October is Respect Life Month, and as Catholics, we are called to bring forth a culture that respects the sanctity of life from conception until natural death.

While many on the pro-choice side of the argument are quick to say that pro-life people care about the babies and not the mothers, Dcn. Jim Matthias, the director of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Respect Life Ministry, said, “When Catholics humbly go about the work of Jesus Christ, it sometimes goes unnoticed by those outside the Church. It’s not our job to educate our critics and it’s OK if our ministry is quietly received by those in need. We do, however, want to give our parishioners opportunities to partake in the mission of the Church — to bring forth the Gospel in our words and actions.”

In late 2019, in recognition of the 25th anniversary year of Evangelium Vitae, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops invited parishes to assess, expand and communicate resources to pregnant moms and families in need. This ongoing program, “Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service,” launched March 25, 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic sidelined efforts to invite parish participation in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and dioceses across the country. Many dioceses were forced to indefinitely delay their launch of Walking with Moms in Need, and are only now beginning to launch or relaunch this initiative.

These efforts are seen annually at St. Dominic in Brookfield and were recently seen at St. Sebastian in Milwaukee, where the school children made approximately 25 baby blankets as part of WWMiN. These blankets were given to the Women’s Care Center and CareNet Pregnancy Center of Milwaukee. Both the WCC and CareNet provide free, compassionate services to pregnant women.

Dcn. Matthias said the idea to bring in the school children is just one more way to cultivate service at a young age. “People feel good when they can help someone in need. Children, especially, understand the need for a warm and cozy blanket for a baby. It’s just part of Walking with Moms in Need before and after the birth of their child.”

WWMiN is not trying to turn Catholic parishes into pregnancy centers. Catholics are encouraged to support the existing local pregnancy centers, and find and share other resources with pregnant and parenting women. These existing resources include CareNet Pregnancy Center of Milwaukee; Catholic Charities of Milwaukee; Life’s Connection, Waukesha and Mukwonago; Women’s Care Center (two Milwaukee locations); and Women’s Support Center, Milwaukee.

WWMiN is a process through which Catholic parishes and communities “walk in the shoes” of local pregnant and parenting women in need. Dcn. Matthais said it is a tangible way for all Catholics to get involved.

“Not everyone is willing to pray in front of an abortion center or take a vocal stance against abortion,” Dcn. Matthias said. “It’s hard to argue with helping moms who need support in choosing life for their unborn baby. The Church has always been there to support the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized. We want to protect life from conception to natural death (by) whatever means necessary. WWMiN is a more visible program that asks churches to find ways to support young families in their parish or parents seeking help at pregnancy centers.”

As part of this program, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee aims to create a network of “Dignity Partnerships” that highlight the work Catholics engage in to support women through pregnancy and parenthood.

Rooted in the Gospel Call, this work seeks to be Christ to women, empowering them to choose life by walking alongside them, seeing them as beloved children of the Lord. Witnessing the dignity of each woman and her unborn child is essential to this work. As Pope Francis said in his Lenten message in 2015, parishes need to be “islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference.”

The full version of Walking with Moms in Need is available online on the USCCB website and offers an Action Guide that provides a wealth of resources for parishes to aid them. It is available in English and Spanish, and as an expanded or streamlined program.

For more information, visit www.archmil.org/respectlife and www.walkingwithmoms.com.

More info: https://catholicherald.org/local/crisis-pregnancy-centers-assist-vulnerable-women.