In the light of the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (March 25), I highlight a beautiful opportunity for Gospel accompaniment and evangelization called the “Walking with Moms in Need Initiative.”
The Annunciation marks the moment that Mary conceived Jesus in her womb, after consenting to God’s word. It’s a wonderful time to remember with joy what the Church teaches and scientific advances have allowed us to confirm: life begins at conception.
In the Diocese of Orange, we work with local pregnancy centers, clinics, shelters, Catholic healthcare and parish ministries of accompaniment and prayer. We have walked with women, children, men and families since long before this initiative began two years ago at the start of the pandemic (and during, through our Serve+Hope Helpline).
Fittingly, the Walking with Moms Initiative provides action steps and planning tools for parishes. It empowers parishes to be aware of local resources, to attend to women’s experiences facing unexpected pregnancies throughout the parish, to educate and pray, and to knit ministries together to become “artisans of peace” in the “field hospital” of which Pope Francis speaks.
Studies show that 1 in 4 or 5 women will have had an abortion between ages 15 and 44. The numbers are similar for women identifying as Catholic. These women are not only teens or college students or singles establishing career goals, but also married with children and struggling to imagine a way forward.
Political polarization and inconsistencies of “throwaway culture” compound challenges faced by women and families. Political parties give lip service to human dignity and freedom even as they find unique ways to undermine protections and support for women and children.
These inconsistencies are visible in President Biden’s stance of increased promotion of abortion, on the one hand, while at the same time proposing and promoting life-affirming safety net resources, on the other.
The same is true here in California, where my brother bishops and I have written a statement on Working for Better Futures for California’s Women, Children, and Families. Church teaching is clear but the challenge to establish what Saint John Paul II called a “culture of life” remains urgent.
The daily witness of our parishes and communities to walking with all in need will make the essential difference. After all, this Lent we prepare to celebrate the Paschal Mystery – the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our abundant Life — by simple acts of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Together, we pray for women facing an unexpected pregnancy, for every good help, resource, and encouragement to be brought to bear in their situation, such that they may lovingly accept the precious life God has entrusted to their care. We pray for a strengthening of commitment to cherish all human life.
Together, we fast for an end to “throwaway culture” in all its manifestations, to an economy that rewards greed and kills, and to our temptations to avoid genuine solidarity, communion, and accompaniment, choosing instead self-serving outrage, political ‘wins,’ or ‘getting mine.’ We fast to shed false idols and learn to live by God’s word.
Together, we give to help all struggling with poverty, homelessness, migration, racism, intimate partner violence, lack of health care or any other needs. We give to our parishes and to life-affirming centers, shelters, and clinics that help walk with moms.
Finally, we pray in a special way this Lent for women in need in Ukraine and Russia and those forced to flee with their children as refugees.
Mary, Queen of Peace, save us from the madness of war and from this throwaway culture. As we walk with moms in need, walk with us and show us the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
If you have been touched by abortion, we invite you to reach out to our Hope and Healing After Abortion ministry. For more on the initiative, go to WalkingWithMoms.com; with questions on how your parish can become more involved, please contact Greg Walgenbach, in our Life, Justice, and Peace Office, at firstname.lastname@example.org.