This fall, Vermonters voted to amend the Vermont Constitution by passing Article 22, which, among other things, enshrines into the state constitution the right to unrestricted abortion at any time during a pregnancy. Though abortion may now be considered inviolable by the state, it does not have to be an inevitable choice for a pregnant mother. She can still choose life for her baby.

The Catholic Church can play a significant role in making that choice easier. Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne, both in his pastoral letter regarding Article 22 and his statement on its passage, expressed his hope that every parish establish the Walking with Moms in Need program, a U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops initiative to help parishes be prepared to help pregnant and parenting mothers in need.

The Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Burlington will be coordinating with parishes to establish Walking with Moms, which will help parishes know how they can support mothers in need.  However, Catholics do not need to wait for that program to be established. In fact, many are already providing that support.

A simple, yet valuable, action that parishes can take is to have a diaper drive for the nearest pregnancy resource center or other organization that provides support to mothers.

Last October, for Respect Life Month, the Respect Life Office encouraged parishes to have such a diaper drive. A number of parishes participated, benefiting at least four pregnancy resource centers throughout Vermont.

Just from St. Andrew Parish in Waterbury alone, more than 1,000 diapers and wipes with an estimated value of $400 were donated to Care Net of Central Vermont in Barre.

Pregnancy resource centers are not the only organizations that benefited from the diaper drive.  St. John Vianney Parish in South Burlington collected more than 150 packages for a diaper bank in South Burlington.

There are other ways parishes can help create a welcoming environment for mothers to choose life. Knowing that couples are willing to adopt may encourage a woman with an unexpected pregnancy to choose life. The Respect Life Committee at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Shelburne recently hosted an adoption presentation, hoping to inform couples interested in adoption opportunities.

One Vermont parish came helped one of its families when the mother was experiencing a difficult second pregnancy. They prayed with and for the young mother, babysat her 3-year-old child, visited her during her extended stay in the hospital, kept in touch with her daily and set up a meal train. The Knights of Columbus, St. Vincent DePaul group and Secular Franciscans provided gas cards to alleviate the cost of traveling to and from the hospital.  This is a perfect example of how Catholics “walk with” a mother in her time of need.

Individual Catholics can also offer support.  A good place to start is within your own circle of family and community.  What can you do that would make it easier for a mother with young children?  Can you provide a meal, do some grocery shopping, spend some time with her children so she can rest?  A woman I know has a neighbor’s 3-year-old child over to read to her while her mother and baby sister rest.

Sometimes, circumstances in our life, or perhaps personal limitations for one reason or another, might intimidate us and discourage us from reaching out to mothers in this way.  If this sounds familiar, start with baby steps, and keep it simple. Just “do what you can do.” Any act of kindness will contribute toward building a culture of life.

— Eileen Haupt is respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington.

—Originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.