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Deacons’ diaper drive keeps babies covered

The bounty from the deacon's Lenten Diaper Drive stays local, which is good news for the Office of the Diaconate.

Otherwise, the archdiocesan office at Cardinal Rigali Center quickly would be overwhelmed.

"They all wouldn't fit in here," joked Deacon Christ Ast, whose office might fit 15 percent of the 125,000 diapers in the inaugural collection last year.

The second drive will run for three weekends in April — Saturday, April 1, through Easter Sunday, April 16. With deacons' facilitation, parishes will collect diapers at Masses on those weekends, with the diapers remaining local for distribution through parishes' St. Vincent de Paul Society or food pantries, at a nearby parish if a parish doesn't have either, or at crisis pregnancy center or similar charitable resource for struggling moms or families.

Besides, what better way to distribute them than in a parish's own backyard close to people in need.

"If we can provide diapers so children are covered, literally and figuratively, then (parents) don't have to worry about it and that really helps," said Deacon Jim Carter, who traded places with Deacon Mike Suden to lead the drive this year after assisting last year.

Keeping a baby or toddler in diapers is expensive, there's no way around it. According to Deacon Carter, a survey in Pediatrics Magazine reported a cost of $936 a year, almost $80 per month.

"If you have two kids, that's almost $2,000 a year; that's a tremendous amount of money," said Deacon Carter, who knows about diapers' value from experience. He and his wife, Pam, have five children and three grandchildren with one of the way. If toilet training ranges 18 to 36 months, "That's $1,500 to $3,000 per child."

Lack of diapers also snowballs into other problems.

"You can't take a child to day care unless you have diapers, and if your child can't go to day care, you can't go to work," Deacon Carter said. "Also, people will stretch (their diaper supply) so the kids don't get as many as they should, then they get sick and if the child is sick, they can't go to work."

Then, there's heartbreaking stories of families opting for food instead of diapers.

"Having a supply of diapers is important for so many reasons," Deacon Carter said.

Even using cloth diapers, rather than disposables, is a non-starter for many.

"If they don't have access to a washing machine, it doesn't really help them to make the switch," he said.

The Diaper Drive lends itself to Catholic social teaching, with Catholic schools providing fertile teaching ground — for instance, friendly competition within a school between classes or students vs. teachers/staff for the most diapers collected.

The drive also sends a strong pro-life message, another teaching moment.

"Sometimes, (Catholics) get criticism (such as), 'OK you're anti-abortion but then you ignore them.' No. We support young mothers and families," Deacon Carter said. "We've got very active Birthright, pregnancy assistance centers and St. Vincent de Paul food pantries that also give out diapers. ... We are pro life year-round."

And Lent is a perfect season for this drive.

"It's a time of renewal and everything is coming up in the spring," he said. 

Lenten Diaper Drive

Who • Deacons in the archdiocese

What • Collecting diapers

Why • To help people in need

When • At weekend Masses on Saturday, April 1, through Sunday, April 16

Diaconate information meetings

Who • Married men and their wives, or single men

Why • To learn about the five-year Diaconate Formation Program and potentially serve the Lord as an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church.

When/where • Tuesday, March 7, Miraculous Medal Shrine (Perryville); Thursday, March 9, Assumption (O'Fallon); Thursday, April 6, at Cardinal Rigali Center (Shrewsbury). All meetings will begin at 7 p.m.

More information • Office of the Diaconate at (314) 792-7430 

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