Thursday, August 6, 2020
Tom Tracy - Florida Catholic
MIAMI | More than 20 pallets of donated baby supplies will be distributed to needy mothers and fathers in Broward and Miami-Dade County thanks to a recent collaboration between Catholic Charities and other South Florida agencies.
The supplies will be distributed through the Miami Respect Life Office's five pregnancy help centers. Several local parishes, Catholic school students and members of the Knights of Columbus helped to sort and deliver the donations to the pregnancy centers.
The effort is in keeping with the U.S. bishops’ "Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service" initiative, whose goal is to make local Catholics more aware — and involved — in providing aid to pregnant mothers and families in need. As the program's website states, "everyone in the parish community should know where to refer a pregnant woman in need."
The bishops announced the program — which will be promoted in the Miami archdiocese through Oct. 31, 2021 — in recognition of the 25th anniversary of Evangelium Vitae, Pope St. John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical.
The outreach is especially needed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, said Rebecca Brady, director of the Archdiocese if Miami's Respect Life Ministry.
“A lot of our mothers are feeling the effects of the economic hardships. If the father of the child was working, he may have lost his job,” Brady said.
She noted the additional "social hardship" for pregnant moms who, due to social distancing and stay-at-home orders, may be deprived of the support networks they most need during the "intense" periods of pregnancy and postpartum.
Miami's Respect Life Office is continuing to operate amid the pandemic but has moved much of its educational and parenting programming online, while moving outdoors to redistribute donated goods through parking lot pickups.
The pregnancy help centers are also facilitating online mutual support meetups where client mothers and fathers can share difficulties and coping strategies. The centers provide free and confidential pregnancy services, receiving some 10,000 visits annually from both men and women.
In the Miami archdiocese, about 75 percent of parishes have a designated respect life representative. Each parish in Broward and Miami-Dade is also linked to one of the pregnancy help centers.
Efforts are underway to establish similar pregnancy help center efforts in Monroe County, according to Brady.
“We are bringing all of our heads together to look at what we have in our archdiocese to see what gaps exist and to help each parish create a plan to serve our pregnant mothers,” she said. “With fresh eyes we can come up with ideas to grow the ministry.”
Peter Routsis-Arroyo, CEO of Catholic Charities in the archdiocese, credited the recent donations of baby supplies — along with the storage space and volunteer assistance need to move the goods — to the locally-based Food for the Poor, Cross Catholic Outreach, Belen Jesuit Preparatory School and the Knights of Columbus.
Moreover, he said, Miami's Catholic Charities continues to play a large role in pandemic assistance efforts: an estimated $2 million of foodstuffs have been parsed out to some 40,000 local families through parish donation sites, the St. Vincent de Paul Society and 20 or so community-based organizations.
“In this pandemic we couldn’t be doing what we are doing without collaboration,” Routsis-Arroyo, said, adding that Florida's Office of Emergency Management has provided much of the foodstuff donations for redistribution.
“I don’t think there is any end in sight," he said. "With the magnitude of the pandemic, and with the hurricane season starting, I don’t think (the state) had a choice but to continue sending MREs or food snack boxes, rice and beans, shelf stable meals and all things that are ready to eat or you can cook.”