This post is part of our Ordinary Time, Extraordinary Mercy series, in which CatholicMom.com contributors will share their own experiences of living the Year of Mercy. Beginning at Pentecost and continuing through the summer, we’ll cover many aspects of the Works of Mercy in family life.
Mary Garden Showers is a ministry empowering women in crisis pregnancies through the loving support of baby showers.
Our goal is to connect women with the heart and soul of this ministry – Jesus Christ and His Mother Mary!
We first reach out to establish a friendship with mothers in crisis pregnancies. We then connect them with loving sponsor groups who walk alongside them each step of the way, taking each mother out to set up her very own baby registry. We send out shower invitations and registry links via our newsletter so people from all over the country can shop for these mothers. Gifts purchased through the registry automatically ship to the shower location, and gifts of prayer can be given through our website.
Each mother then comes to a church to celebrate her baby’s life at her very own baby shower!
Mothers receive a beautiful plaque or framed image of Mary & Jesus, as well as a framed Motherhood reflection that can be found on our homepage here.
We have recently started to also include an image of Divine Mercy, to encourage and foster an understanding of how greatly and deeply these mothers are loved by God!
Throughout this process, we are able to carry out works of mercy to these mothers in crisis pregnancies, their families, and even to other members of our community. Here’s how…
Corporal Works of Mercy:
Feed the Hungry & Give Drink to the Thirsty
Babies and new mothers need nourishment. Many times the mothers and families we serve are experiencing financial hardships. By connecting and providing Mothers with resources needed to feed their babies, we carry out this work of mercy. Mothers are often given baby shower gifts of nursing covers, nursing pillows, bottles, formula, and other accessories that help them to feed the little ones so dependent on their care. Pregnant women are also frequently hungry, and we often end up with an abundance of cake & lemonade that we send home with the mother to bring to her family and loved ones who couldn’t attend in person! Additionally, sponsor groups have an excellent opportunity to connect new mothers with warm meals after the arrival of their babies. Websites like takethemameal.com make this easy to organize, and families are always grateful to receive this kind of support.
Clothe the Naked
Babies come into the world with nothing, completely naked. For parents experiencing financial hardships, receiving clothing items can be a huge blessing. We often end up with maternity items donated to us that we can distribute to mothers. Mothers often register for and receive baby clothing items from their baby registries. Additionally, we have connected with a consignment store that generously donates unpurchased items to support our ministry! We deliver all of these items to mothers at their baby showers!
Shelter the Homeless
Mothers are the shelter for their children for 9 months, and we are supportive of them during this time. After birth, babies need a safe place to stay. We make sure that mothers experiencing crisis pregnancies are connected with a local pregnancy resource center to ensure that they have access to safe, comfortable shelter for themselves and their babies. We often are able to give baby cribs, pack ‘n plays, carseats, carriers, and swings to mothers in crisis pregnancies that help to provide shelter for these babies after they are born. We are also currently exploring ways to support Mira-Via, which is a beautiful first ever on-campus maternity home serving mothers attending Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina!
Visit the Sick
Sickness can be a part of pregnancy in many ways. Sometimes mothers experience a lot of morning sickness or need to be on bed rest. Sponsor groups may have opportunities to babysit older children, prepare meals for families, and visit families in other needed ways throughout pregnancy, labor & delivery, and after. Mothers in the hospital following the birth of their child are not usually “sick.” But especially for single mothers, being visited in the hospital by someone from their sponsor group can be a gesture that lets them know just how much they are loved! Babies sometimes spend time in the NICU after birth, and visits during that time could be especially comforting and needed.
Visit the Imprisoned
While new mothers may not be in an actual “prison,” the first weeks and months at home with a newborn can feel detaining for anyone. Mothers in crisis pregnancies may feel this isolation even more. The support that they receive at their baby showers can remind them they are loved during this time. And sponsor groups can reach out to them and offer to babysit or provide other assistance. Sometimes mothers may just need to talk or may enjoy a visit to their home.
Bury the Dead
While our ministry has not encountered this situation yet, mothers may experience miscarriages during their pregnancies as we walk alongside them. Additionally, some babies may receive a terminal diagnosis during pregnancy, and these mothers are certainly experiencing crisis pregnancies! We will support mothers and families in this situation in any way we can. We plan to offer Masses for the babies lost, and to surround grieving mothers & families with love.
