Daycare is a frequent topic of discussion in the Catholic Working Mothers Facebook group. How to find a good daycare, what is a fair price to pay for daycare, what questions should you ask when interviewing daycare providers, how to resolve various daycare issues, lack of availability of good and affordable daycare in certain areas, and so on.
The frequent questions made me wonder if there was a specific saint for Catholics to invoke when dealing with daycare issues. I took an informal poll in the Facebook group and did some searching online, and here’s what I found.
There are actually several candidates for the patron saint of daycare issues/daycare providers, but no one official per se. The leading candidates are:
St. Gianna Beretta Molla
Given that St. Gianna is the patron saint of working mothers (as well as the patron saint of this blog!) she seems a perfect candidate for the patron saint of daycare issues as well. Both St. Gianna and her husband, Pietro, had demanding careers (she as a doctor, he as an engineer), and they no doubt encountered many issues with childcare as their family grew. I’m sure she interceded for her husband, Pietro, after her death as he left his children in the care of another and worked to support them without her.
Here is a novena prayer to St. Gianna.
St. Stylianos of Paphlagonia
St. Stylianos is primarily a saint in the Orthodox faith, but his page on Orthodox Wiki says he’s also venerated in the Roman Catholic Church. I didn’t even know he existed until I did a Google search for “patron saint of daycare,” but to my surprise I found out that my son Gabriel was born on his feast day (November 26). Now my son has a new patron saint!
I love what the Wiki page says about him:
During this period, Stylianos concerned himself primarily with children, not just the physically afflicted but also with those who were in need of spiritual guidance. Families from all walks of life were said to have entrusted to Stylianos the enlightenment of their children, and he was forced to seek out larger headquarters and to recruit from the ranks of his hermit friends the assistance needed to tend to so many. His was probably the first day-care centre in the world, where mothers could safely leave their children while tending to other matters of the home.
Stylianos was to become the patron saint of children yet to be born, owing to stories of his miraculous intercession for a young woman who helped him with children but could bear none of her own. When the woman conceived, her husband out of sheer joy spread the word of this miracle, and before long many barren women came to the great hermit. Those whose faith in Jesus Christ was genuine became fertile.
I love that he provided a service for mothers so they could attend to “matters of the home.” Just goes to show that stay-at-home-moms can appreciate good daycare, too! Here are some prayers to St. Stylianos.
The St. Nicholas Center has this to say about his patronage of children:
In the West Nicholas is most widely known as the patron saint of children. Many of his stories tell of children rescued from calamity and returned to the care and keeping of their families. In France the most familiar story, both told and sung, is of three little children lured into the clutches of an evil butcher and rescued by St. Nicholas. Other stories, as well, tell of children who disappeared, were kidnaped, fell into a well, or suffered some other disaster-all to be delivered through the good offices of St. Nicholas. These accounts of a child forcibly taken from parents, followed by a time of grieving and despair, then the miraculous return of the child, have profound and universal appeal which makes Nicholas the much valued Guardian of Children. It is no wonder he is the beloved patron saint of children.
Sending your kids off to daycare isn’t quite the same as having them lost or kidnapped, but sometimes it can be traumatic leaving your little ones in someone else’s care for the day (especially on the first day back from maternity leave, when you feel like you’re abandoning your tiny, helpless baby). St. Nicholas sounds like a good candidate for the patron saint of mothers who are struggling with leaving their children.
Here is a novena you can pray to St. Nicholas.
According to the Universal Living Rosary Association, St. Philomena is the patroness of, among others:
- the Youth[,] with predilection for babies and children;
- afflicted mothers who invoke her for material or spiritual help for their children;
- young married couples, with many times given the joys of motherhood; and
- expectant mothers
If St. Philomena is such a friend to parents and children, it only makes sense that she would have sympathy for the parents who are trying to find quality care for their children.
Here is a novena you can pray to St. Philomena.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is one of my favorite saints! (I gave my youngest daughter the middle name of Elizabeth partly in her honor.) She was, like me, a Catholic convert and a mother of five. Unlike me, she was a widow and had to raise her children as a single mother, while working as a teacher and founding a religious order. (Incidentally, I didn’t realize it until just now, while doing research for this post, but her birthday is today! She was born August 28, 1774. Happy birthday, Mother Seton!)
I have to imagine that Mother Seton had many moments when her position as a teacher conflicted with the needs of her children, so I think she can sympathize with those of us who need to find reliable, safe childcare so that we can both work and make sure our children are safe and happy while we are away from them. She was also a kind and conscientious care provider to the children sent to her for schooling, which means she could be a patroness of both daycare seekers and daycare providers. She also started New York city’s first charity, the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children, so I think she can sympathize with those of us who wince at the amount of money we pay to daycare each week!
Incidentally, if you are interested in watching a great movie about Mother Seton’s life, I highly recommend A Time for Miracles. I own it on DVD (as part of this collection, which I found in the $5 bin at Walmart last December) and it’s excellent — plus it starts one of my favorite actresses, Kate Mulgrew, as Mother Seton.
Here is a novena to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
A Prayer for Working Mothers
Finally, here is a prayer for all working mothers who struggle with leaving our children at daycare:
O Lord, since I must now entrust my precious child into the arms of another so that I may go forth to earn bread for our table, accept my offering of tears and deep regret.
Take my child, Lord—and my aching heart—and lay them together in your dear Mother’s lap where both may rest secure until I come again to claim my treasures.