Led by St. Andrew, St. Irenaeus, and St. Mary of the Hills, the Rochester-Area Walking with Moms in Need team has established a helpline for moms in need to call for local help. They have printed resource cards with the phone number on them and are distributing them around the area. They have a great team of volunteers ready to take calls and accompany women going through difficult situations.
The initiative started when St. Andrew’s parishioner, Lisa Juriga, started exploring the USCCB’s Walking with Moms in Need program online. She brought it to St. Andrew’s Christian service Coordinator, David Seitz, and Seitz met with the other parish’s Christian Service Coordinators to start planning as a group. The Archdiocese of Detroit Office of Evangelical Charity also offers a course for parishes to get started with the program.
“It’s a step-by-step guide,” explains David, “There's all kinds of resources in the guide that they have so you don't have to reinvent the process, you sort of have a blueprint to follow.”
The first thing they did was take an inventory of local resources — the pregnancy resource centers, soup kitchens, St. Vincent de Paul societies, Mary’s Mantle, Gianna House, resident programs for women, women’s shelters, Rachel’s Vineyard — any resources out there that existed for vulnerable mothers.
[Find more resources at ccsem.org/mom]
Seitz and the other coordinators recruited volunteers from their parishes through the bulletin, explaining what the new ministry would be and what their needs were. Pastors spoke about it from the altar and during Mass announcements. They posted flyers and posters around the churches and publicized through parish social media channels, websites and weekly email newsletters out to parishioners.
The call for volunteers brought a diverse skill set to their team. They have an OB-GYN, a couple of nurses, lactation consultants, some young mothers with elementary school-aged children, and others — a good representation from each parish.
In the earliest meetings, the question of their philosophies as well as how to publicize the new ministry to potential moms in need was discussed. David, who had previously worked for a crisis pregnancy center, says surveys show that only 3% of women who had an abortion ever thought of turning to the church for help. “Why? Well, it's because they felt if they went to their church, they would be judged, shamed, gossiped about. They felt they could talk to their pastors, but they felt the general church community would kind of shun and shame and judge them so they didn’t turn to the Church.” The new team discussed different ways they could emphasize walking with moms in their new ministry.
“The ‘walking with’ is, ‘Okay, we're not just going to give you the pregnancy center phone numbers. How about if I come and pick you up and take you to the pregnancy center? How about if I take you to your doctor's appointments? How about if you have other young children, we arrange for somebody to watch your kids while you're going to your doctor's appointments.’ So it's really, ‘Let's be a mentor and, and walk with you,’” says David.
“We have to change the perception that, if you find yourself in a crisis, we’re not going to shame you, or judge you, or condemn you,” explains David, “We’ll welcome you with loving open arms. We’re here to walk with you. So that’s one of the philosophies that our team wants to say. And you know it’s kind of a daunting task. How do you change that perception? You change it by helping one woman who tells another friend or somebody else in crisis, ‘Oh, I had a great experience here, call these people.’ So we don’t expect that that’s going to be an overnight change but that’s one of our goals.”
To reach moms in need the group created postcards to distribute to parishes and local businesses with a picture and the text: Pregnant or parenting alone? We’re here for you. On the back, they included a phone number with information about how they would help. They created a dedicated extension for the ministry that several volunteers have access to and check the phone lines several times a day.
Since distributing the cards they’ve received calls from several women looking for help. One was a single mom who is taking care of five-month-old triplets, “They all need to be fed at the same time, changed at the same time, and she just needed some extra hands to help rock the babies, feed the babies, change the babies. She was just overwhelmed.” explains David. So the team of volunteers made a sign-up where volunteers could take shifts to help take care of the triplets, and a sign-up for volunteers to make meals for her.
“It’s probably not exactly what we were thinking our first call would be when we went into this, but we realized after getting the team of volunteers together that we don’t really know what we’re going to do until the phone rings and someone asks for help. So, you know, when this first call came in and it was… caring for triplets, that's not what we expected, but you know, that's a mom in need and so we're gonna help her,” explains David.
Their second call was from a working mom who needed some childcare assistance. She couldn’t afford to pay for daycare and she just needed someone to help her watch her kids so she could work and run some errands.
Is your parish ready to explore the Walking with Moms in Need program? Fill out this form.