WINDSOR TERRACE — Eager to prove that local parishes stand ready to help pregnant women who choose life over abortion in post-Roe America, the Diocese of Brooklyn is joining a nationwide program aimed at providing assistance and resources for mothers-to-be.
The diocese is about to take its first steps in “Walking With Moms in Need,” an initiative started by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to bring care for pregnant women and mothers down to the parish level.
Every parish in the country will be asked to take part in Walking With Moms in Need. The USCCB hosted a webinar on Jan. 31 to outline the program.
Christian Rada, director of Marriage, Family and Respect Life education for the diocese, said as a first step, he is asking the diocese’s parishes to conduct an inventory of their current programs assisting expectant mothers. He said that some parishes already have Respect Life committees.
Rada also plans to conduct training sessions to explain the program. The USCCB has issued a “Parish Action Guide” detailing five phases for establishing a Walking With Moms in Need program.
The phases include: setting up a core leadership team, conducting the inventory of programs, sharing inventory results and beginning planning, publicly announcing the program and committing the parish to action, and implementing the program. Rada explained that every parish is going to be participating in the initiative differently.
Parishioners will be able to map out a Walking With Moms in Need program unique to their particular parish. Some parishes will probably collect baby clothes, bottles, diapers, and other items to have on hand to give to mothers, while others will likely serve as resource guides to point women toward pregnancy centers and other entities that can help them.
The idea of Walking With Moms in Need, according to the USCCB, is to ensure that every parish has a ready answer to the question, “I’m pregnant, and I don’t know what to do. Where can I go for help?” The Supreme Court’s June 24 decision overturning Roe v. Wade makes Walking With Moms in Need all the more important, Rada said. “I see it as a way for the Diocese of Brooklyn to change the narrative for prolife ministries — to challenge the belief that we only care about the child when it is in the womb for those nine months, but that once the child is born, mothers are on their own,” he said. “This program says ‘No, that’s absolutely not true.’ ”
Because of the structure of the diocese —the fact that its parishes are organized into 22 groupings called deaneries — parishes can readily bounce ideas off each other. “Each of these deaneries has its own sense of identity and purpose with the neighborhoods that they are in. So we’re going to be looking for collaboration among different parishes,” Rada said. “When they come together for a deanery meeting, they can say, ‘Hey, we were doing this for Walking with Moms. What are you guys doing?’
We’re hoping for an exchange of ideas. “Our diocese is so diverse, and there is a need to help those out in the peripheries, especially those in the immigrant and homeless populations,” Rada added.
The USCCB first announced Walking With Moms in Need in 2019. The program was launched on March 25, 2020, to mark the 25th Anniversary of Pope St. John Paul
II’s 1995 encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”).
But the pandemic caused a postponement of the program’s implementation. With COVID-19 easing, the USCCB is once again moving full steam ahead.
Since local parishes will likely be referring expectant mothers to places like The Life Center of New York in Bay Ridge and Bridge Women’s Support Center in College Point (formerly known as The Bridge to Life), those centers will probably see an uptick in clientele.
“We’d love to see an influx!” said Cathy Donohoe, president of Bridge Women’s Support Center. “It would be great to have more parishes in our diocese get to know the pregnancy centers.”