| By Bishop Joe S. Vásquez

Let us pray for our mothers and help moms in need

Editor: Bishop Vásquez, Mother's Day is May 14. Let's begin by talking about Mary, our Blessed Mother. Do you agree that she is the best role model for all mothers?

Bishop Vásquez: Absolutely! Anyone who wants to understand the depth of motherhood should look to Mary for understanding on what it is to be a mother. Mary is open to the gift of life. When the angel Gabriel comes to her and says, “Hail, favored one! … Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son.” She responds with, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Mary accepts the gift of motherhood from God. Afterward, Mary sets off to the hill country to be with her cousin Elizabeth, who is also expecting a child, John the Baptist. An encounter by the Holy Spirit takes place between these women, one very young and one much older, yet both open to God's will.

Also, we must remember the meager conditions of the birth of Christ — Mary gives birth in a stable surrounded by animals. Yet she provides for him with loving care. Mary proves her motherhood throughout Christ’s life. And of course, at the end of Jesus’ life while on the cross, the Lord gives her to us as a mother, so we are her children.

Editor: Will you tell us about the role your mother played in your faith and in your vocation?

Bishop Vásquez: My mother, may she rest in peace, was a convert to the Catholic faith. She was born and raised in a Protestant, Assembly of God Church. When she married my father and became Catholic, she was very devout. My mother was the one to make sure her children went to Mass, attended religious education and received the sacraments.

As I began to think about the priesthood, my mother inspired me by her faith and particularly by her love for the Eucharist. When I told her that I was discerning the priesthood, she was very happy for me and fully supported me throughout seminary, as I was ordained to the priesthood and then as I was ordained bishop. Through all this time, I know she prayed for me, which brought me great peace. The prayers of a mother are powerful, indeed!

Editor: Now more than ever, we are called to walk with mothers in need. How do we do that?

Bishop Vásquez: Our Catholic faith is very practical. We are called to live out our faith by helping those in need. As Christ says in Matthew’s Gospel, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me …” At the end of our lives, what we have done for others will matter. We know pregnant and parenting moms in need are in our families, parishes and communities. We can offer them our prayers, but we must also offer our presence and our care. There are countless ways to support these women as they nourish the child in their womb and after the child is born. Support for these women and children is essential.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has developed an initiative called Walking with Moms in Need, which offers information for parishes and individuals on ways to help women in crisis pregnancies. For more information, visit www.walkingwithmoms.com.

Editor: What are some of the ministries in our diocese who are helping mothers in need?

Bishop Vásquez: I am so proud of our Catholic Charities of Central Texas, which offers great support for families. Through the St. Gabriel's Pregnancy & Parenting Program, we help mothers and their children with basic needs, provide them with information and connect them with other agencies who can help as well.

We also have two Catholic maternity homes. Our Lady of Angels Maternity Home in Temple provides shelter to women in crisis pregnancies and post-partum; visit www.ladyoftheangels.org. And Annunciation Maternity Home in Georgetown provides housing and related services to young mothers facing an unplanned pregnancy; visit www.thematernityhome.org.

Also, the diocesan Office of Life, Marriage and Family works to affirm the dignity of every human life and seeks to create a society that respects, defends and promotes the dignity of life. We value every person from the moment of conception to natural death. We want to help mothers and fathers be loving and caring parents who raise their children to be holy and faithful.

Editor: What is your prayer for all mothers living and deceased?

Bishop Vásquez: First, I give thanks to God for all mothers. Where would we be without our mothers? May we appreciate, love and respect these good, holy women, who live their faith daily as they nurture their sons and daughters, love their husbands and take care of their homes. Let us also pray for our dear mothers who have gone before us in death. May Mary, our Blessed Mother, watch over all mothers, and may she continue to lead us closer to Christ. Amen.

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez is the fifth bishop of the Austin Diocese, which is home to more than 700,000 Catholics. For details, visit the diocesan website at austindiocese.org.