribeth called it a “Holy Spirit moment.” She clearly saw an opportunity to share her own thoughts and experiences, having sent four through college. She also wanted to involve others she knew who had valuable wisdom that could be of help to mothers, including fellow Regnum Christi members, Legionary priests, and Fr. Paul Scalia of the diocese of Arlington, VA, who wrote the foreword to the book.

As a Regnum Christi member, Maribeth credits the movement with teaching her to pray, and to be faithful to prayer on a daily basis.  Having seen the fruit of this in her own family life, she is passionate about teaching other women this discipline.  To her, the opportunity to write a book was the perfect opportunity to share her enthusiasm for daily prayer and ask other people she knows with deep spiritual lives to contribute as well.

Photo: The Harper Family

Maribeth challenged herself to be very practical in writing the book, citing the many times in her own experience when she realized that if the Catholic Faith didn’t apply to the particular situation her family was facing, it was hard for her kids to understand why they should be Catholic.  In every life situation that she and her children faced, she would look for the faith principle in play, building a list of topics she had experience with — from alcohol on campus, to homosexuality, runaway tuition costs, sexual assault, the rise in mental health emergencies, and other hot-button issues.

In addition to offering practical advice, Maribeth said, “It is important that moms accompany their students with grace and wisdom, but I wrote the book to help mothers with college aged young adults grow closer to Christ and, where they meet in groups, to build up a Christian community. I think that a supportive community is essential for women of any age and I think that women with college aged young adults are sometimes in transition, moving from a kid-oriented social life to one of their own making. They can become isolated.  If they’re experienced pray-ers, they need strong faithful friends. If they’re new to prayer, the REALLY benefit from accompaniment of other women.”

Asked about the one thing she wished that she would have known as a mom sending her child to college for the first time, she shared, “I wish that I could have had more hope and more trust in God and in our parenting, because I would have been much more calm and cheerful than I sometimes was.  It doesn’t work to nag, to carry a grudge, to hold onto anxiety…it’s not good for us parents and the kids don’t want to hear that from us.” Even when things that are serious need to be addressed, Maribeth relates that, “When a bigger issue arose, I  reminded Our Lord that this or that was ‘above my pay grade.’ Placing it in his hands allowed me to interact with whichever child was misbehaving in a calm and reasoned way — most of the time.”

The 33-chapter book is broken into three parts, Who is God and Does He Care About My Child?, Looking at College Crises Through a Faith-Based Lens, and When We Doubt.  Each chapter addresses a real-life topic, shares a family experience, delves into the Catholic principle in play, leads readers in a prayer, and offers questions for reflection.   The book can be read as a private devotional, or it can be part of a small group study.  Melissa Overmyer, a friend of Maribeth’s, created a video on the Praying College Moms website that anyone can view to receive training as a leader.  They are currently fundraising to be able to have the book translated into Spanish.

In addition to the book, Maribeth maintains a blog at, which offers advice geared to the specific time of year. August’s topic was about saying goodbye. September’s will be about how to handle sadness after they have left.

The 424 page book is available in paperback and kindle versions.

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