When Archbishop Joseph Naumann recently announced a nationwide effort to boost pastoral support for women facing challenging pregnancies, the boots-on-the-ground work already was in motion in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
“This is the stuff we’ve been doing all along, but people haven’t always known about,” said Deacon Chris Ast, interim executive director of the archdiocesan Department of Evangelization and Parish Ministry Support. He is overseeing a local task force to identify the wealth of resources available for children from conception through childhood and those who care for them. “We’ve been the best-kept secret, and now we’re telling our story.”
Archbishop Carlson formed the task force in June, and it’s next phase is to create a multimedia campaign to more effectively connect people with those resources.
Archbishop Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, announced at the bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore a yearlong effort, “Walking With Moms in Need: A Year of Service,” which will help parishes to communicate the support services available to women who are thinking about whether to carry their child to term. The year of service will begin March 25, 2020, the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”).
Cynthia Haehnel, director of the archdiocesan Office of Respect Life, Family and Social Responsibility, said that “the Archdiocese of St. Louis has a long-standing mission of addressing the needs of pregnant and parenting mothers, fathers, and families.
“The Respect Life Apostolate, together with Catholic Charities of St. Louis, pregnancy resource centers, and other pro-life and social services agencies throughout the archdiocese, are committed to empowering parents and families to choose life for their unborn children. Our respective agencies are also committed to helping them to effectively care for those children into the future,” she said.
Good Shepherd Children and Family Services is among the many pro-life organizations that work with pregnant and parenting families. One of eight federated agencies of Catholic Charities of St. Louis, Good
Shepherd helps connect children with families and keeps families connected, said executive director Michael Meehan. Services include pregnancy and parenting support, foster care and adoption services and a maternity shelter.
Meehan said Archbishop Naumann’s initiative and the local task force, of which he’s a member, come at a perfect time, with Missouri being on the national radar because of ongoing legislative efforts to eliminate abortion. The Church, he said, “is adamantly pro-life in the sense of being opposed to abortion, but we take a much broader view of how to address the issue,” Meehan said. Good Shepherd’s mission has “a uniting thread to help families, starting with women who are pregnant or concerned they might be pregnant, all the way through the life course of a family.”
Taniece Blackmon and her 2-year-old son, Tyrell, have been living at Good Shepherd’s shelter for the past five months. The 19-year-old mom said she’s in college to become a veterinarian technician and is looking forward to having her own place soon. She said she’s not used to asking for help, but finds the program has helped her get back on her feet. She recently made a donation to
Good Shepherd’s crowd-funding campaign as a way to give back to the agency in thanks for how it’s helped her.
“Five years from now, I’d like to see myself stable and taking care of my son,” she said. “By the time I turn 25, I just want peace. And if you’re not on my peace train, then you’re not on my train.”
Meehan, who has been doing this work for more than three decades, said he doesn’t see many “bad parents,” but rather “lots of loving parents in desperate circumstances trying to make it with what little they have available to them. We’re giving them what they need to heal and to be the parents they want to be.”
To read more about the resources offered in the St. Louis area to support those who are pregnant or parenting, see bit.ly/2O2jCUp