Meet the Catholic bishop who launched a pro-life ministry to help pregnant women in need

Meet the Catholic bishop who launched a pro-life ministry to help pregnant women in need

When the U.S. Catholic bishops initially started a statewide program to assist pregnant women in need, the chair of their pro-life committee envisioned every church becoming a pro-life center.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Missouri, told CNA, “Our objective was that every parish would be a welcoming place for women.” “And the parish would be able to connect them with the greatest services in the area, and we would hopefully have someone to assist them in this process.”

Today, the bishops’ parish-based pro-life program, Walking with Moms in Need, aims to accomplish just that by asking Catholics to support and “walk in the shoes” of local pregnant and parenting women facing challenging circumstances.

As leader of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities in 2020, Naumann oversaw its inception. Now, two years later, the 73-year-old archbishop views the ministry as gaining pace following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, allowing states to determine their own abortion policies.

The subject of pro-life is personal to Naumann. He said that his father was brutally slain when he was still in his mother’s pregnancy. As with his older brother, she experienced a difficult pregnancy with him. His mother, who never remarried, was a Catholic school teacher and eventually a principal when he was growing up.

He recalled, “I could see the difficulties a single mother goes through.”

Nonetheless, he stated that these conditions “oddly, most likely contributed to my becoming a priest.” He pointed to his parish priest, who took an interest in him and his brother due to their fatherless upbringing.

Two years after Roe v. Wade became the law of the land, Naumann was ordained a priest in 1975. In 1984, the archbishop of St. Louis invited him to lead the pro-life apostolate in that archdiocese, whereupon he assumed an active position in Catholic pro-life leadership.

However, he insisted, “I’ve always felt strongly about this issue.”

A call to action

In an interview with CNA during the bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore, Naumann described the Roe v. Wade judgment as “important” and a call to action.

“Those states that have protective legislation for women and children must provide even greater support for mothers and their children,” he added of places with restrictions on abortion. I believe Walking with Moms is crucial in those states.

Naumann also expressed concern about areas mostly unaffected by the Supreme Court’s decision, including his home state of Kansas, where a recent pro-life ballot initiative failed. He was also concerned about states passing laws “perhaps even worse” than Roe v. Wade.

“In these states, it becomes even more vital, because we can protect the children we cannot protect with the law with love and by surrounding the mother and kid with a support structure,” he said.

Naumann indicated that Walking with Moms in Need began in part in anticipation of Roe’s reversal.

“We recognized that as a possibility,” he said, adding, “but I honestly didn’t think I would live to see it.”

“I wondered, if this were to occur, if we are truly equipped to sustain women — and even more women and children,” he remarked. “Therefore, I am quite happy that we took that initiative and that the Holy Spirit sort of guided us.”

He discussed how his own diocese participates in Walking with Moms in Need: by informing parishes of the available resources and identifying the gaps where assistance is required.

“There is no excuse for any of our parishes not to be able to link women with the assistance they require and be prepared to accompany them,” Naumann emphasized.

The bishops’ pro-life pastoral plan, which focuses on four areas: prayer, education within and outside the church, pastoral care, and advocacy, was described by him as “multifaceted.” Naumann underlined the significance of fostering a pro-life culture, despite the fact that the majority of attention on abortion has been focused on the courts and laws.

“Long-term, we must develop a cultural agreement that killing our own children is not the approach we wish to solve challenging pregnancies,” he said.

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