Mollie Baumer’s family seems to expand by the number of projects she becomes immersed in.
A bond with husband John and children Maxwell, Delaney and Jack Henry is strengthened through a faith life at American Martyrs Catholic Church in Manhattan Beach. But outreach with the church’s sister parish at St. Lawrence of Brindisi in Watts has allowed her to pay things forward.
Growing up in the St. John Fisher parish in Palos Verdes, as the third of six children, Mollie saw the power of giving back through her parents Richard and Pat Meehan working in Marriage Encounter outreach. They became friends with incoming St. Lawrence of Brindisi pastor Fr. Peter Banks, and their home became a place for barbeques and pool parties.
Today, Mollie has served more than 10 years on the non-profit Friends of St. Lawrence-Watts board, which Fr. Banks founded, helping to fund elementary school and high school scholarships as well as support the literacy center on campus. Her father, a retired dentist who volunteered 18 years doing pro-bono work for the Catholic Worker on Skid Row, is also part of that board.
Richard Meehan once said in a profile about him published in The Tidings: “One of the things I really stress with my children is borrowed from (Catholic Worker cofounder) Peter Maurin: ‘We must live more simply, so other people can simply live.’ … I just think serving the poor is a calling.”
Says Mollie of the St. Lawrence of Brindisi connection: “That parish was always an extension of our family. It was a full circle moment when I realized that when I was starting my family, it was my turn to pick up the torch.”
The re-connect started at the American Martyrs grade-school level, where her children were involved in the pen-pal program with St. Lawrence students.
As an education major at St. Mary’s in South Bend, Ind., and teaching school for two years, Mollie is encouraged by first-hand experience how a students’ reading success will allow them to thrive more in other subjects. The St. Lawrence literacy program focuses on grades 1-5 to push their reading levels with the help of local tutors, some of whom also went through the program while at the school.
“The one word I have to describe Mollie is ‘mighty’,” says Delan Hilliard, the executive director of the Friends of St. Lawrence-Watts Youth Center. “She has an incredible infectious passion for our mission of empowering the children and families of Watts with education, enrichment and advocacy. She knows many of the families personally and cares deeply about them, and passed that on to her own children. Mollie truly lives the Gospel message in all she does.”
A soccer player in college as well as at Bishop Montgomery High in Torrance, Mollie has first-hand experience in how sports creates a community of support, including with her children through Catholic Youth Organization. She got on board at the start 10 years ago with the non-profit St. Sebastian Sports Project, which helps level the playing field for under-served inner-city Catholic athletic programs by giving financial support for uniforms, equipment and coaching education. With daughter Delaney, now attending Marymount High, Mollie became a support liaison for St. Raphael’s Catholic Church in South L.A.
“My husband Jim and I have known the Baumers for many years but our friendship really grew from their involvement,” says SSSP executive director Clare Gurbach. “Mollie and her entire family have been true believers in this project’s mission from the very beginning. Mollie makes every child feel very special with a sparkle in her eyes always and a great sense of humor, which enables her to connect with people in a profound way. Delaney is a lot like Mollie at our events – she rolls up her sleeves and contributes in any way needed.”
Mollie’s work with the Campaign Cabinet for the University of Notre Dame, where her son Maxwell currently attends, and as a member of the Archdioceses of Los Angeles’ Development Department Advisory Board is an expansion of her involvement with the American Martyrs’ annual parish fair silent auction committee.
“I see being at church as a moment to give thanks and pray with my family,” Mollie says. “But for me, being out there and interacting with people is where spirituality comes into play. I think what sums it up best is when you’re in our church and look at the altar, the inscription on the ambo says: ‘Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only.’ Our parish is a great example of that.”
American Martyrs pastor Monsignor John Barry says he believes Mollie and her family have taken seriously the message of the Matthew 25 gospel.
“She and John show simplicity in their life direction amidst the complexity of their careers,” says Msgr. Barry. “They place family first – but beyond their immediate family, embracing the extended family in many different ways.”