By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Mentoring and supporting women during and after their pregnancy has been a ministry of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport. Jeanne Wonio, a member of the group and pro-life coordinator for the Diocese of Davenport, would like the program to expand to parishes throughout the diocese.
Volunteer mentors are paired with women who are pregnant in the parish, community or elsewhere.
“We follow a mom. The mentor might call her every now and then, pray for her, send a card saying she is thinking of her. It can be anything,” Wonio noted. Volunteer mentors also encourage pregnant parishioners to feel welcomed in the parish and to get their babies baptized.
The level of involvement in Elizabeth Ministry is up to the mentor and pregnant mother. Some mentors have taken moms to appointments or watched a mom’s children so she can go to an appointment. “But prayer is the main focus,” Wonio said.
She mentored a Palmer College of Chiropractic student’s sister who lived in Pennsylvania. “I wrote to the sister every month. When the baby girl was born I picked out an outfit and sent it to her. We continue to exchange Christmas cards.”
Jean Jackson has been involved in life ministry for years. In addition to Elizabeth Ministry, she has been involved with Birthright.
“I like to do things for others,” Jackson said. She once mentored a mother who had been told her unborn baby had a health problem. The mom was also dealing with a toddler. “She needed prayers.”
Jackson sent notes to the expectant mother to let her know that she was praying for her and the baby. The two talked on the phone; Jackson also visited in person and helped babysit the woman’s toddler.
When the baby was born she continued praying that the child didn’t have any major issues. “I brought her a gift and continued to babysit at times.” Although the woman and her family moved from the area, mother and mentor still communicate at Christmas time through cards.
Another woman Jackson mentored lived in Wisconsin. “I know this gal’s mom. I prayed for the woman and her baby. After the birth I continued to stay in touch through her mom.”
Another mentor is Tracey Jacobsen. “Jeanne asked me to help. She had a pregnant woman in mind for me and asked if I would be interested. I told her ‘yes.’”
Jacobsen exchanged phone calls with the woman and sent her cards. “I took her to soup suppers at our church so that she could be acquainted with other members of the church. I have continually prayed for her. It’s been a rewarding experience for the mentor. “I was able to share my faith with a woman of the same faith. I was able to learn from her and I hope she was able to learn something from me,” Jacobsen said.
“I hope I was able to bring her more into the community of our church. I was able to gain a new friend and one that I cherish.” She hopes to mentor another mother in the future. “This is a very fulfilling ministry.”
Sometimes a pregnancy doesn’t go as intended and the baby dies in utero, at birth or afterward. Elizabeth Ministry provides support for those moms and planted a memory garden in their honor in 2005, Wonio said. A statue of Mary is in its center, surrounded by flowers most of the year. Family members can place the name of a baby on a brick to add to the pathway around the memorial. “We’ve even had one gift in memory of a grandma placed there,” Wonio said.
For more information on Elizabeth Ministry or how to establish one in your parish, contact Wonio at (563) 355-4188 or at the diocese at (563) 324-1911.