By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
BETTENDORF — Several years ago, Lee Ann Picchiotti began thinking about what to do when she retired from her career in obstetrics and neonatal intensive care. Getting involved in the health ministry program at St. John Vianney Parish was definitely on the table. Welcoming parishioners’ newborn infants and adopted children became a dream come true.
The parish has many health ministry programs, but the new parent home visit program allows Picchiotti to use her talents to help others. The new parent program began this spring. About three weeks after a newborn or adopted child is brought home, a health minister visits the family to check in and welcome the new child, Picchiotti said. No hands-on care or physical exam is involved. “We’re there to mainly answer questions.” The health minister also brings a homemade casserole made by a St. John Vianney parishioner, and a small gift.
“As a former OB nurse, I know that when new parents can become overwhelmed is generally after three weeks when family and friend support has decreased. This is why it is a good time to connect with them to see what needs we could help with,” said health minister Maggie Dubin.
“We are so blessed that SJV has had such an influx of new young families within our parish. As health ministers, we felt it was important to make those young families feel welcomed, connected and part of our faith community,” said health minister Helen Dorr. “The grandmas have gone, leaving (new parents) to be alone; that’s when the stress starts, and we come for the visit to allay those stressors, and bring a casserole dinner with a little support.” Picchiotti added, “We go to welcome our newest parishioners and talk with the new mom on how she is feeling, see how much sleep she is getting, and more.”
Rachel Isaacson’s baby Zoey was born earlier this spring. Isaacson said it was nice to have someone to ask questions about how she was doing. She also could ask questions she had. Isaacson, who is involved in the parish, said the new ministry makes her feel even more supported by her parish family.
Picchiotti said the health ministers can observe and ask questions and get resources for new families on topics such as lactation consultant or dealing with possible post-partum depression. When health ministers make appointments, they check ahead on food allergies before preparing a casserole. The recipe is included for the new family.
Isaacson said she and her husband Tom appreciated the casserole, which lasted several days. A gift for the baby, a crib cross and prayer card, also are given as gifts. The health minister leaves a card with contacts the new family can call in case questions arise. “I appreciated the visit. It’s a low-key visit and everyone should take advantage of it,” Isaacson said.
“Being a new parent can be isolating,” Picchiotti said. Isaacson agreed, especially since she does not have family nearby. St. John Vianney has a mom’s group that parents are always welcome to join. It meets during the school year. “Those young moms meet weekly to chat, discuss raising their families and strengthening the values of Catholic faith. Several older ladies assist with watching their children,” Dorr said.
The new program is available to all families, even those who have other children. “Each child is different,” Picchiotti said.