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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

BELMONT — History was made as ground was broken June 20 on the nation's first college-based pregnancy and after-care maternity home.

Abbot Placid Solari, abbot of Belmont Abbey monastery, offered the opening prayer at the groundbreaking ceremony for Room At The Inn's future 10,000-square-foot maternity home on four acres donated by the Benedictine monks at Belmont Abbey.

The facility will have two residential wings, one for maternity and one for after-care, and can 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 will also be on site.

Staff and volunteers at Room At The Inn, a non-profit maternity and after-care program based in Charlotte, N.C., have long dreamed of a place where college-aged pregnant women could find shelter for themselves and their babies while finishing their studies.

Jeannie Wray, executive director of Room At The Inn, began her remarks at the groundbreaking by stating, "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!"

Wray, who has worked tirelessly for years on developing this facility, was exuberant as she addressed the crowd:

"Surely every day brings us reason to be glad, but today we truly have reason to rejoice," Wray said. "Today we witness the Holy Spirit in action, for what else could explain our being here in this time at this place doing what we're doing? How else could we explain the willingness a group of men to provide property to underpin this fantastic new facility? What would inspire national pro-life leaders to travel from so far away to be part of its beginning? Why would so many give so generously to those they have never met and may never have a chance to meet so that those people will have a future and their children will have a future? Why would a fraternal order of men declare themselves providers for young women who will never be able to thank them?"

"There is no other explanation – it is the work of God," she concluded.

Bishop Peter J. Jugis, bishop of the Diocese of Charlotte, then led the prayer of blessing for the new home before sprinkling the site with holy water.

"The work we are beginning today should enliven our faith and make us grateful," Bishop Jugis said. "We know the familiar words of the psalm, 'If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do we labor.' Whenever we look to the interests of our neighbor or our community and serve them, we are in a sense God's own co-workers."

So far, $2.2 million of the $3 million needed to fully fund the project has been raised by donations from private individuals and groups like the Knights of Columbus of North Carolina, who have pledged to raise $1 million for the new maternity home.

N.C. Congressman Patrick McHenry, whose 10th district adjoins Belmont, also attended the event.

"This is a wonderful thing, not only for Room At The Inn, but for Belmont Abbey and the students at Belmont Abbey College. We can learn a good bit from this and make it a model for the state and nation," McHenry said.

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, also spoke at the groundbreaking and served as homilist at Mass at the abbey basilica immediately following the ceremonies.

"This project is a witness to the entire Church about what we need to do as a Church," said Father Pavone. "This is a perfect example of the Church collaborating with independent organizations who are working to provide alternatives to abortion. It tells us something about who the Church is and who we are supposed to be as the people of life... that we not only give voice to the teaching but that we give resources. The monks have donated land. This is what we have to do across the nation. 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."

Another honored guest was Serrin Foster, president of Feminists of Life for America, who has worked tirelessly for women's rights and the rights of the unborn.

"Feminists for Life was very pleased to be a catalyst for change and help inspire this groundbreaking today. When we've been working on college campuses, we know that women find they are driven to abortion, even pro-life women, because they have no housing, no childcare and no maternity coverage. For Room At The Inn and Belmont Abbey College to come together to address the needs of women, it's remarkable," Foster said.

National pro-life advocate David Bereit, co-founder of 40 Days for Life, also spoke at the historic groundbreaking.

"This is an effort that will educate students with the information that they need; the truth about life. This an effort that will enable those in times of crisis to choose life, and this is an effort that will empower those people in that moment of crisis to be able to have a bright future which includes both a child and a college education," Bereit said.

Dr. William Thierfelder, president of Belmont Abbey College, echoed Bereit's hopes that the presence of the new home for women and their children on the college campus will help his students understand what it means to put their faith into action, providing a concrete experience that will personally affect them.

"The students who live on this campus will get to see the reality, get to see that there are options," Thierfelder said. "They'll see we are not a materialistic society, we don't have to be relativists – that we can do good."

A time capsule was placed at the site containing personal notes from those who attended the ceremonies and items collected from Room At The Inn directors and staff, as well as visiting dignitaries. Room At The Inn plans to open the capsule in 10 years to celebrate the home's first decade of service to college-aged women and their children.

"This is breaking new ground today, both literally and figuratively in terms of what can be done all across the nation, and I hope that is what results from this," Father Pavone concluded.

For more information about Room At The Inn, go to www.rati.org.

— SueAnn Howell, Catholic News Service