Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Linda Reeves - The Florida Catholic Palm Beach
MIAMI | If a pregnant mom showed up at your parish asking for help, would anyone know where to send her? What about a whole family in need? Where they could get baby food or diapers? Counseling? Parenting classes?
Making sure every parishioner knows the answers — or at least where to find them — is the reason the archdiocese's Respect Life Ministry has launched a local version of the U.S. bishops' "Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service" initiative.
Tied to the 25th anniversary of Evangelium Vitae, St. John Paul II’s encyclical on the sanctity of life, Walking with Moms in Need began here in July and will conclude Oct. 31, 2021. The finale celebration will coincide with the National Congreso pro Vida, or Congress for Life, to be hosted by the archdiocese Oct. 29-31, 2021, and coordinated by the Secretariat of Parish Life.
“Every abortion is a tragedy,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski. “We need to make sure that no woman feels that abortion, which is a bad choice, is their only choice. Women who resort to abortions come from all walks of life, all races, all religions, but for the most part, women who have abortions are poor, young and unmarried.”
Rebecca Brady, director of the archdiocese’s Respect Life Ministry, is heading up the local Walking with Moms in Need. “First and foremost, this is a pastoral initiative,” she explained. “It has nothing to do with politics. It is not about fundraising. It is a year of service. Helping moms in need is something everyone can get on board with.”
The goal is to get pastors and parishioners involved in respect life efforts by assessing, expanding, sharing and communicating resources where women can get help. If all goes well, parishioners will be better informed so they will know where to refer women in need. But women sitting in the pews will also know that they can turn to their Catholic church for help and a friend.
“We are asking participants to look at what their parish has and what the parish is doing and to look in the community and see what is available for moms,” said Brady. “Doctors, hospitals, maternity homes, housing programs, counseling.”
All the information collected by the parishes will be organized and added to their local database. The parish information will also be shared and added to the archdiocese’s inventory of resources to better serve people seeking help.
A major aspect of the project is identifying any gaps in services so they can be addressed. Team members are asked to keep their eyes open for any programs, services, ministries that are missing in their communities, and then brainstorm and develop a solution.
'NUDGE FROM THE TOP'
“We are excited about this initiative,” said Angela Curatalo, assistant director of the archdiocese’s Respect Life Ministry. “The reason I am so excited is because it is basically exactly what we have been hoping for in our meetings, a little nudge from the top to get our parishes more active.”
Brady said parishes can participate in the initiative in their own unique way and at their own pace. Those who want a step-by-step approach to the year of service can follow a guideline her office developed, with a schedule, timelines and phases.
Phase one, happening now, asks pastors to announce Walking with Moms in Need at the pulpit and through parish communications. Parishes are also asked to form teams and identify a team leader.
At Nativity Parish in Hollywood, that would be Mary Vrancik, who has been involved in respect life ministry over 20 years, including as her parish's respect life representative for the past five years. In all, 75% of the parishes in the archdiocese have a representative.
“We already have our core team together and had our first meeting last week,” Vrancik told the Florida Catholic in August. “We are looking forward to the many possibilities that this initiative may provide for women in need.”
Pastors are also encouraged to talk to their flocks about "Evangelium Vitae" or "The Gospel of Life." The encyclical, the 11th of St. John Paul's pontificate, forthrightly condemns abortion and euthanasia, the major attacks on human life at its beginning and end.
In September, the second phase began. Parish teams are being asked to complete an inventory of their community and parish resources. They also are invited to visit the Respect Life Pregnancy Help Center nearest to their parish, to meet the staff and learn about the various programs offered.
The archdiocese’s five centers are located in various sections of Broward and Miami-Dade counties. They offer numerous services including pregnancy testing, ultrasound, post-abortion healing, counseling and material assistance. For two years, staff at the centers walk side-by-side with moms who have chosen life, assisting with any needs.
Brady said the centers have continued to operate during the pandemic in creative ways, providing resources, pregnancy services and educational and parenting programs online in English, Spanish and Creole.
The centers provide beacons of hope for many in the archdiocese, an area where the number of abortions continues to rise.
'NUMBERS ARE HIGH'
“Florida’s numbers are high,” said Brady. She noted that in 2019, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties had a combined 25,000 recorded abortions, according to a health agency statistic.
She noted that nearly 70% of her clients are over the age of 30 and about 30% percent are in their 20s. Nearly 40% are Hispanic, 36% are Haitian and 15% are African American. Nearly 30% are Catholic and 50% are Protestant.
In November, phase three begins, with parish teams finalizing their work and providing their findings to the Respect Life Office. The following month, phase four, parishes are scheduled to present their plans for addressing any gaps that they find in services, ministries or initiatives. Those plans will be launched in January 2021 and evaluated in July 2021 as part of phases five and six.
The project ends at phase seven, when participants will come together at the Congreso pro Vida in Miami to reflect on their hard work and accomplishments in support of human life.
Edwar Aguilera, a member of the Knights of Columbus Council 16980 and a parishioner at San Isidro in Pompano Beach, volunteered to help his pastor, Father Wilfredo Contreras, with the year of service.
He and his family volunteered, he said, because “we love life.”
FIND OUT MORE
- To learn more about Walking with Moms in Need, contact the archdiocese's Respect Life Ministry at 954-981-2922, or 954-981-2901, or visit www.respectlifemiami.org/walking-with-moms.
- For information on the Pregnancy Help Centers of the archdiocese, go to: www.pregnancyhelp.me; or call the nearest center:
- South Broward: 954-963-2229
- Central Broward: 954-565-0229
- North Broward: 954-977-7769
- South Dade: 305-273-8507
- North Dade: 305-653-2921 and 786-452-0266.