By Caitlin V. Reidy | CFP Correspondent
WORCESTER – Every day is a birth-day at Visitation House, according to Evelyn Lindquist, executive director of the Catholic pro-life agency that supports mothers in crisis.
Visitation House, located at 119 Endicott St., Worcester, takes the idea of “saving one’s child” and turns that vision into a plan of action by providing pregnant women with a place to stay for up to six months after their child is born. In addition to giving mothers a place to stay, Visitation House also supplies women with meals, baby clothes, and diapers until the women are ready to “take the next step in society” with their children, Mrs. Lindquist said.
Though new mothers occupy Visitation House with their babies, Mrs. Lindquist emphasizes that the residence is not a shelter, and instead should be considered a transitional home.
“Mothers who walk through our doors have chores; they cook dinner, do dishes, and clean their living areas, Mrs. Lindquist said.
“They’re required to take life skills and enrichment classes as well as entrust money to the leaders at Visitation House, which is given back to them when they transition out of the residence. This helps teach them how to save money and instills a sense of dignity in them.”
Open since 2005, Visitation House has helped more than 300 women who have been faced with crisis pregnancies. Currently, Visitation House is providing for 10 mothers and five babies, with more children soon to be born.
In several cases, pregnant mothers who have come to Visitation House have been faced with abusive relationships, unsupportive families, and uninvolved fathers. Most recently, one mother at the facility was encouraged to have an abortion by medical personal because her pregnancy was high risk. This mother, who wished to remain anonymous, said she sought another opinion of a pro-life doctor in Boston, who gave her a different diagnosis and put her on bed-rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. She is currently mothering a healthy newborn baby girl.
The purpose of Visitation House isn’t just to provide financial and housing support, but spiritual enrichment as well. Every month, Visitation House holds an evening Mass and dinner in which the residents of the home gather for prayer.
During the most recent Mass on Monday, July 17, Father Michael J. Roy, pastor of St. Roch Parish in Oxford, delivered the homily about the story of Moses being sent down the Nile River by his mother. At the time, the Pharaoh of Egypt was murdering enslaved Hebrew baby boys to prevent an uprising. Jochebed, Moses’s mother, was unable to relinquish her son to death and instead trusted God to protect her son.
“God is always giving us a choice, and everyone has the ability to make the right choice,” Father Roy said. He further stated that death is often sought to solve problems, when it is life that should be looked upon as the answer. Instead of choosing to end their babies’ lives through abortion, the mothers at Visitation House chose life, despite their difficult circumstances.
After the Mass on Monday evening, the mothers, clergy, employees, and board members gathered for supper at Visitation House in a dining room that consisted of a long table and had a feeling of community. Jen De’Mara, assistant to Mrs. Lindquist, brought her two preteen daughters to the dinner to “learn a different side of life” and to see that, despite tough situations, “it is always a blessing to choose life.” Ms. De’Mara said that she has previously worked in shelters and that she enjoys working at Visitation House because it aligns with her faith and sets a good example for her children.
Visitation House, named after the second decade of the rosary, represents when Mary went to visit Elizabeth while both women were with child. Mrs. Lindquist said that when Mary and Elizabeth were pregnant, Mary was thought to be very young, while Elizabeth was believed to be an older woman. She explained that in this current day, women are often pressured to abort when faced with untimely pregnancies. Visitation House offers a solution to the pressure women face in those crisis pregnancies by offering emotional, physical, and financial support to emphasize that “every baby is a miracle” Mrs. Lindquist said.
Patricia, a resident of the home, said that Visitation House helped her keep her daughter. Leah, one-month old, is her fourth child, however Patricia stated that “every child is different” and that “Visitation House taught her valuable life skills and how it’s important to help others.”
Maritza, a mother who joined Visitation House in January, stated she didn’t know any English. Through the help of the other mothers staying in the home, she was able to learn English and raise her three-month old son, Jayden.
Visitation House fulfills its mission of seeking to “foster and promote the culture of life” by “providing safe housing, healthy food, and the support of a caring staff” for its residents. Housing costs $3,000 a month per mother and child and is rising with the current cost of living. Mrs. Lindquist said that the public can help by providing “both spiritual and financial support.”