Help for pregnant women in need: resources to know

By Megan Marley

‘The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world,’ goes an old poem—but what happens when a mother needs support in her role?

A yearlong initiative started by the USCCB Pro-Life Committee invites parishioners to become aware of local resources available so they can help support pregnant women and their families in times of need.

‘Walking With Moms in Need: A Year of Service’ begins March 25, 2020 and ends March 25, 2021, occurring on the 25th anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life). At the national level, the Pro-Life Committee is developing educational, pastoral and action-oriented resources for parish use, such as tools for creating an inventory of local resources for pregnant moms in need, ideas for improving parish responses, prayers, reflections and more. This information can be found at

Since our own Bishop James Johnston, Jr. is a member of the Pro-Life Committee (and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the nearby Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan. is chairman), the national-level project has local development as well.

Year of Service Kickoff Mass
A co-diocesan kickoff Mass for the Walking with Moms in Need Initiative will be held 10 am March 29 at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Kansas City, Ks. There will also be a special blessing of those who serve women facing crisis pregnancies.

List of Local Resources
A thorough inventory of area pregnancy resource centers, pregnancy homes, medical issue support and related resources, plus tools, education and contacts for starting/developing parish pro-life ministry already exists on the diocesan Respect Life Office website and is accessible to the public ( Information/resources on other pro-life issues (end of life care, reproductive technologies, post-abortive healing, adoption, the death penalty and more) as well as an overview of the local Walking with Moms in Need Initiative can also be found on the site.

Gabriel Project
A parish-based local support network to provide accompaniment for pregnant mothers is also expanding into the diocese. The Gabriel Project offers women facing an unplanned pregnancy a friendly ‘Angel’ volunteer who offers nonjudgmental, confidential accompaniment along with material, emotional and prayer support. The diocese currently has two ‘Angels’ signed up.

“We are parishioners among the faithful, and if there are parishioners considering an alternative to carrying that child…we walk the walk with them,” said Mary Ernstmann, a parishioner and Angel at St. John Francis Regis Parish. She’s been involved with a variety of pro-life ministries such as 40 Days for Life and Missouri Right to Life, and volunteers at Mother’s Refuge for young, homeless moms.

The other Angel is Carrie Muldoon of St. Thomas More Parish.

“I used to volunteer as a patient advocate at the hospital and also in the birth center at St. Joe hospital off State Line (Road)…I thought this would be a good new, challenging, different volunteer opportunity,” she said.

The ministry in the diocese is so new, Muldoon said there have been just a few calls for help—so for now, they are learning from counterparts in Kansas and becoming familiar with resources.

“As far as monetary resources, shelters, items—we have that…from what I’ve been told, a lot of the women who are calling in are homeless, and in that situation a place to live would be first priority to get her off the street. Or it’s a domestic violence situation,” said Muldoon.

“Because of some of the situations these women might be in, we’re going to team up together so we’re not meeting by ourselves—keeping safety first,” she continued.

“It’s not just reaching out to people who will be grateful for it—they’re in survival mode,” Ernstmann said.

The number one goal is to help in any way possible.

“This isn’t fire and brimstone pro-life ministry…if you still decide to have an abortion at the end, we’re not going to judge you and go ‘you’re doomed!’—that’s not what it’s about,” Muldoon concluded. “Our goal is to sway them away from that decision, but ultimately it’s their decision and we won’t make that decision for them. We just want to empower them…you have it within yourself to do this and you have a village behind you, and you’ll have an Angel to walk with you.”

The Gabriel Project is looking to expand its network of trained volunteers: a Come and See event will be held 7-8 pm April 23 at the Catholic Center for anyone interested in learning more about the ministry. More information about the local Gabriel Project will soon be up at

Deacons of Hope
Related to Gabriel Project parish-level ministry is a clerical association of the faithful in process of being established: Deacons of Hope. The main purpose of Deacons of Hope is to engage and coordinate permanent deacons in leading pro-life ministry within parishes, along with resources.

“As a Deacon of Hope, you’re a portal in the parishes of prolife causes,” said co-founder Deacon Doug Hemke of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish. He said the first cause they’ll be focusing on is supporting the Gabriel Project.

“There is pain everywhere, there is need everywhere, and there are about 30,000 deacons available (to recruit),” he concluded.

Catholic Charities Resources
Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph also has resources available for mothers in need. One resource they offer is the Mom’s Empowerment Program, which provides customized support and help with self-determined goals during pregnancy and up to one year post-delivery. Catholic Charities also offers a wide range of related support for parents and children, which can be found at

Crisis Pregnancy Centers
There are at least 21 crisis pregnancy centers near parishes ranging from Maryville to Nevada listed on the Respect Life Office website. However, vulnerable, low-income populations in the Kansas City metro core are underserved.

A new crisis pregnancy center is forming in Kansas City, Ks. to serve inner city needs in both states, and will be close to several diocesan parishes.

The Kansas City Pregnancy Clinic (KCPC) plans to open at 721 N 31st Street in downtown Kansas City, Ks. this summer, not far from a proposed regional abortion facility by Planned Parenthood. KCPC will offer pregnancy tests, sonograms, counseling, classes, baby items and community referrals and is currently in the fundraising stage; until the physical location is opened, KCPC director Donna Kelsey can be contacted for assistance (

For questions regarding pro-life ministry or resources within the diocese, contact the Respect Life Office or visit their website:


October 22, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph