The Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus knows that part of being pro-life is taking care of mothers and families after a baby is born.
It is part of the reason the diocese launched a new program called Walking with Moms in Need.
“We know there are pregnant and parenting moms in need in our parishes and our neighborhoods,” said Erin Cordle, director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Relief Services with the diocese’s Office for Social Concerns.
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Women facing pregnancy, for example, might be low income or without family support, Cordle said. They might also need assistance because of the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program, created by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pro-life committee, helps parishes learn how to meet the spiritual and emotional needs of mothers and their families, Cordle said.
This can be done by praying with women, hosting monthly dinners to celebrate mothers or having a special blessing for mothers and all those in mothering roles at Mass each month, she said. It could also be organizing volunteers to occasionally bring dinner to a family or helping the family find items it needs, like cribs and baby clothes.
“It’s important for our parishes to know what is needed to accompany a pregnant or parenting mom no matter what her needs or circumstances are,” Cordle said.
The diocese had hoped to begin the program last March, but it was delayed because of the pandemic.
So, this month, the diocese is finding and training “champions” in parishes and to identify different resources for pregnant women and families in the diocese’s 23-county area.
The diocese doesn’t want the parishes to become pregnancy resource offices, but to be able to point women in the direction of resources in the community that already exist.
If a community doesn’t have enough resources for women, then parishes can advocate for services to fill gaps, Cordle said.
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In October,the diocese plans to celebrate the new program at its annual Respect Life Conference.
“This is at the heart of what it means to respect life because it means that we’re respecting the dignity of everyone, and that’s the unborn child, that’s the mother, that’s the family, and we’re showing God’s mercy and healing and charity of love and community,” said Jerry Freewalt, director of the diocese’s Office for Social Concerns.
Freewalt said the program represents Catholics living out their faith.
The Columbus diocese already has great resources for women, said spokesman George Jones, but this program will allow it to merge its resources into one central place.
Though the program is designed to only last a year, Cordle said the diocese is committing to it long-term.
“(Pope Francis) wants us to see our brothers and sisters as brothers and sisters no matter what the circumstances,” she said. “… “We want to really dig into our community and find out who out there needs something unique and how can we get involved in making those connections.”
Monica Flynn, executive director and founder of Mommies Matter, a Galena nonprofit group that provides counseling, spiritual guidance and other services to women during their pregnancy and after they’ve given birth, is really excited about the diocese’s new program.
Mommies Matter plans to partner with the diocese, and parishes will be able to refer women to Mommies Matter, Flynn said.
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The group offers women financial and emotional help, Flynn said, as well as a support system they might not otherwise have through their families and friends.
“The diocese to me is saying, ‘We’re finally seeing it’s not just about hoping a woman chooses life for a baby, we have to choose love for a mother,’” Flynn said of the Walking with Moms in Need program.
Walking with Moms in Need goes along with other programs in the diocese, and works well with its other Respect Life activities, as the theme this year is live the gospel of life, Freewalt said.
“(It’s) to imitate Christ and follow in his footsteps,” he said. “It’s kind of like what would Jesus do? If we’re following in his footsteps, we’re seeing Christ in the mother and in the family and we’re walking with them.
“Walking with Moms in Need really complements that theme of accompaniment.”
A special prayer series, 9 Days for Life, begins Thursday. And on Friday, the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court Decision legalizing abortion in the United States, the diocese will host its annual Respect Life Mass and Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children.
“We are called to respect life and love our neighbor. … They’re all made in the image of God,” Freewalt said. “It’s important because, especially in this day and age where there’s a lot of turmoil in our society and in some circles disrespect for each other, this type of Mass we hope will empower Catholics and all people of goodwill to take up that mantle of seeing Christ in each other.”