Read: My Love Letter to My Mother-in-Law by Stephanie Smith

This week Bishop Boyea is challenging each of us to write a letter of thanksgiving to our mother, living or dead, and to pray a Hail Mary for her daily. It’s the latest weekly challenge from Bishop Boyea as part of his Disciples Together on the Way initiative.

One person who has taken up the challenge is Stephanie Smith, Director of Religious Education at Saint Therese Parish in Lansing, who has penned this beautiful letter to her mother-in-law, Virginia, pictured below with Stephanie. Here is what Stephanie has to say:

Dear Mom, Virginia,

Upon another Mother’s Day, I find myself thinking about my own role as mother, and I pray that at the end of the day, my five children know how very much I love them.

I think about my mother, so young when I was born, so naive and unprepared and yet willing to give me life and love in 1975, when two years prior, she was told loud and clear that she didn’t have to.

I think about my grandmother, who is all things comfort and “home” to me. I think of other women through the years that were there for me in ways big and small.

But, what I want you to know this Mother’s Day, is that I think of you, my greatest inspiration as my Catholic mom.

We are all called to be Christ for others - to be His hands and His feet, His ears and His mouth. In that same way, as women and mothers we are called to be like Mary, Mother of God.

This call to holiness is challenging, indeed! But for me, you are the greatest possible example of living out that call. Ours is a very private family, and we don’t say these kinds of things freely or openly, but I think it’s time to tell you how special you are to me.

How can I tell you how very much you, my mother-in-law, have taught me through the years? How can I ever thank you? I have not always been the easiest of daughters-in-law, that is certain. Marrying into a family so different than the one in which I was raised was hard. Figuring out my place was, and at times still is, tricky.

But looking back through the years, you never judged me for all the ways I was different. You never looked down on me from the moment we met (and I still remember my first time at “the farm” so well). When I entered the Church at Easter Vigil in 1999, you were there.

You occasionally still bring up what a wonderful Mass that was. You remember the most important day of my life just as I do! When my first daughter was born, you were there. When I was on bedrest with my twins, you were there. When my husband was sick, you were there. When I turned to you in my darkest moments, you were there. When I chose not to turn to you or even pushed you away, you accepted that but remained right there, ready if I needed you. You welcomed me into your family from the start, and I know you see me as your daughter in every way.

You truly amaze me. You, who are so good, never speak ill of anyone. You listen without judging, and you share a simple wisdom rooted in honesty and faith that you don’t realize is so very profound. But mostly you share wisdom in the way you live. You model what being a wife looks like. You model what being a mother and grandmother looks like. And you model what being a mother-in-law looks like.

There is nothing I cannot ask of you, nothing I cannot tell you, no moment in time when I cannot count on you. You give and give and give. Just like Mary. And you ask nothing in return. You are patient, and kind, and loving, and humble. But you are also so very strong. You do not compromise your beliefs about family or God or life. You live them - in good times and in the worst of times. Just like Mary. In watching you live in such a way true to yourself and your faith, I have learned, little by little as I was ready, how to be a wife and mother.

I have a long way to go, but I take great comfort in knowing you are there to help me day by day.

So this Mother’s Day, I just want to thank you for being exactly you and for loving me exactly as I am!

Your daughter in Christ and in Love,