SCRANTON – After learning that Catholic Social Services faced a critical need of diapers and wipes for its Pregnancy and Maternal Health Program, parishioners throughout the Diocese of Scranton responded in an overwhelming way.
Twelve parishes held special collections between Mother’s Day (May 14) and Father’s Day (June 18) collecting a total of 16,024 diapers and 35,930 wipes to help mothers and families who are struggling to afford one of a child’s most basic necessities.
“We have great parishioners. They are so generous. Anytime you ask them to do anything, they are right there,” Elayne Totten, a member of the Social Concerns Committee at Saint John Vianney Parish in Montdale, said. “The Catholic Church is always there to help. We’ve done so many things and this is one of the most important for mothers and babies.”
Over the course of three weekends, Saint John Vianney Parish parishioners alone generously donated 2,312 diapers and 4,440 wipes to the cause.
“There are people that say to us that they are happy to give because sometimes in their life they got some type of help,” Totten added.
The Pregnancy and Maternal Health Program operated by Catholic Social Services is open to any woman that is pregnant or the birth father of a pregnant woman.
During pregnancy, unlimited counseling and support services are available and after the birth, services are provided weekly until the child reaches one year of age.
“Services are provided free of charge and do not require a referral,” Jolette Lyons, Director of Lackawanna County Offices for Catholic Social Services, said. “When available, diapers and wipes, along with access to the baby pantry, will be provided.”
Catholic Social Services operates its Pregnancy and Maternal Health Program in its Carbondale, Hazleton, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre offices. The agency also operates Shepherd’s Maternity House in East Stroudsburg that provides housing for up to 18 months to pregnant women and then their newborn babies.
“Parents with infants and young children approach our offices on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis requesting much needed diapers and wipes. Many families rely on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits to sustain their families but diapers and wipes are not eligible for purchase through SNAP,” Lyons explained. “The recent decrease in SNAP benefits combined with skyrocketing costs of living expenses continue to negatively impact our most vulnerable families.”
After hearing of the increasing need for diapers and wipes, the Diocese of Scranton Office for Parish Life and Communications Department helped facilitate the collection under the “Walking with Moms in Need” program launched in March 2020 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“Walking with Moms in Need is a process through which Catholic parishes can help local pregnant and parenting women in need in their own community,” Shannon Kowalski, Director of Service and Mission in the Diocesan Office for Parish Life, said. “Our efforts help to fill the gaps in services and provide resources to mothers and fathers parenting young children.”
Parishes that collected diapers, wipes or provided monetary contributions included the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton, Gate of Heaven Parish in Dallas, Holy Cross Parish in Olyphant, Our Lady of the Eucharist Parish in Pittston, Our Lady of Victory Parish in Harvey’s Lake, Queen of Angels Parish in Jessup, Queen of Apostles Parish in Avoca, Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Peckville, Saint Ignatius Loyola Parish in Kingston, Saint John Vianney Parish in Montdale, Saint Maria Goretti Parish in Laflin, Saint Rita Parish in Gouldsboro.
“Anyone that has purchased diapers recently knows exactly how expensive they are,” Eric Deabill, Diocesan Secretary for Communications, explained. “With each pack of diapers that was donated, our parishioners responded to the call of becoming a missionary disciple, bringing hope to those in need.”
A 2017 study published in the journal Pediatrics revealed a significant number of American adults struggle to afford diapers. The analysis found that 30-percent of mothers have struggled to pay for diapers and more than eight percent of low-income mothers have had to reuse soiled diapers on their children.
Because of the generosity of so many parishioners, Catholic Social Services expects to be able to provide diapers and wipes to hundreds of parents that might have otherwise gone without.
“We count on the parishes and their support for so much of what we do,” Joe Mahoney, Diocesan Secretary for Catholic Human Services and Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Social Services, explained. “If it wasn’t for them and their desire to help the community we wouldn’t be here.”
“It was humbling to see the outpouring of support from the parishes,” Lyons added. “It is reassuring to see that we can all work together to make a difference in people’s lives.”