Catholic Herald Staff
“Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service” is one of the many efforts affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The initiative was embraced by U.S. bishops at their 2019 fall meetings as a means of celebrating the 25th anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical on the Gospel of Life, “Evangelium Vitae.”
Designed as a year of service directed toward mothers in need – both pregnant and parenting young children – dioceses and parishes across the country are following a five-phase program to promote a culture of life and provide practical resources supporting mothers when they are faced with an unexpected pregnancy or parenting crisis.
Diocesan Director of the Respect Life Office Bonita Thom said information and resources provided by the program’s organizers are meant ‘‘to be utilized and adjusted to various parishes and communities depending on size and resources.”
The year of service commenced March 25, both the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord and the anniversary of the publication of the encyclical.
However, in a March 23 statement made by Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, “in light of current events,” dioceses and parishes were advised to adjust their schedules “according to what is pastorally and practically appropriate for everyone’s safety.”
The archbishop encouraged prayer that the initiative would “help us increase our outreach, so that every pregnant and parenting mother in need may know she can turn to her local Catholic community for help and authentic friendship.”
Already in the Diocese of Superior, adjustments have been made. Bishop James P. Powers, along with many other priests throughout the diocese, were going to celebrate a Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb on Sunday, March 22, during Masses. That would have kicked off the beginning of the first phase, where the year of service was announced and a core team developed.
Thom introduced the program to some of the priests and Respect Life leaders throughout the diocese. They were scheduled to meet in April for a semi-annual gathering, but that has been cancelled until social distancing restrictions are lifted.
Phase Two is to launch a parish inventory process, assessing local resources available in addition to what parish and community outreach programs already exist. These would include pregnancy resource centers, medical clinics and counseling services, housing and childcare programs, local food pantries and family/parenting educational programs or other local parish opportunities.
This is still tentatively planned for early May to coincide with Mother’s Day.
According to Thom, “once the inventory is completed, it will help identify any gaps in support or services within the parish and community. This, in turn, will help parishes and communities to look at their own giftedness and encourage the development of additional support for moms in need of support and/or services.”
Phase Three, a stage of inventory results sharing, assessment and planning, is slated for September, followed by Phase Four – committing to parish response plans in January and finalizing with the fifth phase in March 2021, where the process is celebrated and parish plans implemented.
Despite the setbacks and loss of momentum with the COVID-19 circumstances, Thom believes time and energy will be made up once social distancing restrictions are lifted or partially rolled back. Until then, she is working “as best we can through technology.”
“Either way,” she said, “I am excited about this initiative to build up our parishes and communities as we grow a culture of life throughout the Diocese of Superior.”
She feels the initiative is a great opportunity for parishes and communities to help every mom raise her child regardless of their circumstances, as well as meet the challenge of Pope St. John Paul II when he said, “With great openness and courage, we need to question how widespread is the culture of life today among individual Christians, families, groups and communities in our dioceses. With equal clarity and determination we must identify the steps we are called to take in order to serve life in all its truth” (EV 95).
Thom admitted that under the current circumstances, other priorities have taken her attention away from “Walking with Moms in Need,” but she welcomes anyone to contact her if they have questions or are interested in the program. She can be reached at 715-394-0206 or . More general information is available at www.walkingwithmoms.com.
“It would be wonderful to see Walking with Moms In Need become visible throughout our diocese,” Thom said.