If a pregnant and frightened-looking young woman walked into your church and sat in the back row silently crying, would you have the courage to approach her? Could you whisper words of support into her ear and sit with her for the duration, welcome her and let her know she is not alone?

If a poor, single pregnant mom and her toddler walked into your parish office looking for assistance, would your parish receptionist or your pastor know where to refer her for food, clothing, prenatal care and resources to help her choose life for her unborn child?

Twenty-five years ago this month, in his groundbreaking encyclical “The Gospel of Life,” Pope St. John Paul II tasked us with helping to create a Culture of Life in our communities. Building on that challenge, today Pope Francis implores us to accompany our sisters and brothers on their journey, and reminds us that our parishes are called to be “islands of mercy in the midst of a sea of indifference.”

How are we doing with regard to moms in need? Our Church should be a place where anxious young girls facing an unplanned pregnancy can naturally turn for help. But is it?

We’ve certainly got the infrastructure: hundreds of parishes across the dioceses, including 126 of them right here in the Albany Diocese. We have Community Maternity Services run by Catholic Charities, providing services, homes, parenting education classes, child care, foster care and adoption info in many counties. We have pro-life pregnancy centers and other programs offering maternity and baby items and referrals for medical care, housing and social services. We have the Gianna Center offering authentic Catholic, pro-life women’s health and fertility services, and the top quality prenatal care and birthing center available at St. Peter’s Hospital.

It’s clear that our state government is not going to promote pro-life options or material assistance for pregnant and parenting moms. They are moving in the opposition direction, by legalizing, promoting and celebrating abortion on demand as the answer to all unintended and difficult pregnancies.

So we need to step in and step up. Everyone in our parish community should know where to refer a pregnant woman in need. If you don’t know, find out. Contact the Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Albany at rcda.org/life. Publicize the information in your bulletin. Put a poster up in the church vestibule. Check out the beautiful Prayer for Pregnant Mothers and other great resources at walkingwithmoms.com.

Be ready to walk with a woman in need. Accompany her. Assist her. Welcome her and her infant, recognizing them as the sacred vessels of Jesus Christ that they are.

Kathleen M. Gallagher is the director of Pro-Life Activities for the New York State Catholic Conference.