"My mother went to church."
Translation:Mi madre fue a la iglesia.
It seems like this English sentence could also be interpreted as "Mi madre iba a la iglesia." As in, she was in the habit of going to church.
'ir' = to go, and 'irse' = to go away She did not 'go away' to church, she just went to church
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.