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 | By Erin Looby Carlson

Loving Women as God Does

Ministry Aims to Walk With Pregnant Moms in Need

When an effort is rooted in prayer, amazing things can happen. Just ask Barb Birchmeier and Esther Henige. The two women are involved in their parish’s respect life ministry and launched Walking with Moms in Need in their community last year to better serve women who find themselves in unexpected or crisis pregnancies.

“This community really wants to love these women the way that God loves them,” said Esther, a parishioner and respect life coordinator at St. Michael Parish in Maple Grove.

Standing in front of a donated baby crib and dozens of baby outfits, including soft, hand-crocheted sweaters made by members of the parish community, Esther explained how the Walking with Moms in Need initiative began in their parish. They received information about it from the Diocese, including an offer to support the parish along the way. The first step was an invitation to pray.

“So, that's what we did,” Esther said. “We put our prayers in the bulletin. We had prayer intercessions at Mass. Father John Cotter made announcements about praying for this ministry, and the Holy Spirit responded. The next thing you know, we had a co-director of Respect Life Ministry and Walking with Moms in Need.”

Parishioner Barb Birchmeier answered the Holy Spirit’s call to help lead the ministry, and both she and Esther agreed that prayer would continue to be the foundation going forward.

“We continued to pray, and Father asked people to discern how they could support this ministry, and before you knew it, we had this wonderful team," Esther said. "The Holy Spirit's amazing and truly in charge of this ministry, not Barb and me.”

If a parish discerns, through prayer, that they are called to launch Walking with Moms in Need, they begin following the start-up plan for the ministry. The plan includes specific steps, such as forming a core group, promoting the ministry and planning a kickoff.

“We did a big baby shower for our kickoff activity,” Esther said. “We had a huge response from all our parish community.”

“We have a parish that is very deeply rooted in faith,” Barb said. “And when they're rooted in faith, they're rooted in love.”

Once the core group was formed, the next step included taking an inventory of available resources in the area for women. The team reached out to contacts in several counties to create a pregnancy resource brochure.

“Where we are located in our Diocese, we're in the corner of Shiawassee, Genesee and Saginaw Counties, so we really wanted to have resources for people in all of these areas,” Esther said. “Our brochure has all the resource centers and then all our group members’ confidential contacts. So, if somebody wanted to reach out to any of us, they could call us. We have the brochures in area businesses and with some local high school counselors.”

Recognizing that God may put anyone into the life of a pregnant mother looking for help, the group shared the information they had gathered with members of the parish community.

“That's what we wanted,” Barb said. “We wanted everyone in our parish to know how to help a mother in need.”

“Churches are so primed to be able to provide for women and children,” said Coordinator of Marriage and Family for the Diocese of Saginaw Beth Bauer, who assist parishes with Walking with Moms in Need. “They are so many generous people in our congregations who just want to help support mothers and children by providing items they need, by walking with them … getting them to doctor's appointments. I think it's important for them to understand that the Church is a place that welcomes all and that we're here for them.”

To welcome and show their love for women and moms in need, St. Michael converted space in their old convent into a Blessing Boutique. Members of the parish have provided the inventory.

“They've given us little onesies, sleepers, quilts, strollers, pack 'n plays, little girls and boys outfits, diapers, wipes … we have gift baskets ready to go and more,” Barb said.

“The whole idea is that women cannot value the life within them if they don't first value themselves,” Beth said.  “We want to mirror to women who they are in the eyes of God, that they're loved, they're cherished. God delights in them. We want to walk with them spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and financially to support their ability to choose life.”

Beth, Barb and Esther encourage others to consider whether Walking with Moms in Need is something they could bring to their own parish communities.

“I would say start small,” Barb said. “Contact the Diocese and get the guide from Walking with Moms in Need … there's a group of people out there who are willing to help. Our group's really cool because we have, I would say, a vast array of age levels. Some young moms, middle-aged moms, older moms. You'll be surprised by what the Lord will accomplish through your parish with one simple yes.”

One simple yes can change everything for an unborn child, a mom, a family … even the whole world. The patroness of Walking with Moms in Need is our Blessed Mother, whose simple “yes” changed our world.

“As a young girl, [Mary] was found in an unexpected pregnancy,” Beth said. “The ramifications would have been huge. I mean, she was engaged, but who would have believed that this was a child of God? We want [the Blessed Mother] to be an image that we can put out to other women. That she knows what it's like to be in a complicated, unplanned, totally unexpected pregnancy, and that God is bigger. That he walked with her, and he carried her through it. That through faith, we can walk with women and help carry them through, too.”

Diocesan support for the Walking with Moms in Need ministry is made possible through your generous contributions to Christ’s Mission Appeal. To learn more about bringing this ministry to your parish community, contact Beth Bauer at 989.797.6655.