Pictured with items collected at the baby shower of St. Theresa of Avila in West Roxbury are Bill Barrett, Rich Begin, Mike Daly, Joe Fitzgerald, John Germano, Msgr. William Hemlick, George Hines, Chris Kennedy, George Malley and Peter Mullin. Courtesy photo/Pro-Life Office
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WEST ROXBURY -- How many baby showers have you been to where the mother does not attend? Parishioners across the Archdiocese of Boston have a 22-year history of planning showers for pregnant women they will never meet.
The usual baby items -- new clothes, diaper bags and other essentials -- are collected and delivered to the archdiocese’s Pro-Life Office. They are then sorted and given out to pregnant mothers in need.
St. Theresa of Avila Parish hosted one such baby shower for women facing crisis pregnancies Jan. 20-21. The annual shower there was started by Chris Kennedy in 1992 and now is one of the largest in the archdiocese. The parish, through the hard work of the Knights of Columbus Council 3049, collects gifts and monetary support for mothers and their unborn children after all of the weekend Masses.
Over 20 years ago Lynn Kenn, a mother of young children, started the baby showers as a way to support pregnant mothers even though she was unable to attend the annual March for Life in Washington D.C. She began by inviting people over to her home and asked them to bring a gift to donate to Pregnancy Help.
Pregnancy Help, a program run by the Pro-Life Office, provides financial, emotional and spiritual support to women in crisis pregnancies.
Kenn later hosted the showers at her parish and soon other parishes began their own baby showers. Now there are 96 parishes and organizations who host these showers, said Marianne Luthin, director of the Pro-Life Office.
“It’s a remarkable diversity of parishes,” said Luthin. “The generosity is awe-inspiring.”
In 2006 the office collected over $100,000 worth of items and donations. Some parishes collect as many as 1,200 items in one shower. Most donations come into the Pro-life Office near the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision in January, around Mother’s Day, during Respect Life Month in October and at Christmastime, she said.
Luthin said she is very grateful to the thousands of Catholics in the archdiocese who are involved in the baby showers as well as the volunteers who help the Pro-Life Office sort and organize all the items.
The need, however, always increases. There was a 20 percent increase in the number of new clients for the Pro-Life Office last year. There was also an increase in incoming calls to 2,670.
For many pregnant women, the support they receive is the tipping point that causes them to choose life, Luthin said. Luthin added that she received a call a few weeks ago from a pregnant woman who asked, “What is an alternative to abortion?” Those kinds of questions highlight the importance of the Church helping mothers in need.
“For many women it really is an economic decision. If they know there isn’t going to be any food on the table or any money to pay the rent when they’re on maternity leave, it seems like every force in the world is telling them, ‘You can’t go through with this pregnancy,’” said Luthin.
The office tries to stay well-stocked to serve about 100 women at any given time. Women will receive many of the items they will need for their child’s first year of life. The office takes care to give clothing of the appropriate size and for the correct season, she said.
The items are beautiful and invaluable to women of limited means who are often overwhelmed by the assistance, Luthin said.
“Some women will just start to cry. Some of them have never before experienced a complete and total gift from a stranger,” she said. “It really demonstrates the love and support of the Church and the commitment of the people in the archdiocese to building a culture of life.”
To learn more about sponsoring a parish baby shower or the archdiocese’s Pregnancy Help program contact the Pro-Life Office at 508-651-1900.