WASHINGTON (CNS) – Volunteers in dioceses and parishes that have adopted the “Walk with Moms in Need” initiative are still in the early stages of evaluating its effectiveness.

Statistics — counting the number of people helped — are not a conclusive way of measuring how well the initiative is working. But the stories so far paint an encouraging picture.

This initiative of the American bishops aims to connect pregnant women and their families to parishes and a growing network of resources with the help of volunteers.

Rollout of the program has been slowed as it launched on March 25, 2020, just as the pandemic was starting to take hold, but it is ongoing.

“It’s not an alternative to abortion,” observed Cindy Ketcherside, coordinator of St. Theresa’s Parish in Phoenix, in an interview with Catholic News Service. She calls women “vulnerable to abortion”, but “what we found was more working mothers who already have children”.

Women should rarely be dissuaded from having an abortion. By the time “Walking with Moms in Need” is involved, that decision has usually already been made not to abort.

Promoting the initiative is usually as simple as posters on church bulletin boards and brochures. But those in need, according to anecdotal evidence, come to the program from all directions, and even through private conversations after Mass.

The common thread of the parish stories: there is no stereotype about the women helped.

Kathleen Wilson, Respect Life coordinator for the Archdiocese of Detroit, loves telling the story of the single mother with triplets. Forced to return to live with her mother due to financial difficulties, she turned to the initiative for clothing, medical and nutritional needs.

“It shows you that we support them even in very difficult circumstances.”

Another was a 17-year-old girl. Wilson praised the parish’s “(severe) lack of judgment” so she was able to “embrace these young parents. There was this continuation of supporting this young life as a parish family.

The key question to ask, she said, is “How can we meet this person where they are?”

Parishes are encouraged to find the skills within their ranks, and Wilson knows of one that includes a lactation specialist who was happy to add her expertise.

Megan Morris, director of the Life Center in Santa Ana, Calif., calls it loving your mom “where she is.”

“Our hope is not just to save the unborn baby, but to bring mother and baby back to Christ and a supportive community,” she said.

There are training sessions for volunteers. Each mother is assigned a companion to accompany them through the stressful process of applying to government agencies that provide nutrition and housing assistance.

Among the worries, “formula is a big deal,” Ketcherside said. Other help includes finding access to parenting classes and vouchers for subsidized Section 8 housing.

Sometimes contact begins with a phone call, said Denise Malone, coordinator of Respect Life at St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Parish in Anthem, Arizona.

“I heard about a grandmother. Her very young daughter had had a baby out of wedlock. So mom and baby were living with the grandparents,” Malone told CNS.

And the demand was a bit different from food, housing and clothing. “They wanted the mother to support the child financially. They asked for help finding home daycare. Money was no problem. And they wanted the mother to enroll in classes. It is therefore successful. »

The key to training volunteers: “Active listening is a very, very big thing, and being able to understand the mother and where she is coming from. You cannot make assumptions.

Another common element, Malone discovered, is “fear. They are all in a situation where they fear that they will not be able to raise the child they are pregnant with. It will be much better to know that the mother will have her baby and that we will protect it. »

“They’re overwhelmed,” agreed Ketcherside. “They don’t know where to go.

In July, pro-life leaders in Baltimore for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Diocesan Pro-Life Leadership Conference noted that supporting women in life choice was a top priority for them, in particularly following Dobbs v. Jackson Whole Women’s Supreme Court. Health decision on June 24.

The ruling overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide, and returned the issue of abortion to the states.

Since Dobbs, interest in “Walking with Moms in Need” seems to have increased somewhat. For example, within 10 days of the decision, the Archdiocese of Detroit’s “Walking with Moms in Need” web page received nearly 1,600 unique page views.

In 2021, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the bishops’ committee on pro-life activities, said the initiative “directly confronts the false, but popular, narrative that the Catholic Church merely condemns abortion, without providing the resources or support women need to raise their children.

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For more information on “Walking with Moms in Need”, visit the project website website.