Jennifer Barton
Assistant Publications Manager
May 10, 2022 // Diocese

Local churches, ministries exemplify pro-life conviction in actions

Jennifer Barton
Assistant Publications Manager

The idea that those in the pro-life movement are only interested in babies before they are born and care nothing for them afterward is patently false, as evidenced by the many organizations within the local community designed to aid mothers and fathers with the care of their children. Catholic churches and ministries play a large role in organizing, supporting and funding these organizations. This is where the rubber meets the road in the pro-life community. 

Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County, located at 602 E. Wayne St. in Fort Wayne, is comprised of numerous Christian churches of any denomination, many Catholic parishes among those, from around the area whose common goal is to aid the needy. They do this through different programs hosted at the Wolf Mission House. Two of their programs fulfill the pro-life mission of the Church to support pregnant women and mothers: Journey Beside Mothers and A Baby’s Closet. The first is a peer-to-peer mentorship program designed to build relationships, which help mothers who might be facing a crisis pregnancy. 

Julie Reece is the Journey Beside Mothers coordinator for Associated Churches. She expressed that there is “a big need for mentor volunteers” at this time and she would love to see more women give of themselves in helping other mothers, particularly young or new mothers who may need the advice of a seasoned mother-figure.

The other initiative, A Baby’s Closet, provides low-income families with clothing and other supplies needed to clothe and care for an infant or toddler. Betsy Henderson is the director of this project.

On May 6, volunteers and members of the Fort Wayne community came together to bless the new location for A Baby’s Closet. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades was on hand along with other area clergy to pray and sprinkle the area with holy water. He spoke about how the work of A Baby’s Closet fits so neatly into the recent USCCB initiative “Walking with Moms in Need;” that this was a place where Catholic churches could refer pregnant women.

The items in A Baby’s Closet are not free, Reece said; they are earned through a coupon-exchange program. Parents earn coupons by participating in services for themselves and their child in four different categories: pre-natal care, well-baby care, responsible parenting and education. Things such as well-baby checkups, nutrition classes, car seat inspections, high school or ESL classes all earn coupons. These can then be traded in for items like diapers, clothing, car seats and even a crib and mattress set.

Additionally, A Baby’s Closet works with Parkview Hospital’s Safe Sleep program, which provides parents with a pack-n-play for attending the class – a safe place for babies to sleep when parents might not have a crib. Reece also spoke about the programs Associated Churches host for young moms – particularly teen mothers – and the Wednesday afternoon play group at the mission house.

Through the play group, “moms are beginning to build relationships. They come to play group, then come to A Baby’s Closet and shop together,” Reece shared.

Reverend Roger Reece, Executive Director of Associated Churches, spoke along the same lines in his remarks at the blessing about how this work brought together “the community in unity, to serve our most vulnerable populations … It’s not about a product, it’s about a relationship.”

Similar to this program is one run by the Women’s Care Center. People often assume that the Women’s Care Center, with locations in six cities within the diocese, only helps pregnant women, but that is certainly not the case. Parenting classes are offered at several of the locations, again with coupon incentives to help mothers “buy” baby items. 

Photos provided by Beth Barrett
Joe and Marie Burt deliver more than 4,500 diapers on May 4. These were collected by St. Pius X parishioners, with Christ Child Society of South Bend members Maggie Smith and Lisa Smessaert.

Oftentimes, Catholic parishes will organize diaper drives or “baby showers” to keep the WCC stocked with these needed items, particularly around Mother’s Day. The Rosary Society at St. Monica in Mishawaka sponsored one such baby shower to benefit both Women’s Care Center and Hannah’s House on the South Bend side of the diocese on May 3. Both Hannah’s House and A Mother’s Hope in Fort Wayne provide care for pregnant women who need a temporary home.

The Christ Child Society sponsors similar donation drives, too. The society has served the youngest members of society for more than half a century, providing layettes for newborns, helping stock the WCC inventories and providing coats and books for young children who may not otherwise have them. Members of the Christ Child Society of South Bend recognized the rising costs of raising a child due to inflation and supply shortages, and asked themselves how mothers could soothe their crying babies if they had no diapers with which to change them.

In honor of Mother’s Day, the organization held its 3rd annual Diaper Drop on May 4. Last year, the organization collected 40,000 diapers that went to area agencies such as El Campito, St. Margaret’s House and Center for the Homeless. This year, the Christ Child Society collected just shy of 50,000 diapers for needy little ones.

Christ Child Society of South Bend President Monique Deguara delivers diapers to La Casa de Amistad.

Area parishes St. Thérèse Little Flower, Corpus Christi and St. Anthony de Padua in South Bend and St. Pius X in Granger joined in by collecting diapers at their churches. After the diaper drive, all of the packages were immediately hauled away to the Christ Child Society’s partnering organizations, who serve needy families in the local area. 

Carnations, the flower originally associated with Mother’s Day founder Anna Jarvis, are sold after Sunday Masses throughout the diocese to help sponsor the organizations that make motherhood possible for hundreds of women who otherwise might choose abortion. 

All of these are ways that members of the pro-life community work to combat the terrible threat of abortion in America, and more importantly, to show women the love and compassion they desperately need to raise their children, whatever their circumstances might be.

To become a mentor for Journey Beside Mothers or to donate to Associated Churches, visit associatedchurches.org. For additional resources or to donate to ministries that aid pregnant women in need, go to walkingwithmomsfwsb.com.

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