On March 25th, many people of faith will commemorate the Feast of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary that she was to become the mother of Christ. This year, that date also marks the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s papal document Evangelium Vitae (Living the Gospel of Life). On that day, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)’s Pro-Life Secretariat will roll-out a new initiative called “Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service,” to encourage churches and communities to come alongside local pregnant and parenting women in need.
Live Action News spoke to Kat Talalas, Assistant Director for Pro-Life Communications in the USCCB’s Pro-Life Secretariat, about her goals and hopes for the program.
The goal of Walking with Moms in Need is twofold. Talalas said that the USCCB seeks to support churches at the local level, recognizing that “parishes are the experts in their communities” when it comes to knowing what partnerships and resources for pregnant and parenting women exist locally. “Pregnancy centers are doing fantastic work locally, and we encourage parishes to partner with them,” Talalas told Live Action News. “We are not trying to turn parishes into pregnancy centers, but to support local pregnancy centers where they exist Pregnancy centers are on the front lines and are indispensable in this effort.” Secondly, the program will serve as a reminder that the Gospel of Life, the term John Paul II coined for the proclamation that Christ’s birth “reveals the full meaning of every human birth” and makes clear the attitude of joy which should accompany “every child born into the world,” is the Gospel. Talalas reiterated, “The Gospel of Life is the Gospel.” The pro-life message is not an add-on or political sideshow, but is at the very heart of the Gospel message.
A variety of tools will be made available on the website in three phases, meant to “equip parishes to reach [people on] the margins” as Pope Francis has so often stressed. The cornerstone of the program is the Parish Inventory Tool, a needs assessment to “help parish leaders identify local resources for pregnancy assistance such as pregnancy help centers, maternity homes, social service agencies, hospitals, and especially Catholic programs and resources. It also asks parishes to begin thinking about how these resources are communicated and advertised to those who are most in need of support.” This inventory could also be conducted by any individual interested in kickstarting more pro-life work in their local church community.
Having identified “what’s already working” and then “what the gaps are,” Talalas said, individuals could bring specific needs to their pastor or other leadership staff. After the inventory is complete, parishes can begin to actively support, volunteer at, and partner with local programs and to fill whatever unmet needs are identified. Talalas told Live Action News, “‘Walking with Moms in Need’ will aim to encourage this sort of collaborative work at the diocesan and parish/local level.”
Talalas looks forward to sharing best practices amongst dioceses by spotlighting places where parish/local nonprofit collaboration is already working well, like the Archdiocese of Boston’s Pregnancy Help center, Catholic Charities of Trenton [New Jersey]’s “For My Baby and Me” program, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington’s “Sanctuaries for Life” program, The Gabriel Project, and more. Walking with Moms in Need, Talalas said, will emphasize the “pro-woman face of the Catholic Church” as evidenced by its “tremendous commitments, financially and institutionally” to pro-life, pro-woman, pro-family efforts.
Talalas said that a “completely successful program” would look like “every woman knowing that she can go to her local Catholic Church for support and genuine friendship in carrying her child to term and beyond.” Additionally, she said “all Catholic parishioners would understand that each one of us is absolutely called to serve those in need and the most vulnerable.”
Individuals and churches are encouraged to sign up for email updates at WalkingWithMoms.com.
Editor’s Note, 2/16/20: Added quote on pregnancy resource centers from Kat Talalas.
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