Walking with Moms in Need provides expecting mothers with the right help at the right time
FORT WORTH — An awareness campaign has communicated an extra lesson: God’s timing is perfect.
Terri Schauf, the respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Fort Worth, was eager to begin Walking with Moms in Need, an initiative developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The program, to be implemented in dioceses across the nation, encourages parishes to identify local pregnancy and family resources that are able to assist mothers and families lacking material or emotional support. Parishes take inventory of the assistance available in their communities, raise awareness of them in the parishes, and encourage collaboration and support for the resources.
The effort was scheduled to launch on March 25, 2020 — just as the country went into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. After the initial delay, dioceses began the program on their own schedule. After other dates were proposed and declined, the Diocese of Fort Worth kicked off Walking with Moms in Need on May 31, 2021, the Feast Day of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Just three months later, the new Texas law banning abortion after the baby’s heartbeat can be detected went into effect. Most abortions take place after that developmental stage, so “There’s going to be a lot of moms who are needing help and not knowing where to turn,” Schauf said.
Bishop Michael Olson noted the providential timing of the program’s launch in a Sept. 20 interview with Father Robert McTeigue, SJ, on “The Catholic Current.” The bishop said, “This is an opportunity for us to be proactive…. an opportunity to prepare our parishes to assist women if abortion was no longer a legal option for them at some stage in development, so that we would be aware of resources. It’s an approach to help women beyond just simply closing the door to abortion for them but also opening up other practical resources for assistance to protect both mother and child.”
Schauf admitted feeling frustration initially with the postponements of the program’s launch, but she added, “Now that this law has come into play in Texas, I see God’s hand and timing in it. We’re trusting, and doing our due diligence, but also giving it to Him.”
To date, about eight parishes have started the groundwork for Walking with Moms in Need by assembling a core team from different ministries — pro-life, of course, but also social justice, Knights of Columbus, moms’ group, and others.
After forming its core team in July, Holy Family Parish in Fort Worth completed an inventory of organizations that can assist expectant mothers or impoverished families.
The next step at Holy Family was to begin a monthly showcase of those organizations, so parishioners can attend a presentation each month to learn the scope of what services are available.
Meg Ruhter is coordinator of youth ministry for the parish and serves on the core team. She has seen a benefit already, when members of the Respect Life committee sat down with St. Vincent de Paul volunteers and explained their respective ministries.
Ruhter said, “It was very apparent, the need for this initiative. These groups are fighting for the same thing, and more happens when we collaborate.”
One of the biggest questions Schauf is asked about the Walking with Moms in Need initiative is, “Is this a new ministry? Will this replace our existing ministries?”
The respect life coordinator explained its purpose is to support and bring awareness to existing ministries, so that Catholics will know where to refer individuals. Also, ministries which may have previously operated independently can unite behind the goal of helping mothers in need.
Ruhter at Holy Family agreed, saying “Organizations are fighting this battle already. Let’s tap into what we have.” For example, Holy Family’s Respect Life committee hosts a baby item drive each October, and the St. Vincent de Paul chapter sponsors an angel tree in December. She hopes encouraging and coordinating the efforts of those ministries can increase their impact.
Assess, then assist
Good Shepherd Parish is wrapping up its extensive research into local maternal support. About a dozen individuals are on the core team for Walking with Moms in Need at the Colleyville church.
They’ve inventoried organizations and agencies in the community that can help with housing, food, medical needs, adoption, employment, material resources for a baby, addiction recovery, and even counseling, according to Teri Gray, who heads up the Walking with Moms team at her parish.
Their next step will be to compile this detailed information into a database, said Gray, so that the 11,000 parishioners know where to refer others for help.
Representatives from more than a dozen of these agencies and organizations will be available to talk with participants of the Holy Trinity Catholic School Respect Life Fun Run/Walk, to be held at Good Shepherd on Oct. 30.
A parishioner of Good Shepherd since 1998, Gray hopes to reach every individual in the parish. She said, “You want mom to have the baby, but then where are you? You want to make sure everyone knows the resources. The entire parish could be like angels who know where to refer a pregnant mother in need.”
Gray said the core team is focused on expanding awareness and education of pregnancy and family resources, but she hopes their efforts also yield more material support and volunteers, especially for Gabriel Project, which provides support to women in crisis pregnancies.
Kaci Cross is the mother of a toddler and a baby and has organized baby showers to benefit Gabriel Project at her home parish of Holy Family. Having children of her own has allowed her to experience the importance of family and community support when raising young children.
She explained why she volunteered for the Walking with Moms in Need core team. She said, “So many people don’t have support. I want to network, to connect, to help women who don’t have that community support.
“Parish staff and volunteers can only spread the word so much,” Cross continued. “This will give us a whole parish of boots on the ground who know there is help if they see a mom struggling. This will be so many more touchpoints for moms in need.”