Pro-life means pro-family: How Metro Detroit parishes are helping moms in crisis

A woman holds her daughter at their Metro Detroit home. This Mother’s Day, parishes across the Archdiocese of Detroit will be asked to participate in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Walking with Moms in Need” initiative, which asks parishes to develop a plan to assist women and families facing parenting and pregnancy crises. (Detroit Catholic file photos)

‘Walking with Moms in Need’ will equip parishes with resources, tools and knowledge to help mothers get pregnancy, parenting help

UTICA — A common criticism — often unfounded — is that Catholic parishes are “pro-life” only when it comes to opposing abortion, and not when it comes to offering mothers the help and support they need to care for a child. 

Pro-life Catholics often dispute that, arguing that a host of pregnancy and parenting resources exist in the Catholic community — including parenting classes, bottle and clothing drives, mental health services and financial aid — to help new and struggling parents.

The problem, perhaps, is that not enough people know about it. 

This Mother’s Day, parishes across the Archdiocese of Detroit are redoubling their efforts to assess, expand and communicate those resources to ensure women can find the help they need, no matter where they are. 

While a host of pregnancy and parenting resources exist for struggling mothers, too few people know about them, local Catholic leaders say. 

“Women in need are part of every community; they are our fellow parishioners, our children, our family members, our neighbors and friends,” said Kathleen Wilson, pro-life coordinator for the Archdiocese of Detroit. “We are presenting a lifesaving message of hope … that we see their needs and without judgment, we seek to support and walk beside them.”

The effort is part of the national “Walking with Moms in Need” initiative, introduced last year by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s pro-life encyclical, Evangelium vitae (“The Gospel of Life”).

The idea is to help parishes to take stock of local resources available to pregnant women, mothers and families and to develop a plan to assist them when needs arise, said Chris Leach, Christian service coordinator for the archdiocese. 

“We want to make sure every parish has a plan to walk with moms in need,” Leach said. “While each of our parishes isn’t necessarily going to become a crisis pregnancy center, we can help fill service gaps in our communities and make sure people know our parishes are safe and welcoming places for mothers in need.”

Late St. John Vianney pastor Fr. Tim Mazur holds an infant with a family at the parish in 2019. A U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops initiative, “Walking with Moms in Need,” asks parishes to take stock of the parenting and pregnancy resources in their communities, and to develop a plan to work with families seeking help. 

The archdiocese is working with Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, which will help parishes identify resources in their local community as well as develop a “master list” of service providers across the archdiocese. 

Approximately 40 parishes have taken steps toward implementing the initiative in southeast Michigan, with the hope that more parishes will sign on. 

“I give the Lord thanks that parishes in the archdiocese are embracing this life-saving ministry of supporting women in need as they navigate pregnancy and parenthood,” Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said. “This is one more way our parishes are striving to answer Jesus’ call to practice evangelical charity: by going out and unleashing the Gospel of Life both with pastoral accompaniment and practical assistance. 

“It is my hope that through the ongoing Walking with Moms in Need initiative, women who face difficult or crisis circumstances will find our Catholic parishes and communities to be places where they can turn for real help,” the archbishop added.

About 40 parishes have signed on to take part in the “Walking with Moms in Need” program in the Archdiocese of Detroit, with organizers hoping more parishes adopt the initiative in the coming months. 

St. Lawrence Parish in Utica has been an early adopter of the Walking with Moms in Need initiative, putting together a list of resources in the area to help families facing challenges, from free ultrasounds to groceries, baby supplies and counseling. 

“Women in these crisis situations need help in so many ways, and these resources provide so much for them, from health care and counseling to financial aid, diapers, food or anything else,” said Sharon Gill, pro-life ministry coordinator at St. Lawrence. 

“Many pregnant women, when they’re in this situation, go to the crisis pregnancy centers, but unfortunately they also go to Planned Parenthood hoping for help there. But the only help they’re going to get there is abortion,” Gill said. 

In addition to creating partnerships with area service providers, parishes can develop their own ministries to offer more immediate help, Gill added. 

“Through the church, we have emergency funds so that if someone needs something right away, such as furniture, a crib, diapers or things like that, we will be able to provide monetary assistance, or we will find a way to get them whatever is needed,” Gill said.

A child smiles during Mass at the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Riverview. While many parishes have robust pro-life ministries, coordinating with community pregnancy centers, clothes closets and food banks can help Catholic parishes take the next step in walking with mothers and families facing crisis situations.  

While women in crisis pregnancies might not naturally think to turn to their local parish for help, friends and family members might, Gill said.

“If they’re members of the parish, they might have some embarrassment in reaching out,” Gill said. “We see this with crisis pregnancy centers a lot — many times it’s a mom or a grandma calling, and they'll say, ‘I have a friend or a daughter who needs help.’ If word starts to get around that these things are available, I think more women will come to the parish.”

Wilson called the existence of the Walking with Moms in Need initiative a “work of the Holy Spirit.”

“If our prayer is to make abortion unthinkable, we need to make sure we have the resources to help a woman choose life,” Wilson said. “This is a concrete response to the criticism that Catholics only care about the baby, not the mother, which is certainly not true. This is who we are as Catholics.”

Walking with Moms in Need

To learn more about the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Walking with Moms in Need” initiative, visit To learn how parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit can get involved, visit

Detroit Catholic staff reporter Gabriella Patti contributed to this report.