In honor of Evangelium vitae’s 25th anniversary and in answer to Pope John Paul II’s call, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities launched a nationwide effort, March 25, 2020 entitled, Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service. Parishes, through the support of their bishops and pastors, were invited to join this effort to increase the Church’s outreach and support to pregnant women facing difficult or unexpected pregnancies. This anniversary year provides the Church with an opportunity to assess, expand, and better communicate resources to pregnant moms and families in need.
The USCCB released educational documents that further explained the year of service’s purpose and its roots in Evangelium vitae, which “highlights the special and particular role of women in bearing the gift of life to the world.” In this encyclical, the Holy Father explains that the Gospel of Life is at the heart of Jesus’ saving message to the world. “Through the Incarnation of Christ, God reveals to us the dignity of all human life. Each of us is made in the image and likeness of God, reflecting his glory and his imprint. We are therefore called to ‘respect, defend and promote the dignity of every human person, at every moment and in every condition of that person's life.’”
The material stated, “Pope John Paul II offers heartfelt thanks to these ‘heroic mothers,’ who, placing their trust in God, ‘devote themselves to their own family without reserve, who suffer in giving birth to their children and who are ready to make any effort, to face any sacrifice, in order to pass on to them the best of themselves.’”
“The needs and challenges can be immense for women in difficult pregnancies,” stated the USCCB, “especially women in poverty, and the sources for help may not be apparent to those most needing support. Women facing challenging pregnancies should see the Church as a place where they can find help, especially with its extensive social services dedicated to meeting the needs of people in crisis.”
As a part of this call to walk with mothers in need, the Diocese of Palm Beach shines a light on the pregnancy care resources and services that strive to support expecting mothers from their choice in choosing life for their child through their child’s early years of life.
Deanna Herbst, Respect Life Ministry program administrator for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach said, “We want to be able to give everyone in the community, and within our diocese, the resources of how to help mom’s in need during difficult circumstances. We readily have the information they need to offer help and assistance.”
Angela Simpson, director of God’s Resources in Palm City, can attest to the far-reaching pregnancy care services that span the diocese’s five-county area. Established in 2013, God’s Resources uses fully equipped mobile units to provide free services to women and men facing an unplanned pregnancy throughout Martin and Palm Beach Counties. The non-profit’s two sprinter buses—working with clients under the name Solutions Mobil Unit—park near abortion clinics, universities, colleges, community venues and in under-served communities so as to reach high-risk populations. The organization promotes purity and offers a wide variety of services such as pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, education regarding sexually transmitted infections, and proof of pregnancy for clients seeking Medicaid assistance.
“The fact that we are a mobile unit means that we can be there immediately when an expecting mother is seeking an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy,” said Simpson. “By having an ultrasound as early on in the pregnancy as possible, the baby’s health can be monitored, and any life-threatening issues can be determined.”
In addition, God’s Resources asses their clients’ needs outside of their pregnancy, taking the time to get to know them and refer them to other services that might be needed.
“We will sit on the phone with a variety of program representatives for hours until we find exactly what these women and families need,” remarked Simpson. “For example, sometimes young mothers find themselves homeless because their families have kicked them out of the house after learning that they’re pregnant. This is when we partner with Mary’s Home to provide a safe place of refuge while they have their baby and plan their future.”
Mary’s Home of the Treasure Coast, located in Stuart, is a shelter for homeless expecting mothers and young children. While there, they learn life skills that will not only help them become more independent, but also teach them how to bring a healthy baby into the world and raise that child. Mary’s Home has supported hundreds of women and their babies, throughout their pregnancies and after the birth of their child, providing them with a home, and educational advancement and job placement opportunities.
Donna Gardner, director of Mary’s Home of the Treasure Coast, said the women that arrive to the Stuart shelter are often living in their cars with no place to go or hope for the future. Sometimes, they have experienced abuse or don’t have the support of their families in carrying out their pregnancy.
“We strive to break the cycle of generational poverty and dependence through education, not only academically, but through financial education, vocational training, and professional development,” said Gardner. “Many residences have gone on to build incredibly successful lives and careers and they visit us to teach or inspire others to keep going.”
Gardner also posed the question, “When a culture of death says, ‘What are you going to do with this baby,’ like it’s a negative problem, Mary’s Home is one answer to this question of doubt and fear.”
Another answer to this question is Pregnancy Care Center Inc. in Fort Pierce. In 1999, the center purchased a building across from A Women’s World abortion clinic and has been a beacon of hope for mothers facing desperation. In addition to its myriad of pregnancy care resources, education on fetal development and parenting classes, it offers emotional support for abortion-minded mothers.
“Never underestimate the power of just being there for someone,” said Anne Lotierzo, director of Pregnancy Care Center. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how one young woman went back and forth between us and the abortion clinic across the way multiple times in one day. You could see the chaos going on in her mind struggling to make this decision. While her family was telling her to abort the child, we were a message of hope.”
Lotierzo shared that the woman visited Pregnancy Care Center with her now 12-year-old son, expressing what a joy her child has been in her life.
“That personal connection is incredibly important,” said Lotierzo, “and not just during the pregnancy. Afterwards there’s new challenges and reaching out, even in a small way, makes a huge difference. For instance, we follow up with handwritten cards just to see how these moms and their children are doing. Building that relationship can save lives.”
Lotierzo is also the recipient of the Respect Life Award 2020 for the Diocese of Palm Beach. Humbly, she shared that “it is a distinct privilege to be in a line of service to others” but that it is “others who have helped me and given so much to me.”
Katherine Bowers, director of Birthline/Lifeline Pregnancy Care Center in West Palm Beach, is no stranger to assisting new mothers after, as well as during, pregnancy. The center, which has a strong focus on educating misguided women about the untruths of abortion, also assists clients through the collection of material goods that support successful parenting. The center organizes donations of diapers, baby clothes, bottles, toys and much more.
“Although we encourage moms to take advantage of our classes and pregnancy resources, we know that access to tangible goods is a major relief for them. To see their faces when they get new donations is a joy. Their worries about ‘how will I buy diapers’ is eased a bit,” Bowers said.
Bowers also expressed that client advocates are there “even just to chat” and if the office is closed, calls will be forwarded to a 24/7 hotline that will “lend a sympathetic ear” to the difficult and joyous journey that is pregnancy and motherhood.
Learn more about these pregnancy care organizations below:
God’s Resources, Palm City
Solutions Mobil Unit
Mary's Home of the Treasure Coast, Stuart
Pregnancy Care Center, Fort Pierce
Birthline/Lifeline Pregnancy Care Center