In Your Midst

Pregnancy Support Ministry

March 2006

"I can't imagine my baby's life without you"

    The adage tells us, “It takes a village to raise a child.” But what happens when a woman is facing the pending birth of her child without the help of her village? Say, for instance, her family lives in another state, she doesn’t know her neighbors, or her husband is working two jobs to pay the bills. Where can she turn for help?

Our very first client celebrates his first birthday!

    She can call Catholic Community Services Pregnancy Support Services, where she can get maternity clothes, baby clothes, and referrals to community resources for the essentials like medical treatment, housing, parenting classes or job training.

    But suppose she’s been confined to bed rest and she has other children to care for, or she has to travel across town to attend childbirth classes and doesn’t have a car? Or imagine that the baby’s father has abandoned her, and she has to come home from the hospital after a Caesarean delivery and has no one to help her. What then?

    Enter St. James Pregnancy Support Ministry, a cadre of volunteers who offer the kind of help that neighbors, family and friends ordinarily provide for pregnant and newly parenting women. Formed as a partnership with Catholic Community Services, the ministry can augment the services that CCS provides, adding a “paraprofessional” layer to the professional case management that CCS offers.

    Since it was started 16 months ago, the ministry has served 15 women and their families, invested more than 575 hours of service, and helped with tasks like laundry, housecleaning, trips to medical appointments, shopping and meals. Invariably, volunteers also spend time “just being there,” listening to concerns or sharing in joys over a cup of tea or on the telephone.

    “Ministry of presence is an essential part of the Pregnancy Support,” says Patty Bowman, “but that usually happens after a woman becomes comfortable with the volunteer and sees us as part of her support network.”

    There are currently nine active volunteers serving in the ministry. In addition to making themselves available to help women, the group also gathers for a monthly prayer and support meeting. This underscores the group’s focus as a ministry and strengthens the cohesiveness of the volunteers, who usually work independently.

    Elizabeth Shier, who has been with the group since it began, says, “The prayer meetings give me the ability to reflect more deeply on scripture and allow me to build strength to better serve the families that we minister to. It strengthens my love for God and for humanity. I’m very thankful that I have this opportunity to help.”

    And what difference does the ministry make for the women we serve? Here’s what some of them have told us:

    “I can’t imagine my life or my baby’s life without you.”

    “I don’t have my family here to help me, but you guys are my family.”

    “You’ll really do all this stuff for me FOR FREE?”

    “Tara made the best meatloaf in the world.”

    “My ex- (and abusive) husband said I’d never have friends, but I do have friends. I have you.”

    “It helps just knowing you are available if I need you.”

    “Would you like to hold the baby?”

    “Thank you.”

    “Thank you.”

    “Thank you.”


Denise Carlascio is a Cathedral parishioner and the coordinator of St. James Cathedral’s Pregnancy Support Ministry. To find out more about Catholic Community Services Pregnancy Support, call 1-800-BABYDUE. To find out how you can help out at St. James Cathedral, contact Patty Bowman, 206-382-4515.

Back to the March 2006 Issue of In Your Midst