WASHINGTON—The Diocese of Charleston is joining a nationwide effort called “Walking With Moms in Need: A Year of Service”, designed to help pregnant women and mothers of young children.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone issued an invitation to all parishes in a memo to pastors recently.
“There are pregnant women and mothers in our parishes and neighborhoods who desperately need our help,” the bishop stated. “Many [churches] may already have an outreach in place but we are looking at strengthening and amplifying our message of hope to better serve women in crisis.”
The bishop noted that the program is inspired by the 25th anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium vitae, (“The Gospel of Life”), which condemns abortion and euthanasia.
Originally scheduled to begin on the encyclical’s March 25 anniversary, the program was delayed by the outbreak of COVID-19 and will instead begin on May 25, 2020, and run through May 25, 2021.
Kathy Schmugge, director of the diocesan Family Life office, said she has been an advocate of the concept from the beginning and was a strong proponent of diocesan involvement.
The initiative was announced by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, on the National Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children Jan. 22, the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
“As the church and growing numbers of pro-life Americans continue to advocate for women and children in courthouses and legislatures, the Church’s pastoral response is focused on the needs of women facing pregnancies in challenging circumstances,” Archbishop Naumann said.
This pastoral response to pregnant women and mothers in need “has long been the case” for the church, he said, but added the Year of Service will “intensify” this response.
The new program has its own website, www.walkingwithmoms.com, with “resources, outreach tools and models to assist parishes in this effort,” according to a statement from the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.
“There are so many resources,” Schmugge said. “They’ve built it up beautifully.”
Of course, church ministries have long been involved in helping women who choose life for their unborn babies.
For example, St. John the Beloved Church in Summerville recently sponsored a young couple who chose life for their baby. Parishioners joined together to help not only with baby supplies, medical care and shelter, but also to find a car and jobs for the parents.
Schmugge said their involvement is a prototype to what the USCCB program is all about.
“No matter what mistakes [parents] make, that baby deserves everything we can give,” she said.
A number of parishes have been waiting for the green light and are eager to start, including Christ Our King in Mount Pleasant, St. Philip Neri in Fort Mill, and St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken, Schmugge said.
Through the Year of Service, parishes are asked to complete a simple inventory of the resources currently available in their local area, assess the results and identify gaps, and plan and implement a parish response based on their findings.
In “recognizing that women in need can be most effectively reached at the local level,” Archbishop Naumann explained, the year of service “invites parishes to assess, communicate, and expand resources to expectant mothers within their own communities.”
The Year of Service is divided into five phases of parish action:
Phase 1: Announce the Year of Service and begin building a core team
Phase 2: Launch parish inventory process
Phase 3: Share inventory results and begin assessment and planning
Phase 4: Announcement and Commitment to Parish Response
Phase 5: Celebration and Implementation of Parish Plans
There are suggested steps for implementing each phase along with sample announcements, sample intercessions, homily helps and prayer activity.
For example in Phase 1, the steps include: appoint a parish leader; begin assembling a parish core team; establish a parish support network; announce the “Evangelium Vitae” anniversary and Year of Service; pray for pregnant mothers in need as a parish community; and begin planning the parish’s first core team meeting.
“We pray that ‘Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service’ will help us reach every pregnant mother in need, that she may know she can turn to her local Catholic community for help and authentic friendship,” Archbishop Naumann said when he announced the nationwide effort.
Amy Wise Taylor/The Catholic Miscellany contributed to this report.