The idea of a "baby shower" figuratively, not literally, appears in the Gospels.
Matthew mentions the Magi and their famed gifts brought to the manger, while Luke recounts Mary's three-month visit to help prepare her cousin for motherhood.
Two women with Arizona connections made a biblical baby shower a reality this Advent. Six official Mary's Baby Shower events were listed online with 100 people downloading a free party pack within an hour of the pack's release in November.
The pack comes with an editable invitation, banner, food and activity ideas, event timeline, a reflection from Pope Francis and a guided meditation. Erica Tighe Campbell, who grew up in St. Benedict Parish in the Phoenix neighborhood of Ahwatukee, created it toward the end of her pregnancy -- her child is due in January.
"We had so many offers for baby showers, and our friends and family have been so generous in giving us gifts. Everything is so expensive. ... I wondered about how scary it could be for a mom who didn't have that kind of support and wondered how she'd be able to get these essentials," Campbell told The Catholic Sun, newspaper of the Diocese of Phoenix.
She realized a baby shower for Mary was the solution with pregnancy resource apostolates serving as the gift distributor. After all, such staff and volunteers encounter plenty of "Marys" facing a pregnancy amid difficult circumstances.
Campbell gets followers via her "Be a Heart" online community who yearn to host women's gatherings in the home but lack further insight. Her free guide equips willing shower hosts. She saw 100 people download it within the first hour.
A dozen attended a Dec. 7 public shower held at Mary College in Tempe, Arizona. It was hosted by Sarah White, a St. Thomas the Apostle parishioner and founder of "The Millennial Fiat," an online community helping women commit to a daily "yes" to the Lord. She called the location "an answered prayer."
All donations went to the Aid to Women Center. White and her husband, a pediatric trauma nurse whose pro-life views were challenged during nursing school, learned about Aid to Women Center in October after they were invited to its fall gala. The couple -- who is expecting their baby in March -- began supporting the cost of one ultrasound a month.
Having gift items from Mary's Baby Shower go there as well was a natural extension of that support.
White planned to hold the shower as a private event with friends "as an excuse to get together during the crazy holiday times and be able to give to a cause we all support," she said. Instead, she heeded Campbell's advice to make it a public event. Several women responded.
Gabrielle Lawson, who also is from St. Thomas the Apostle Parish but who didn't know White before the shower, saw the event on Facebook and thought it'd be a good opportunity to celebrate Mary with other Catholic women. "I just wanted to do something for Mary this Advent," she said.
White has found herself more spiritually united to Mary and other pregnant women this Advent. She prays more in general, for her unborn daughter and "for women who are currently pregnant, or struggling with getting pregnant, or mourning the loss of a baby," White said.
"And I have found that spending more time in prayer does not always mean more time not being active," she added. "If anything, the inspiration to throw a shower like this stems from my prayer life."
The shower featured "Virgin Mary Mimosas" and healthy snacks while the women reflected on Pope Francis' prayer from last year's feast of the Immaculate Conception.
That prayer says in part: "We are in need of your immaculate gaze / To rediscover the ability to look upon persons and things / With respect and awareness / Without egotistical or hypocritical interests. / We are in need of your immaculate heart, / To love freely, / Without secondary aims but seeking the good of the other."
The women also offered a decade of the rosary for clients helped at the Aid to Women Center; it serves 140 women per week. Just in the week when the shower was held, the ministry helped one woman without support in the Phoenix metro area return home to Virginia, assisted another through a miscarriage and helped a third resist a boyfriend's pressure for her to have an abortion.
Meanwhile, Campbell, who recently moved to San Antonio, researched a pregnancy outreach to receive the shower's gifts and found Guadalupe Home through Catholic Charities. It's a transitional living program for pregnant and/or parenting women. She hosted a shower Dec. 17.
Showers also were held in Florida, Washington, California and Missouri.