Catholic Family

There’s the old saying: if no one’s crying, your church is dying. While everyone is welcome at Mass — noisy babies included — sometimes a little break from the main worship space can be just as helpful for a flustered parent as it is for an overstimulated child.

We took to social media and asked families to share their favorite “cry rooms” in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. St. John Vianney, Brookfield, was a particularly popular answer, with commenters praising the fact that the space is seamlessly incorporated into the rest of the congregation, separated only by a wall for privacy and a soundproof glass window.

“Cry rooms are great because we are aware of what’s going on in the sanctuary … we’re not really apart from it, just separated,” said Jean Warner, a St. John Vianney parishioner and mother of six who has utilized the space many times over the years. “With sound pumped in and adjustable, we are still able to participate in Mass, fulfilling our Sunday obligation and corralling little people at the same time.”

Because St. John Vianney’s cry rooms are located right near the entrance and exit of the main worship space, “everyone knows they are there and accessible,” said Warner. It also makes for a quick getaway if a full evacuation plan is necessary.

“I can take a little person into the cry room and if they then explode into a full-on fit, I can then quickly football-hold him out into a hallway for a time,” she said.

St. Leonard, Muskego, was another popular answer because of the flexible options it offers families who need special accommodations. “Kids/babies are welcome and accepted in the main church,” wrote one commenter. “However, there are couches and tables in the atrium with views into church and Mass is streamed on the televisions.”

Lisa Jachimiec, Director of Child Ministry and Safeguarding at St. Leonard, said when the new parish center was being constructed in 2017, pastor Fr. Dan Janasik was determined that it would be seen as “an extension of the church,” where families could feel included in the liturgy even if they had to step away from the immediate worship area.

“We have two large monitors in the main gathering space, and then we have an adjacent fireplace room which is open all the time,” Jachimiec, meaning that people who utilize those spaces are “still a part of Mass.”

The parish also offers “Little Leos Nursery” during Sunday’s 9 a.m. Mass, where a staff member and one or more volunteers watch children aged six months to 4 years old. The parish wants to ensure that families have options for whatever level of support they need on any given week, said Jachimiec.

“We’ve seen a resurgence of young families coming to Mass, and we want to make it as easy as possible,” she said. “I raised four children, and sometimes Sunday mornings at about 8:55 was the least holy time of my week. It can be a real challenge.”

Warner said that she feels intermittently using the cry rooms and then being able to return to full participation in the pew is a great way of embracing the concept that “Catholicism is caught, not taught.”

“I don’t fully ascribe to that phrase for older children, but when children are younger they need to see their parents, grandparents and older siblings in the pew, pointing their hands towards heaven, genuflecting and taking the Mass seriously,” she said. “The cry rooms allow us to do that but still whisk a child away when he or she is being a distraction. We reinforce that when we are at Mass, we are participating in the most important part of our week. We are standing at the foot of the cross at Calvary.”

Here are some cry-room honorable mentions from our readers:

Immaculate Conception, Bay View: “It has a bathroom, window to the interior of the church, speakers, a changing table and toys and books for the kids. Great for Mass or adoration on Thursdays. And the supply of diapers has been helpful in an absent-minded-mama pinch.”

St. Dominic, Brookfield: “St. Dominic’s has a very welcoming parish where kids are welcome in the sanctuary at all times. The cry room is more of a reset room than a permanent seat. It is not a closed-off room, which makes the reset much easier.”

St. Stanislaus Oratory, Milwaukee: “St. Stan’s has an auditorium area upstairs. Mass is on a screen. People are up there not just with fussy children but if they want to explain Mass to their children or work on serving with young boys.”

St. Benedict, Fontana: “Cry room looking into the sanctuary. Front row seats to the Mass. Easy access to bathrooms, too.”

St. Anthony, Menomonee Falls: “A fantastic narthex sitting area for basic quieting and a secure cry room attached to a bathroom for those days when you need more than just a shush.”

Holy Apostles, New Berlin: “Holy Apostles in New Berlin has one in our welcome center that is equipped with a rocking chair, changing table, sink and table, as well as a speaker. Clean and cozy.”

The Little Leos nursery at St. Leonard, Muskego, has a mural painted by former parish secretary Rita Firkus, a member of St. James, Mukwonago. (Submitted photo)