Spiritual Works of Mercy:
Admonish the Sinner
Our philosophy is that it’s not our place to determine who is deserving of charity. We will have a shower for any woman in a crisis pregnancy, at any point that seems appropriate and helpful for her and her family. We will also accept referrals from anyone we trust, not just pregnancy resource centers. But not everyone agrees with this philosophy, and we have run into instances where we had to stand firm in our resolutions and in our Faith to lovingly admonish those who wanted to place restrictions on charity. Furthermore, we do not feel that these baby showers are an appropriate time to judge and correct mothers of behaviors of their own that may not fall in line with Church teachings. So our attitude about admonishing any sinful behaviors of others has to do with showing them Christ’s love in full force in a showering of blessings at their baby shower, and allowing God space to work in the hearts of the women and families we serve. We are all sinners and this is why Christ died for us – that we might have access to His unfathomable mercy!
Bear Wrongs Patiently
Through this ministry work, we have encountered instances where we had to stand firm in our principles and philosophy, bearing the wrongs of others patiently with love and kindness. Furthermore, mothers in crisis pregnancies may not be in stable situations. Often they are depending on other people for rides to their registry outing or to the shower itself. We must be very patient with these mothers and understand that if they have to cancel on our plans, or if they show up late for something, we must show mercy. There have been many opportunities to practice this work of mercy and grow stronger together within our ministry.
Comfort the Sorrowful
Every individual we serve is unique and precious in God’s eyes. Some mothers come to us broken, scared, and confused. Some of them may have experienced miscarriage, abuse, rocky marriages, divorce, previous abortions, pregnancy outside of marriage, teen pregnancy, etc. Sometimes the situations of these women and the pain of what they are walking through can lead them to great sorrow in their pregnancies! Some women never hear the word “Congratulations!” in their pregnancies, and we are here to change that. We are here to comfort the sorrowful, to point them to needed resources based on their specific situation, and to listen to them when they need to share. In short, we make ourselves available to comfort the sorrowful, and encourage our sponsor groups to do the same.
Counsel the Doubtful
Not everyone that we serve is confident in their abilities to carry their pregnancy to term, give birth, and become a loving parent. God has placed us in the path of these women & families to comfort and console them in their time of need. We have had “pep talks” with young women about how God designed them to give birth to their baby, and how they don’t need to be fearful of what is ahead. We have shared with women how they can connect their sufferings to Christ. We have shared that in caring for their infant, they will truly be caring for Christ on earth. Furthermore, for women who have considered abortion, the blessing of a baby shower is a very special opportunity for them to experience that when God says, “Trust me,” He means it. In these ways, we have many opportunities to counsel the doubtful.
Forgive all Injuries
God forgives all of our injuries, so who are we to not forgive the injuries of others? Sometimes this is easier said than done, but when our ministry has suffered wrongs and hurts, we have encountered many opportunities to forgive others and show mercy.
Instruct the Ignorant
There are many people who have never been exposed to the truths of the Catholic Faith. There is so much misunderstanding and confusion related to Catholicism in our society today. We have a unique opportunity to help mothers in crisis pregnancies, as well as sponsor groups of other faith denominations, to learn more about Catholicism. We answer any questions they may have about Mary & Jesus or other topics. We help them to understand that we do not worship Mary, for instance. We help them to understand the beauty of our Faith. Since showers are held at Catholic churches, we often end up walking through the worship space of our church with mothers when they express interest in touring it after their baby shower. Once, one of the mothers we showered was able to attend a beautiful mothers’ retreat in our city that allowed her an opportunity to witness Eucharistic Adoration for the first time in her life. She expressed that she felt at peace in the Church in the midst of all the beautiful art and in the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Pray for the Living and the Dead
Our ministry has an ongoing prayer campaign for the mothers & babies we serve. We update the campaign as we learn about new families to shower. Anyone is able to sign up to give a gift of prayer to a family through our website. We let mothers know about all of the people praying for them from all over the country as a very special gift at their baby shower. Furthermore, if we do encounter a mother who suffers a miscarriage during her pregnancy, we intend to pray for the baby, offering rosaries, Masses, etc. in his or her name.
What other ideas do you have about how we can extend mercy to these Mothers & families experiencing crisis pregnancies?
Copyright 2016 Kaitlyn Mason