Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Community Groups Shower Mothers In Need

By SUZANNE HAUGH, Special Contributor | Published March 17, 2005

Amid the oppressive struggles of newly arriving immigrants and other poor who come to Our Lady of the Americas Mission in Doraville is a monthly celebration of hope and joy for new life.

Expectant mothers at the mission and those who have recently delivered their babies are invited the first Thursday of each month to attend a baby shower in their honor. The guest list is made up of those women who are due to deliver closest to the shower date. The event can draw from three to 25 pregnant women and their families.

“We invite anyone in the community, but 99.9 percent are Hispanic and are very, very poor,” said Teresa Vigil, who works at the mission.

Each shower begins with the celebration of Mass, which is a real treat when the mission’s chaplain, Father Fabio Sotelo-Peña, is in town, Vigil said. Following Mass and the presentation of new and wrapped baby items, and other gently used items, the mothers and their family members are treated to lunch.

“We like to give them a healthy meal whether they are expecting or have just delivered.”

Teresa Peña, who also works at the mission, first conceived of the baby showers. A mother and Sunday school teacher from the community, Peña continues her work every Sunday in educating expectant mothers on prenatal care, nutrition, what to expect during delivery, newborn care and breastfeeding.

The expectant mothers have been joined recently by another mother-to-be, blessed with time and treasure, who is building bridges between these women and groups from the surrounding community that she asks to sponsor one of the monthly gatherings. Crissie McCormack first heard of the showers when delivering a case of baby formula to the Doraville mission. The formula, with its label in Spanish, had been collected through McCormack’s work with Mustard Seed Communities, a nonprofit, community development organization in Jamaica and other countries, and she knew it wouldn’t clear customs.

“I didn’t want to throw it out,” she said, “and so I took it over there to see if they would want it.”

At the mission McCormack, who was early into her own pregnancy at the time, met Vigil and learned of the monthly baby showers.

“I have everything I could want or need,” McCormack recalled thinking. “I had many friends offering to have showers for me. I can walk into a store and get what I need. But the poor can’t afford to do that.”

Her conversation with Vigil touched McCormack.

“God led me over there. I came home and talked with my husband about it. I thought, ‘We could do something.’”

McCormack’s desire to help has grown into a commitment to find groups to sponsor the baby shower each month—and a perpetual hunt for anything other than garbage bags in which to cover the presents.

“I’m always looking for gift wrap,” confided McCormack, who is due the end of April.

Having started in the fall, McCormack listed the types of groups who have come forward to help: different moms clubs, a Bible study group, a country club. Each shower has its own personality. Some groups will provide food and may stay for the event. Others may just drop off their gifts. But, in all, the support is well received.

“I was really surprised at the number of people who came,” McCormack said of the first shower she helped to coordinate. “They did a beautiful job.”

She did admit, however, the difficulty in not speaking Spanish. “I felt more like an observer.”

But the language barrier has not dampened McCormack’s desire to help.

“I just felt strongly about it. I’m pregnant and thought how lucky I am compared to what these other women are going through—they’re not comfortable, they may not have the support I do and may not have clothes for their babies.”

Vigil described the plight of some of the families with whom she works. Many lack proper furniture for their new babies and may use dresser drawers as cribs. They are also in constant need of diapers and wipes, she added, as mothers must faithfully change their baby’s soiled diapers or face the consequences of their child having severe diaper rash.

Living conditions for these families can be harsh. It’s not unusual for many families to live together in a single apartment, each family occupying one room.

“They don’t use furniture but sleep on the floor … They also often lack electricity.”

These families, however, remain silent about their lack of electricity as many of the parents know that, by law, their children could be taken away from them for not being able to afford the utility.

“This is real desperate poverty,” said Vigil, who is often struck by the disparity of the plush Anglo church and the hard life of those she serves. “There is an overwhelming need.”

Whether it be in finding someone to treat an infected tooth, help in finding a job or, as one parent described to her, knowing what to do when a car accident leaves a spouse in a coma and the needs of five children unmet, those at the mission rely on internal and community resources for help.

The mission is “seething with humanity,” Vigil described, and it’s not just in the area of healthcare programs but includes overflowing English and religious education programs.

“We try to help people increase their skills so they can support themselves.”

Prenatal classes and other programs to benefit families are available at the Doraville center. These programs include English classes, job training and court-ordered family services such as abuse prevention programs. The mission also offers everything that a traditional parish would have such as religious education classes, sacramental preparation, daily and Sunday Masses, confession and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the rosary.

The monthly baby showers offer a respite in the constant struggle to sustain and build better lives.

“The cool thing is all the support (the expectant mothers) get and also all the people who supply the baby items and give of their time,” Vigil said. “It’s all about celebrating life.”


For general information on the programs offered through the Doraville mission call (770) 454-8437. For information on how to help with the monthly baby showers, contact Crissie McCormack at (770) 804-0413.