The Benedictine monks of Belmont Abbey College have donated four acres of land on the college’s campus for the country’s first college-based maternity and residential facility for unwed mothers and their babies, reports the Charlotte Observer.
Ground was broken yesterday for the new facility, which will be operated by Room at the Inn, a Catholic non-profit that has helped more than 4,500 pregnant women and children in the Charlotte, NC area since its founding in 1994.
Debbie Capen, assistant director for Room at the Inn, had an abortion as a college student, believing it was either that or drop out of school. That experience was her motivation for reaching out to other women who feel they must choose between ending their children’s lives and giving up on a college education:
A fling with a handsome beach service worker stirred images of sailing off together on his catamaran. But the dream faded when she became pregnant. Afraid to tell her mother and worried about the possibility of having to drop out of college, she couldn’t find an adult who understood.
“I felt utterly alone,” said Capen. “I felt I had no other choice but abortion.”
The experience of having an abortion was negative – something Capen wanted to forget but couldn’t. Since then, Capen has tried to help other women going through the same thing.
The 10,000-square-foot home going up in eastern Gaston County at Belmont Abbey on four acres of land donated by the Benedictine monks is the kind of haven Capen didn’t have when she found herself in trouble as a teen. The Belmont Abbey project was spurred by a national survey that found facilities and services for pregnant women were needed on college campuses. The home will allow women to continue their educations and have babies.
“I’m really joyful to be part of a project that’s taking concrete action to help other women just like me,” said Capen, now assistant director of Room at the Inn. “It will help people to see that a pregnancy is not an end – it’s a beginning.”
Belmont Abbey’s President Bill Thierfelder describes bringing the unwed mothers’ home to his college campus as a “bold move” and “a natural extension of pro-life philosophy,” and the Benedictine abbot who donated the land agrees:
“It’s putting your money where your mouth is,” Thierfelder said. “You’re not just talking philosophy anymore. This is something real. You need to meet people where they are and help them to take the next good step.”
Women who stay at the home up to two years for free don’t have to be Catholic or students at Belmont Abbey. They can commute to colleges or universities in the greater Charlotte area or take transferable credits at the Abbey. As they complete their educations, they’ll also learn to be good parents. Room, board and meals will be provided at the home.
Abbot Placid Solari of Belmont Abbey, a Room at the Inn board member, said land is being taken off Belmont’s development plan to accommodate the maternity home. The residents – often driven by fear and anxiety – will have a place to stay and get help.
“This is a way we can make a positive contribution,” Solari said.
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