The initiative was introduced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2020 and was championed in the Archdiocese of Louisville by Catholic Charities of Louisville and the archdiocesan Family and Life Ministries Office. Walking with Moms in Need aims to train parishes and other faith-based organizations to support expectant mothers and families with young children.
“The intent was for our Catholic community to engage in activities to support expecting mothers and struggling families,” said Lisa DeJaco Crutcher, Catholic Charities of Louisville CEO. “We had spent some time designing a program that we hoped to pilot with a couple of parishes to really reach out and wrap around those struggling moms.”
The program was shelved due to COVID-19 restrictions but DeJaco Crutcher said together the offices have “pulled it back out to refresh and launch this summer largely due to the expectation around the upcoming Dobbs decision that everyone anticipates will overturn Roe v. Wade.”
“We recognize there is a lot of energy in our community around this,” she said during a recent phone interview.
The program’s reintroduction is timely. A decision by the Supreme Court on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — a case about Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy — is expected before the end of the month. A leaked initial draft of a court opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito was published online May 2 and indicated that the Supreme Court appears set to overturn its Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nearly 50 years ago.
The revamped Walking with Moms in Need program will train volunteers to set up a ministry in their parishes that provides parents with aid they need.
“We heard from Little Way (Pregnancy Center) and (Louisville) Moms Helping Moms women that more than anything what these expecting moms … really need is emotional support,” DeJaco Crutcher said. “They need social support because sometimes they don’t have a good social network of their own. They really need somebody to call, somebody to walk beside them.”
Walking with Moms in Need will provide in the areas of emotional, practical, social and spiritual support as well as resources.
“Maybe that means somebody comes to your house and rocks the baby while you shower or goes grocery shopping for you or meets you in the park to talk while the kids play,” DeJaco Crutcher said.
Parents will also have tangible, physical needs that the program can help with.
“Those who don’t feel comfortable with befriending and accompanying, they can still be part of the work. They can go over and install baby proofing” measures, hold a baby item collection or host a baby shower for multiple families.
Walking with Moms in Need will be introduced during two in-person meetings and one online meeting in July. The first will be at Holy Trinity Church, 501 Cherrywood Rd., July 23 at 10 a.m. and the second will be at St. Gabriel Church, 5505 Bardstown Rd., July 28 at 2 p.m. A virtual option will be August 3 at 2 p.m. for those unable to attend an in-person meeting. To receive a link for the virtual meeting, email email@example.com. All pastors and parishioners will be invited to gauge interest from those who would like to set up the ministry at their own parish. The hope is that a representative from every parish in the archdiocese will attend one of the introductory meetings, said Deacon Stephen Bowling, director of the Family and Life Ministries office.
In August, training will begin. Everything from program setup, how to screen volunteers, confidentiality, assessing needs and what kind of support to expect from Catholic Charities will be covered. Then regular ongoing training for volunteers around various topics such as childhood development and postpartum depression will follow, DeJaco Crutcher said.
“This is a ministry,” she said. “The same way we call people to the pastoral care of the sick. This is a ministry of accompaniment to the struggling.”
Deacon Bowling said the program will be “almost identical to sponsoring a refugee.”
“The parish adopts an expecting mom or recent mom and helps them with things like how we get them help, childcare, etc.,” he said in a recent phone interview. It’s a more personal experience than simply donating to a collection because “it has a human face, actually, it has multiple human faces attached to it.”
DeJaco Crutcher anticipates that interested parishes might not be home to those the program will serve, so Catholic Charities hopes to connect parishes with mothers served by Little Way.
She said she thinks a lot of this type of work has been going on within the Catholic community but that it’s time to focus on it more.
“Now is the time for us to expand that work and to bring more people in to do it because our Catholic community needs to be just as vocal and visible in supporting women with crisis pregnancies and supporting families in need as we ever were with the need to change our nation’s laws about abortion.”