“God did what was necessary to get me off the wrong path and back to Him,” said John Wallaesa, whose life was turned upside down ten years ago when he was diagnosed with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy.
The progressive, incurable disease caused the atrophy of muscles in John’s feet, legs, arms, and hands, relegating him to a walker, scooter, or wheelchair to get around. Sometimes his entire body seizes up, preventing him from taking a single step.
The hardship spurred John, once a lukewarm Catholic, to a greater reliance on God. His first step was to talk to a Priest and make a confession.
“’Pick up your cross and follow me’ now has real meaning in my life,” John said.
During a stretch of severe suffering, John experienced an encounter with Jesus Christ, who called him to care for expecting mothers in difficult circumstances.
“He said, ‘walk with them.’ He assured me that I would have the energy and physical stamina needed if I followed His will,” said John, who went on to found the first Walking with Moms in Need ministry in the Diocese of Allentown at St. Jane Frances de Chantal parish, Easton.
Walking with Moms in Need is a pastoral initiative through which parishes ‘walk in the shoes’ of local pregnant women by providing for their material and emotional needs and by supporting local pregnancy centers.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops began the initiative in 2020, on the anniversary of the promulgation of Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical, Evangelium Vitae: On the Value and Inviolability of Human Life.
The ministry responds to Pope Francis’s call for parishes to be “islands of mercy in the midst of a sea of indifference.”
Active since February, St. Jane Frances de Chantal’s Walking With Moms in Need ministry has forged connections with Life Choices Women’s Health Center in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, and Catholic Charities. They are hoping to establish relationships with Catholic counseling services, legal, and childcare organizations.
They are also seeking volunteers to work in the parish care team, advertising, and fundraising.
“I will never experience exactly what a young mother goes through when she is contemplating abortion, but I do know what it’s like to face an uncertain future,” John said, adding, “The ‘walk’ that God has asked me to take is not so much a physical one as it is a spiritual one.”
For additional information, contact Kathleen Sweeney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-417-3570.
Photo: John Wallaesa attends a Walking With Moms in Need meeting with (from left) Kathleen Sweeney, Barbara Koegler, Raquelle Riggins, Karen Wallaesa, Mary Grifone, and (front) Maggie Riggins.