April 3, 2020

USCCB effort will help parishes assist pregnant and parenting moms

By Natalie Hoefer

Walking with Moms in Need logoEleven months ago, Brie Anne Varick gave birth to a little girl, her and her husband’s first child. Her recuperation was an eye-opening experience.

Having a flexible job, maternity leave, the help of a husband with paternity leave and meals from a supportive faith community were “a blessing,” she says.

“But it was still hard,” Varick admits. “Try recovering physically when you haven’t slept a solid four hours in weeks!”

The experience made her reflect on single mothers without similar support: How do single moms earning minimum wage afford all the costs of having and caring for a baby? How do they get child care when most day care centers have a 3-month minimum age requirement? How do single mothers handle the stress of pregnancy and parenting if they don’t have a network of support?

Such concerns make Varick, archdiocesan Office of Human Life and Dignity coordinator, excited about the launching of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) “Walking with Moms in Need” year of service. The effort began on March 25 and will end on the same date in 2021.

“This effort is definitely needed,” she says. “We have a lot of organizations, non-profits, parishes, and archdiocesan programs that are waiting to be utilized, and want—and need—to share these resources.”

Parishes best know local needs and resources

The year of service provides parishes, deaneries and dioceses “an opportunity to assess, expand and communicate resources to pregnant moms and families in need,” according to the USCCB’s web page about “Walking with Moms in Need.”

The effort coincides with the 25th anniversary of a hallmark pro-life encyclical. On March 25, 1995, St. John Paul II released “Evangelium vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”), concerning the value and inviolability of human life.

Accordingly, the USCCB’s pro-life committee is coordinating the year of service. Its chairman, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., announced the effort in a letter to U.S. bishops late last year.

“The challenges can be immense for women in difficult pregnancies, especially women in poverty,” the letter states. “According to 2014 statistics from abortion providers, women who chose abortion were poor, young, and unmarried: 75 percent were low income, 60 percent were in their 20’s, and 86 percent were unmarried.”

The letter notes that women in difficult or crisis 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.

“But do we have an accurate picture of what is available, and how we communicate it?”

The U.S. bishops were encouraged to invite the parishes in their dioceses to take part in the “Walking with Moms in Need” effort.

In February, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson sent a letter to priests in the archdiocese encouraging them to enlist their parish’s participation in the effort.

“Every region is different, every community is unique, and every parish is one-of-a-kind,” Archbishop Thompson states in his letter. “Your parish is best positioned to identify the local pregnancy [and parenting] help resources that are currently available, and to recognize potential gaps that may need to be addressed.”

‘A central place to go’ to find local resources

The first stage of the initiative for participating parishes includes praying for single pregnant and parenting mothers, and raising awareness of the challenges they face.

Each participating parish will then create a core team. Using tools, tips and resources on the USCCB’s “Walking with Moms in Need” website, they will identify and report local resources that help such mothers. Examples include parish- and Catholic-sponsored ministries, faith- and secular-based food banks, pregnancy care centers, adoption services, maternity homes, hospitals, social service agencies and more.

The results will be reported to Varick. Ultimately, she says, “The archdiocese will have a website that will highlight resources in each deanery so that there will be a central place for people to go if they are looking for help” for themselves or a mother in need.

She admits that the temporary closing of parishes in response to the coronavirus has delayed the progress of the initiative’s first steps.

“But we can start praying now, while we’re in our homes waiting through this uncertain time,” Varick says. “And we can start using social media to raise awareness of the challenges these women face and the places we know of in our local communities who can help.”

‘We do support them and their choice for life’

This year of service for pregnant and parenting moms “is so needed,” says Varick. “The pro-life movement is making an emphasis on loving both the baby and the mother. This [initiative] gives people a way to live out this message.”

Finding and identifying resources will be helpful, she says. But no inventory will be of use if it is not communicated and promulgated.

“I hope that each parish will look at ways to better communicate the list of resources they identify, so that anyone in any particular parish or neighborhood would know where to send a pregnant woman or mother in need if she were to ask for help.”

When information is lacking about available resources, Varick continues, “programs can be duplicated, while other areas of need will not be met.

“If we can have a better idea of what is available, we can share our resources with each other and focus our efforts, time, finances and volunteers to fill the areas where we see needs.

“This [year of service] is our opportunity to show these women they are loved, and that we do support them and their decision to choose life.”

(For more information on the USCCB’s “Walking with Moms in Need” year of service, tools, resources and a suggested timeline, go to www.walkingwithmoms.com. For questions or help in implementing this project in your parish, contact Brie Anne Varick at 317-236-1543 or e-mail bvarick@archindy.org. To order “Walking with Moms in Need” prayer cards, go to shorturl.at/dfjV9.)

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