Walking with Moms in Need:
The Call and Response of the La Crosse Guild

Dr. Charlie Peters and Betty Hayden-Tauscher, director of Birthright of La Crosse, with items collected during the first “Walking with Moms in Need” campaign held at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph the Workman in La Crosse, Wisconsin from May to June 2021.

The La Crosse Guild of the Catholic Medical Association is partnering with parishes and pro-life groups across the Diocese of La Crosse in response to the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops’ (USCCB) call to walk with moms in need.

In the Spring of 2020, USCCB called upon dioceses to implement programs in which parishes working in conjunction with local pregnancy support centers provide tangible resources for mothers in unplanned pregnancies. Pope Francis reminds us, “Our parishes need to be islands of mercy in the midst of a sea of indifference.” Everyone in the parish community should know where to refer a pregnant woman in need. Hence, a nationwide effort from March 25, 2020 to March 25, 2021 entitled, “Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service,” was launched.

The La Crosse effort began on January 30, 2021 with a diocesan webinar which was a pro-life virtual afternoon of reflection beginning with a welcome by Bishop William P. Callahan, OFM Conv., followed by a presentation by Bob Perron, Executive Director of JMJ pregnancy center in Orlando. It also included a Q & A session, after which participants joined small group breakout sessions aimed at creating an action plan for working with nearby pregnancy resource centers. The day of reflection concluded in prayer with the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Some Guild members, who are also members of the La Crosse Council of the Knights of Columbus, subsequently made a grant to Catholic Charities for their Adoptive and Birth Parent Support Program.

In conjunction with the Parish Council of Catholic Women, the Guild initiated the campaign over Mother’s Day weekend last year at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman. Members displayed a baby bassinet with a poster outlining the campaign and its needs in the Cathedral’s foyer. Over the ensuing month a variety of items such as new infant/child car seats, portable cribs, infant and toddler clothes, baby care items, diapers, and financial contributions were collected for and distributed to the three pregnancy support centers in La Crosse — Birthright of La Crosse, Agape Women’s Center, and New Life Resource Center.

Nancy Buhrow, director of Agape Women’s Center.

Early in 2021, leadership of CMA invited Guild members to join its Catholic Social Teaching on Justice in Medicine Committee chaired by Dr. Fred Fakharzadeh. The Committee’s initiatives include education on Catholic social teaching, advocating for policies that are based on and consistent with the principles of the Church’s social doctrine, and development of programs to facilitate “in the field” solutions to health care inequities. From this committee, the guild put together a proposal that responds to the pressing needs of women who face difficult or untimely pregnancies and/or who face challenges due to their socioeconomic status.

The La Crosse Guild also recognizes the need to disseminate medical information that describes the medical, physical, emotional and psychological hazards related to abortion for women, the obvious dangers for the unborn, the negative consequences for fathers and the disruption of the social fabric that is ultimately caused by the taking of innocent life. The Guild identified suitable outlets for such information including parish bulletins, leaflets accompanying the “Walking with Moms in Need” displays, presentations in the community, and print articles. It seeks to identify and develop projects in this area that are suitable for physicians, nurses, and other allied health care workers.

New Life Resource Center, under the directorship of Heather Biedenbender, offers various resources and supplies to moms in need.

Another way the Guild chose to support local pregnancy centers was by bringing its members’ attention to the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicle’s Choose Life specialty license plates. Fees collected from the issuance of this license plate are managed by Pro-Life Wisconsin which administers grants to worthy pro-life causes including pregnancy support centers. Information cards regarding this new license plate were made available at several La Crosse Guild meetings leading to a significant number of members purchasing Choose Life license plates. Recently, Agape Women’s Center of La Crosse received just such a grant!

“Walking with Moms in Need” goes beyond material and financial resources; it means solidarity in prayer. For example, Guild members participate in spiritual adoption. Participants commit to praying a decade of the rosary daily for a pre-born child whom they have named and assigned a date of conception as they await his or her birth. Such pledges often begin on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation and conclude on December 25, the Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord and are offered throughout parishes in the diocese.

The U.S. Bishops’ call to strengthen the infrastructure within the pro-life movement through the “Walking with Moms in Need” initiative has been providential. For the past two years, there has been an intentional effort to be more cohesive as a Church in responding to women in crisis pregnancies just when its needed most in a post Roe country. It is a privileged opportunity for CMA guild members to partner with parishes, various pro-life groups and local pregnancy support centers to be the face of Christ to women facing difficult pregnancies and life circumstances.

Dr. Charles Peters is a member of the La Crosse Guild in Wisconsin and serves on the Catholic Social Teaching on Justice in Medicine Committee.