“I greatly desire that … our parishes … may become islands of mercy in the midst of a sea of indifference.” —Pope Francis

This weekend, parishes throughout the Diocese of Burlington observe Mother’s Day, honoring the vocation of motherhood and celebrating the mothers in our lives. Some parishes offer mothers gestures of appreciation, such as a rose. Most priests offer a special blessing for mothers at the end of Mass.

Mother’s Day also offers us an opportunity to reflect on how well our parishes are being “islands of mercy” for struggling pregnant and parenting mothers. Can the parish do more to make choosing life an easier decision for pregnant mothers and to support mothers who have chosen life? If parishioners encounter a woman unexpectedly pregnant and fearful, would they know how they can help her?

A nationwide, parish-based initiative called Walking with Moms in Need, launched by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities in 2020, provides an excellent tool for helping parishes be more prepared for assisting pregnant and parenting mothers in need.

Walking with Moms in Need is essentially a simple process that leads a WWMIN parish leader and a small core team of parishioners in identifying resources in the area that serve pregnant and parenting moms. They then assess the compiled lists of resources, communicate those resources so that parishioners can be more informed, and prayerfully develop a plan for how the parish can better support moms in need.

Parish plans will differ based on the unique resources and makeup of each parish and how the Holy Spirit is calling them to respond. One parish might discern that they will commit to printing local pregnancy help resource information in the bulletin each weekend; while another parish might begin a new, dedicated outreach ministry for mothers in need.

Several parishes in the Diocese of Burlington have completed their WWMIN inventory and have implemented their parish plans. Their efforts are bearing fruit.

Under the auspices of one parish’s newly launched WWMIN ministry, parishioners responded generously to the call to provide new baby items and gift cards as a “baby shower” for a couple in difficult circumstances who were welcoming a newborn. Another parish felt called to provide gently used clothing for mothers and diapers for their babies. Parishes generally publish the list of resources on their website or in other ways, such as creating a brochure.

The possibilities are endless, and whether parishes plan something very basic or whether they “dream big,” all efforts contribute to building a culture of life in Vermont by serving mothers in need.

The USCCB provides a comprehensive, on-line WWMIN Parish Action Guide that includes everything you need to know to implement Walking with Mom in Need in the parish. Please see walkingwithmoms.com.

Additionally, the diocesan Respect Life Office can help parishes get started and offer encouragement and assistance and hosts a monthly online meeting for WWMIN parish leaders. The Respect Life Office would love to see more parishes implement Walking with Moms in Need. If you are interested in serving as a WWMIN parish leader or a member of the WWMIN Core Team or simply have questions, contact the Respect Life Office at 802-658-6110, ext. 1201, or email ehaupt@vermontcatholic.org.

— Eileen Haupt is the respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington.

  • Originally published in the May 11-17, 2024, edition of The Inland See.