‘Walking with Moms’ Gearing Up
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
May 11, 2023
DIOCESE—It’s been a few years since the U.S. Bishops first rolled out the “Walking with Moms” program around the country.
It was, as happened to so much else, brought forth right before March 2020’s pandemic shutdowns and disruptions came about, says Therese Stahl, director of the diocesan Life and Family Evangelization Office (LiFE Office). It took a while before parishes and dioceses, including her office, were “able to look into it and see the goodness of it.”
Stahl recalls her feelings some 17 years ago when she was pregnant for the first time and “felt a little bit lost” in how to pray well in that new-to-her experience. She and her husband were “people of faith,” she says, and not in need of material help, but still she felt she needed to know “how to see my pregnancy relative to my (Catholic) faith.”
She believes the U.S. bishops are on the right track with Walking with Moms, both as a “ministry to moms in general” and from the “respect life side.” 
As a respect life ministry, Walking with Moms is a “wholistic way” to witness against abortion and provide support for those who choose life, she says. Stahl believes there are opportunities for parishes to support new parents including during pregnancy and in the years between the “touchpoints” of baptism and the beginning of their children’s religious education or Catholic school years. 
Supportive efforts, she says, will look different from parish to parish depending on what ministries are already in place and what the parish wants to do. Right now, she says, some parishes are building on ministries already in place while others are “starting from scratch — and that’s exciting too!”
The Walking with Moms program is, in a way, something of a “rebranding” of “what we’ve been (already) doing as a Church,” Stahl says. The program provides a way to bring “fresh eyes” to existing parish programs and encouragement to parishes to attend to the material and spiritual needs of new mothers.
St. John Neumann Parish in St. Charles is a good example of a parish getting started with Walking with Moms.
Susana Morones is the parish service outreach coordinator and respect life coordinator for St. John Neumann Parish. She and her team of volunteers have been assembling baby baskets of helpful items for new mothers and their children since January. Those baskets were the result of what Morones calls a “joint effort” by different groups at the parish. 
Solicitation of items usually began with a drop off baby shower. Additionally, the parish food pantry welcomes an ongoing collection of baby items. A combination of those already-in-place efforts resulted in volunteers assembling baskets of items that were distributed to The Life Center (TLC) and to Corbella Clinic in Elgin. That was all good, and appreciated, but Walking with Moms inspired a little more.
We didn’t know the mothers we were reaching out to, Morones says. Parishioners wanted to host a baby shower, connect, be present and really walk with the mothers. That led to the idea: “Why not just invite them to a breakfast?” Morones says. 
The parish launched the “Breakfast with Babies” idea in the Month of May in honor of the Blessed Mother and set the date for Saturday, May 6.
Additional parish groups responded to a call for assistance with the breakfast, Morones says. For example, the parish rosary ministry made rosaries for the baskets given to the mothers, and the “Neumann Needlers” made baby blankets. The baskets were personalized by baby size and name — “I called you by name and you are mine,” quotes Morones.
“We want to give them that sense of dignity and caring of the loving hand of our Lord,” she adds. “We are just extending our blessings to them.”
The first breakfast prepared to welcome around 30 people that included 10 mothers who could each bring a friend, and children who were cared for in a baby area by parish youth ministers during the breakfast “so moms can relax.” 
The breakfast included registration. “We register them so we can serve their necessities,” says Morones, mentioning such practical things such as the correct size of diapers and clothing. 
A rosary was prayed at the event, gifts were given, and a full breakfast was served. A raffle for the mothers was held, and each was welcomed to also pick from additional donated items.
An envelope with a list of area resources (for shelter, food, clothing and other community services) was provided to the mothers, and time was allowed for questions and for visiting. The breakfast closed with prayer — said in both English and Spanish.
The breakfast, Morones says, was a success. With the baskets, “they are very touched,” she says, noting the goal was to help them realize “someone else cares about (their) baby.”
Plans are to continue hosting such breakfasts. “We’re going to see how everything develops,” Morones says. “We are praying to see what are their needs, and how we can help and walk with them.”
The first step of Walking with Moms is “an inventory of what’s available in each parish and community,” Stahl says. In February last year, the LiFE Office started that first step and, with the help of a parish or two in each deanery, has created an online list of community and parish services in the Rockford Diocese.
Perusing that list is a good beginning point for parishes getting ready to start a Walking with Moms program. It is available at: www.rockforddiocese.org/moms
“Parishes can be a touchpoint to connect women to resources,” Stahl says. 
Pregnancy, she adds, “can be a beautiful moment in your faith.” Newly pregnant women may be “overwhelmed and need someone to point that out. (We) can help mothers and fathers to identify with Mary and Joseph. All they do to love and support their child, Mary and Joseph did for Jesus.”
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