Visitation House was envisioned by Mrs. Ruth Pakaluk (1957-1998), mother of seven and dedicated supporter of life in Massachusetts. Ruth recognized the urgent need to establish a home for pregnant women in Worcester County, one that would surround them with a culture of life and allow them to choose life for their babies and for themselves. Ruth died heroically at the age of 41, before her vision became a reality. Not long after her death, a group of social service providers and active pro-life advocates assembled at the request of now retired Bishop Daniel P. Reilly to study the need and feasibility of such a home for pregnant women. The committee found that Problem Pregnancy, a local crisis pregnancy center, receives 6 requests per week for emergency housing. They surveyed other social service providers who reported more than 100 requests from pregnant women for housing each year.
Because of their homelessness, lack of support and feelings of alienation, these women were largely choosing abortion as the only viable option. In the face of these statistics and with the support of Bishop Reilly, Bishop Emeritus, this group of Ruth’s friends established Visitation House, Inc., as a non-profit corporation in 2001 and formed its Board of Directors. The committee determined the appropriate residential program model, as dictated by the type of home they wanted to create—one that would model for these women the idea of Christian family life, which both welcomes and gives life. After an exhaustive search for the right building, the board hired Joseph John Mammi as Executive Director and his wife Jessica as House Manager in July 2004. Both are graduates of the College of the Holy Cross and lived at Visitation House (a prior convent) from May 2004 to October 2007 as House Parents for the program.
In October of 2004, Fr. Peter Scanlon, Diocesan Vicar for Colleges and Universities and fellow Holy Cross alumnus, wrote to J.J. about a vacant building at 119 Endicott Street (formerly St. Mary’s Convent) and the possibility of leasing it as an initial location for Visitation House. With 10 bedrooms, the building turned out to be ideal. On December 13, 2004, Visitation House, Inc. signed a long term agreement with the Diocese of Worcester to lease the convent.
After 5 months of renovations and construction, of organizing and planning, of writing a policy manual and preparing our new ministry, Visitation House opened its doors on the Feast of the Visitation, May 31, 2005. Ten days earlier, The Board of Directors, staff and about one hundred excited and supportive Community members gathered for an open house to celebrate the wonderful event: the opening of a Catholic home of hospitality and hope for women facing crisis pregnancies and the House was blessed by Bishop Robert J. McManus. Since opening in 2005, we have welcomed over 228 women to our home. In March 2007, Eve Lindquist was named Executive Director to bring Visitation House to a new level. She is currently involved in the overall operations, Sales, Marketing and Public Relations.