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One of the best ways to walk with moms in need


Courtesy of Melissa Scanlon

Elizabeth Ascik - published on 03/22/23

The program allows parishes to “walk in the shoes” of pregnant and parenting moms in their community.

Melissa Scanlon was not the most likely candidate to start a pro-life ministry.

A convert to the Catholic faith, she had no experience leading a ministry and was busy with a job and her young children. When she attended an information session for Walking With Moms in Need, a new ministry getting started at her parish, St. Matthew Catholic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, she thought she might help by donating a few diapers or having coffee with a mom once in a while. Much to her surprise, by the end of the session she had volunteered to be the ministry’s coordinator.

“I was not connected to the prolife world at all,” she reflects,” but I felt very strongly that God was calling me to step up in this ministry, and the rest is history.”

Launching a new ministry

Walking with Moms in Need is the USCCB’s program to promote a parish-based response to helping pregnant mothers and families. This initiative was rolled out on March 25, 2020, to mark the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae, The Gospel of Life. The program is designed to be implemented over the course of a “year of service” during which parishes “walk in the shoes” of pregnant and parenting moms in their community. Their website provides detailed guidance on how to implement the program in individual parishes.

The ministry at St. Matthew started in October 2020 during Respect Life Month. The volunteers spent the first year and a half meeting with local agencies to find out what assistance was already available. Then they spent time discerning where the parish was most needed to fill the gaps.

In that process they realized that there was no organization in Charlotte that provided diapers to families on a regular basis. Melissa explains, “There are programs that provide diapers but a lot of red tape is involved – and these women are dealing with a tremendous amount of red tape in every area of their lives. So the concept of the ‘Hand Up Day’ came to be!” 

Melissa Scanlon with Walking with Moms in Need
Melissa Scanlon of Walking w
ith Moms in Need

Hand Up Days

“Hand Up Days” are held on the first Sunday of the month at St. Matthew. Parish families donate gently used baby and toddler supplies, and moms in need can come and “shop” for them free of charge. Volunteers assist each client, and the goal is to build a relationship with her and her family. Everything is done on the honor system, and they strive to make things easier for the women by accepting their word regarding their needs. The program has been so successful that some moms even bring back items that their babies have outgrown so that another family can use them. 

As WWMIN has grown at St. Matthew, Melissa and the other volunteers have continually seen evidence of God’s providence.

Melissa shared the story of a young mom who was very fixated on a particular pack n’ play that she felt that she would need for her baby in her small living space. “The very next day – without me telling anyone — it was on my front porch — a parishioner just dropped it off and hoped we could use it. The mom was so thrilled when I sent her the picture and told her it was hers. That baby is almost a year old now and the parents got married and are both in school and working!”

Melissa has words of encouragement for anyone considering starting WWMIN in their local community. She believes any parish, even one with limited resources, has something to offer. She suggests looking beyond current parish volunteers and encouraging new people to step up and serve. “I would say to just get started and know that God will provide everything you will need. He will multiply your time and resources if you offer it to Him.”

She is passionate about encouraging other Catholics to get involved in this ministry. 

“I think for too long we have been comfortable leaving the work of accompanying women in crisis situations – pregnant or parenting – to others in the nonprofit and government sectors. It is very clear in the Gospel that this is our job — all of us!  A woman in a pregnancy center once told me that most women considering abortion are wrestling with a financial matter less than $250 and that has really stuck with me. If we can lighten the burden just a little, what a difference we can make — it is literally life or death.”

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