Volunteers setting up the CSSM Baby Resource Center

On March 25, 2020, the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities launched a year of service called Walking With Moms In Need (WWMIN). The launch coincided with the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life).

It seeks to equip parishes to find new ways to serve pregnant and parenting mothers facing difficulties by connecting them with local resources and the parish community. At the time, parishes were already laboring to meet critical needs brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic. At the Cathedral of St. Helena, it would be a full year before innovation around the WWMIN initiative could even begin to take shape.

For many years the Cathedral has supported expectant mothers through community partnerships, fundraising, and especially promoting the sanctity of life. In 2021, Monsignor Kevin O’Neill approached long-time parishioner Michelle Field about the WWMIN approach. They assembled a core team of volunteers: Matt Brower, Linda Kecskes, Mike Boyle, Linda Michaletz, and Chris Field. Using WWMIN as a guide, they began discussing ideas, identifying gaps in available services, and making plans to move forward.

Linda Kecskes and Linda Michaletz provided the bulk of the effort to achieve the groups’ first goal, compiling a comprehensive resource guide. The guide gives detailed descriptions of appropriate services and organizations in the Helena community, including Options Women’s Clinic, Good Samaritan Ministries, and Catholic Social Services of Montana. It will connect moms to professional resources that fit their unique situation and give parishioners confidence. Parishioners will know that their offer of friendship, community, and invitation to Christ is not the end of the story but a hopeful beginning of what can be a lasting transformation. According to Michelle Field, “Everyone in our parish will be able to help someone find the help they need.”

At the parish, the most visible aspects of WWMIN are two dedicated spaces to support moms. A Catholic Social Services of Montana (CSSM) Baby Resource Center will be in a room just inside the North doors of the Brondel Center. Work is underway to fill the former museum space with diapers, clothes, and supplies for mothers, babies and young children. The second is a newly furnished room in the Cathedral Center building called the Comfort Room. Field said, “It’s a homelike atmosphere where we can introduce the resource guide and walk alongside women as they navigate their unique circumstances.”

If all goes to plan, the work in Brondel Center will wrap up in time for a January launch. Cathedral parishioners will get a handout and an invitation to participate however they can. Field explained that it’s parishioners that will make WWMIN happen. Their understanding of who may need help and how best to reach out is critical. She also noted that it is open to all volunteers, saying, “If God gave a talent or calling to someone, we can accommodate their talents.”

A 2020 diocesan survey showed that parishes support moms in need in every deanery of our diocese, advocating for the sanctity of human life both in word and deed. If you know a woman who needs support due to pregnancy or caring for young children, remember your parish is a beautiful avenue to healing and help. For a list of organizations that offer resources, visit www.diocesehelena.org/news-and-alerts.