St. Pope John Paul II said, “To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good. It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop” (“Evangelium Vitae” — “The Gospel of Life”).
To be actively pro-life in a post-Roe v. Wade nation requires “all hands on deck” as Dr. Tim Millea says in an article in this week’s Catholic Messenger (Page 1). We must patiently, persistently and compassionately accompany pregnant and parenting moms in need (dads and children, too) on their journey to wholeness and wellbeing.
Two years ago, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) introduced “Walking With Moms in Need,” described as a “process through which Catholic parishes and communities ‘walk in the shoes’ of local pregnant and parenting women in need.” The process and the Parish Action Guide to implement it are practicable, applicable to the unique structures of a given parish and provide a spiritual element that grounds our faith and fosters a meaningful walk with moms.
The action guide takes us on a journey from the initial steps of forming a group through the intermediate steps of developing a plan of action to the final steps of implementing it in our parishes. An early step is to develop an inventory of local resources, such as pregnancy resource centers, medical clinics and hospitals, counseling services, housing programs, food pantries, job assistance and childcare providers. The legwork required to establish resources — and the preferred means of communicating those resources to moms in need — is necessary but time-consuming work.
Some parishes may have a greater ability than other parishes to fill in gaps in services that local social service networks provide. Other parishes may determine their role to be a referral service to various social service agencies. The costs of welcoming a new child and nurturing that child in the early years of life are considerable.
The earliest years of a child’s development determine largely the person they will become and many mothers may continue to need support through those crucial developmental years and beyond. The journey goes beyond diaper drives, baby showers and stocking food pantries. The journey continues through advocating for legislation to provide decent, affordable housing, quality childcare (and not just adding 16-year-olds to the stock of childcare providers, as Iowa has done), jobs that provide a living wage and comprehensive healthcare.
Contact U.S. Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst to support reauthorization of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV). The federal program supports pregnant women and families with young children living in communities at risk for poor maternal and child health outcomes but its funding of $400 million annually expires Sept. 30.
During a visit to Bettendorf, Grassley said he supports the program’s reauthorization, but didn’t commit to a funding amount, according to The Quad-City Times (8-10-22). The Times reported that the Home Visiting Coalition seeks a $200 million increase annually for five years. Let’s ask Grassley and Ernst to support the increase so that additional, eligible families can participate.
Other suggested steps we can take on the journey:
• Ask your pastor and parish leaders to initiate the Walking With Moms in Need process (walkingwithmoms.com) and volunteer to lead or take a role on the core team or as part of a network of support.
• Volunteer to share your time, talent or treasure for pregnant and parenting moms in need, dads and children. For example, there’s no better counselor for a mom in need than a mom who was in need herself and has overcome her challenges, Millea believes. Active or retired teachers, medical professionals, job coaches, employers, Realtors, laborers and others are invaluable resources. Or simply be willing to listen. “Time and a cup of coffee may be more than anyone else is giving them (moms in need),” Millea says.
• Make a financial donation to the pregnancy resource centers, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Knights of Columbus, supportive housing programs and other agencies and organizations that assist pregnant and parenting moms in need and their families.
• Pray. The Walking With Moms in Need Parish Action Guide (walkingwithmoms.com) offers prayer guides in English and in Spanish. At home, remember moms in need in your personal prayer intentions.
• Visit the Iowa Catholic Conference website (iowacatholicconference. org), the public policy voice for Iowa’s bishops. The ICC staff keeps close tabs on legislative issues and issues action alerts that help us advocate on pro-life and other issues more effectively.
“To be actively pro-life,” as St. Pope John Paul II said, we must “contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good.” As the number of parishes capable of walking with moms grows, so too will the culture of life, which serves the common good and is the heart of our faith.