U.S. Catholic bishops are being asked to invite the parishes in their dioceses to join a nationwide effort called "Walking With Moms in Need: A Year of Service" from March 25 of this year through March 25, 2021.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, announced the new initiative on the National Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children Jan. 22, the anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion through all nine months of pregnancy across the country.
The new program has its own website, www.walkingwithmoms.com, with "resources, outreach tools and models to assist parishes in this effort. Resources will be continue to be added to the site, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.
"As the church and growing numbers of pro-life Americans continue to advocate for women and children in courthouses and legislatures," Archbishop Naumann said, "the church's pastoral response is focused on the needs of women facing pregnancies in challenging circumstances."
This pastoral response to pregnant women and mothers in need "has long been the case" for the church, he said, but added the Year of Service will "intensify" this response.
The launch date of the program marks the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II's encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" ("The Gospel of Life"). The encyclical, the 11th of his pontificate, forthrightly condemns abortion and euthanasia, the major attacks on human life at its beginning and end. It also contained what several observers at the time called the strongest expression ever of church teaching against capital punishment: It says the cases of justifiable use of it today are "very rare, if not practically nonexistent.''
Through the Year of Service, parishes are asked to complete a simple inventory of the resources currently available in their local area, assess the results and identify gaps, and plan and implement a parish response based on their findings.
In "recognizing that women in need can be most effectively reached at the local level," Archbishop Naumann explained, the year of service "invites parishes to assess, communicate, and expand resources to expectant mothers within their own communities."
The Year of Service is divided into five phases of parish action:
-- Phase 1: Announce the Year of Service and begin building a core team (March 2020).
-- Phase 2: Launch parish inventory process (May 2020).
-- Phase 3: Share inventory results and begin assessment and planning (September 2020).
-- Phase 4: Announcement and Commitment to Parish Response (January 2021).
-- Phase 5: Celebration and Implementation of Parish Plans (March 2021).
There are suggested steps for implementing each phase along with sample announcements, sample intercessions, homily helps and a prayer activity.
For example in Phase 1, the steps include appoint a parish leader; begin assembling a parish core team; establish a parish support network; and announce the "Evangelium Vitae" anniversary and Year of Service; pray for pregnant mothers in need as a parish community; and begin planning the parish's first core team meeting.
"We pray that 'Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service' will help us reach every pregnant mother in need, that she may know she can turn to her local Catholic community for help and authentic friendship," Archbishop Naumann added when he announced the nationwide effort in January.