As pro-lifers, we pray for an end to abortion, often taking part in the 40 Days for Life campaigns in our nearby neighborhoods. I’ve seen pro-lifers do all sorts of wonderful things, from praying to sidewalk counseling to foster care to adopting babies who were “unwanted” by others.
There’s a man I’ve met who stands outside the local Planned Parenthood every Saturday (the day they do surgical abortions at our clinic) with a sign that reads, “I will pay for all your prenatal care and adopt your child,” as he prays that the young women who are going in for abortions change their minds and choose life.
It’s not enough for us to convince a woman to simply choose life, but we must also be ready to support her after the fact if she chooses to keep and raise her child. Women who are single mothers are far more likely to live in poverty and to be unable to provide their children with educational opportunities that children of married parents tend to have available to them. Children of single mothers are more likely to go hungry, be in need of clothing, and generally need assistance. Often, these children themselves grow up to be single parents, repeating the cycle of poverty.
One thing we must do as Christians is to care for these families in some way. And knowing that help is available in the short-term, when babies go through diapers and clothes at a breakneck pace, is one thing that can help a young woman choose life for her child. Knowing that someone can help her with these things, help her find assistance if she needs it, can make a difference. As St. James says in his letter, “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”
I know lots of people who make monetary donations to local crisis pregnancy centers and organizations that help mothers in needs. Thousands of people across the country participate in Baby Bottle Campaigns, where they ask people to donate spare change to fill baby bottles with donations for the same crisis pregnancy centers. If you have a good-sized group participating in this, it can work well.
At our parish, we have a very small Sanctity of Life Committee. We have a few fundraisers during the year to keep a small account going for emergency help (usually using the money to purchase fold-away cribs and car seats, which charities can no longer keep in stock), but we started a project almost ten years ago to do more, and it helps our whole parish get involved.
First, we looked at the places that help women in crisis in our community, and we discovered that there was a constant, ongoing need at our local Catholic Charities for baby clothes and diapers. (There is a local CPC, but that organization is also supported by nearly all the Protestant churches in the area, whereas Catholic Charities is not.) Just after the death of Blessed John Paul II, we approached our pastor with an idea: we wanted to hold baby showers on a consistent basis to benefit Catholic Charities and provide them with the very baby items they needed most.
Since then, we’ve held quarterly baby showers for this purpose. We set up a cradle in our narthex and people drop off clothes, diapers, baby wipes, baby bath items, food, formula, and more. New or gently used items are gladly accepted. Some people leave money for us, or give us a check to pass on to Catholic Charities for this work. Our parish has always been very generous for the baby showers, with some parishioners combing through sale racks and buying up everything they can for the next baby shower.
One thing we did differently for our January shower was to have a Birthday Party for Jesus in conjunction with the baby shower. We teamed up with a couple of other groups in the parish and had hot dogs and hamburgers, french fries, drinks, games, and crafts. The only admission we charged was for people to bring a present for Baby Jesus, which He would share with needy children. The picture you see below is the result of our Birthday Party for Jesus. And in addition to this, we received an anonymous donation from “a CHILD of God [sic]” of over $170 in loose change. (We all agree that, based on the note in the bag, this was a child’s donation. We were humbled by it!)
When we got to Catholic Charities with the donation (which completely filled the back of my minivan and required me to remove the two back-most seats!), the ladies who helped us unload it nearly cried for joy. They had received several calls from women in need, and were scrambling to find what they needed. Our parish’s generosity came just in time (which is how God works, isn’t it?) to help them meet the needs of our community.
God works wonders when we just hold on and let Him lead us.
Action: What can you do in your community to assist families in need? Is there an organization that would benefit from your parish having baby showers in their honor? See how your Sanctity of Life Committee can work with local charities.
Copyright 2014, Christine Johnson