"My mother went to church."
Translation:Mi madre fue a la iglesia.
It might be localism (i don't think so) but, depends on the situation. If you are talking past (yesterday, the month before... ) mi madre fue a la iglesia <> my mother went to church. Even my madre fue a la iglesia durante años, pero ya no va.
However, if you just arrive home and you ask about my mother: she went to church <>My madre se fue a la iglesia <> she's away in church.
for completeness my madre se acaba de ir a la iglesia <> my mother just left to the church
Mi madre is the subject, the so called "personal a" is a way to link a direct object to the verb. This basically means that madre is not receiving any action, but doing it.
Yo he llevado a mi madre a la iglesia is perhaps closer to what you where thinking. There the action is made by me, acted on mi madre, because she is receiving the action of being carried and a la iglesia is an object that indicates where to my mother is being carried. That said, the latter is no "personal a"
This is one of several issue with which I struggle. I use it when I shouldn't and omit when it's required. I sort of understand its use to show movement towards something or towards the word itself (???). Thank you for your reply. I'm hanging in here still practicing my skills.