Honoring Mothers: Initiative aims to help churches help mothers in need
April 28, 2020
HOUSTON — As Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 10 quickly approaches, the uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and the quarantine continues to complicate plans for family gatherings. However, regardless of location, mothers will be honored and loved.
It is the love and appreciation for mothers that inspired a new initiative by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service” is a nationwide effort to address the need for improved pastoral responses to women facing unexpected or challenging pregnancies. While it was set to launch March 25 to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), a landmark encyclical by St. John Paul II, it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, the program is set to launch Sunday, June 7 and will run through Sunday, June 6, 2021.
Julie Fritsch, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities, said that while numerous programs, such as the Gabriel Project, already provide various forms of support during pregnancy, the initiative encourages parishes to get together and “think outside the box” to help mothers in need.
“Feeling alone at a time of crisis can be overwhelming, as many of us are currently experiencing. We know feeling alone is a frequent experience of women in crisis pregnancies and those struggling to raise young children,” she said. “While help is often readily available from Archdiocesan and parish ministries and other dedicated organizations, we are sometimes less effective at communicating that help directly to women in desperate situations; individual Catholics often do not know the places or resources to recommend to a pregnant or parenting woman in need of help.”
Fritsch said the initiative aims to allow each parish to identify and better communicate the resources for pregnant and parenting mothers currently in place in their parish boundaries and region, and to prayerfully discern how each parish can improve and build upon its own response to mothers in need.
“Every parish is one-of-a-kind and is best positioned to identify the local pregnancy help resources currently available and to recognize potential gaps to be addressed among its own community,” she said.
Fritsch said the USCCB is developing educational, pastoral, prayer and action-oriented resources for parishes to use. These resources include suggestions for pastors on how to delegate efforts to appropriate parish volunteers.
“Although titled a ‘Year of Service,’ the idea isn’t that we’ll work for a single year and be done, but that we’ll work on planning for a year and then — once we know what the needs are and can plan to meet them better — begin implementation of the various service initiatives for the long-term,” she said.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, of Kansas City in Kansas, and chairman of the committee on Pro-Life Activities for the USCCB, said that well over 150,000 low-income mothers deliver their babies at Catholic hospitals each year and many tens of thousands of pregnant and parenting moms are helped each year through Catholic Charities programs and other help agencies. They also see the help of thousands of pregnancy care centers staffed by many Catholic volunteers.
“The challenges can be immense for women in difficult or unplanned pregnancies,” he said. “75% of women who choose abortion are low income.”
The Pro-Life Committee for the USCCB has developed educational, pastoral and action-oriented resources for parish use, including reflections on the teachings of Evangelium Vitae, Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si; prayers for building a culture of life; tools for documenting an inventory of local resources for pregnant mothers in need; and ideas and support for improving parish responses.
“Pregnant and parenting moms in need are in our parishes and our neighborhoods,” Archbishop Naumann said. “Women facing challenging pregnancies should see the Church as a place where they can find help, especially with its myriad of social services and organizations dedicated to meeting the needs of people in crisis.”