Compelling witness

This new initiative, housed at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, seems like the kind of witness the Catholic Church should be highlighting. Via Catholic News Service:

BELMONT, N.C. (CNS) -- Belmont Abbey College broke ground June 20 on a campus pregnancy and aftercare maternity home called Room at the Inn.The project's organizers say the center is the first college-based maternity center in the nation.The 10,000-square-foot maternity home will be located on four acres donated by the Benedictine monks at Belmont Abbey. The facility is adjacent to Belmont Abbey monastery and the campus of Belmont Abbey College.Room at the Inn, an initiative of a nonprofit maternity and aftercare center of the same name based in Charlotte, will have two residential wings, one for maternity and one for aftercare, and will be able to house up to 15 mothers, 15 infants and eight toddlers for free for up to two years. Each mother will have a private bedroom and bathroom and share the kitchen, dining room and laundry room with other residents. Administrative and counseling offices and quarters for residential managers also will be on site.Staff and volunteers at Room at the Inn in Charlotte have long dreamed of a place where college-age pregnant women could find shelter for themselves and their children while finishing their studies.Participants don't have to be Catholic or Christian or students at Belmont Abbey College to be accepted. They are required to be in school, adhere to a curfew, submit goal sheets and take classes in life skills, parenting, cooking, meal planning, financial planning and nondenominational Bible study, among others. In exchange, they receive free room and board and counseling and supplies they need for their babies, such as car seats, clothes and furniture.

Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life put it well, I think, when he said the center should be a model for the rest of the country. "Every Catholic campus, every parish, every Catholic school, needs to be the place of first resort. When a young woman or a man feels that a new baby in their life is throwing everything out of control, they need to see that the church is the anchor, the place they can go to find help for themselves and their child."But I think one of the most important points was left for the walkaway line:

William Thierfelder, president of Belmont Abbey College, said he hoped the home would help students understand what it means to put their faith into action."The students who live on this campus will get to see the reality, get to see that there are options," he said.

They will also get to see that the church puts its time, talent and treasure where its mouth is, and the impact on those who see such programs can be as important as what such ministries do for the women and children who live at the Inn.

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.

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