Aris Jerez and her daughter Leilany attend an Oct. 13 community baby shower hosted by archdiocesan Catholic Social Services and St. Raymond of Penafort Parish. (Photo by Gina Christian)

Shelby Walker has a knack for swaddling an infant so that it sleeps safely on its back.

Now expecting her fifth child, Walker shared her technique with some 300 fellow attendees during an Oct. 13 community baby shower at St. Raymond of Penafort Parish in Philadelphia.

“I had a baby pass away from crib death,” said Walker, a Philadelphia resident. “It’s important for moms to trade notes, and to learn from each other.”

Sponsored by archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS), the three-hour event featured baby care demonstrations, such as the one in which Walker participated, along with raffles, prizes and free food. An array of tables displayed information on resources offered by CSS and its partners, while face painting and a moon bounce rounded out the family fun.

Attendees even received on-the-spot intercession, thanks to a “prayer tent” staffed by Deacon Bill Bradley and members of the parish’s evangelization team.

“We even give you a little sticker that says ‘I’m prayed up,’” said Deacon Bradley.

(View a photo gallery of the CSS community baby shower at St. Raymond of Penafort Parish on Oct. 13.)

St. Raymond’s pastor, Father Chris Walsh, said that the prayer tent — and hosting the baby shower as a whole — was the parish’s way of partnering with CSS to address a range of needs experienced by area families.

“The folks from CSS are obviously connecting people with a number of resources, with food and services and health care, but as humans, we have spiritual needs as well,” said Father Walsh. “And when people have kids, they begin thinking about life differently, about faith and a relationship with God, and we want them to know the church is here to serve them and accompany them.”

The Oct. 13 baby shower was the second such collaboration between CSS and an area parish. In July 2018, the agency’s Casa del Carmen family service center sponsored a similar gathering at St. William Parish in Philadelphia.

Last year, CSS provided assistance to more than 5,000 expectant mothers in the Philadelphia area.

Fredaswinda Rodriguez, a parent educator from Casa del Carmen, was on hand at the Oct. 13 event to deliver baby care advice in both English and Spanish. She noted that while all expectant mothers benefit from instruction in baby care techniques and social development stages, those who are also immigrants face even greater challenges.

“They’re in need of everything,” Rodriguez said. “Especially because they’re not eligible for certain programs, and especially if they haven’t been here long, they need the basics, such as food and clothing.”

Rodriguez was joined at the Oct. 13 shower by 25 CSS employees, who donated their time to staff the event.

“We came together as an organization to do this,” said Camille Crane, administrator of Casa del Carmen. “It was intentional, something we decided to do several weeks ago as a way to build on the success of our previous baby shower.”

Father Chris Walsh, pastor of St. Raymond of Penafort Parish in Philadelphia, shares a smile with Mia Grace Luc during an Oct. 13 community baby shower co-sponsored by the parish and archdiocesan Catholic Social Services. (Gina Christian)

The event also enabled current CSS partners, such as Einstein Healthcare, to connect with local families.

“Organizations like CSS have the people, and working with CSS allows us to reach those people where they are with our services,” said Anjelica Sanders, a nutrition educator with Einstein.

Sanders and her colleague Fred Seymour regularly visit CSS family service centers in Norristown and North Philadelphia — at Casa del Carmen — providing strategies for improving family nutrition even if money is tight. During the Oct. 13 event, they provided samples of healthy food to whet attendees’ appetites for nourishing and affordable cuisine.

“Information is the biggest challenge for low-income families and nutrition,” said Seymour. “You need to realize that you have alternatives when it comes to eating, and even if you can’t buy organic, you can still get something healthy.”

Amy Stoner, director of CSS’s community-based services and homeless divisions, noted that the Oct. 13 shower exemplified the month’s theme of “Respect Life.”

“This is what being pro-life is all about; it’s a living testament of our pro-life commitment to moms in the community and their families,” said Stoner. “We reached over 5,000 pregnant moms last year, and we’re hoping to reach 5,000 more this year.”

(From left) Grace Luc, Father Chris Walsh, Amy Stoner and baby Mia Grace Luc at an Oct. 13 community baby shower sponsored by archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS) at St. Raymond Parish in Philadelphia. Stoner, director of CSS’s community-based services, described the event as an example of “what being pro-life is all about.” (Gina Christian)