Missy Monroe, co-house director, cleans the fireplace in the future St. Gianna Crisis Pregnancy Home on Sept. 8, 2023. COURTESY OF ST. GIANNA HOME
A home for moms in need
St. Gianna Crisis Pregnancy Home looks forward to opening in Bowling Green
BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
Missy Monroe had always felt the Catholic Church needed to do more to help mothers experiencing unexpected pregnancies – “and then I realized, we are the Church.”
Monroe is one of the many volunteers working to bring about a place of sanctuary and refuge for unhoused pregnant women in the Bowling Green area – a place they will call St. Gianna Crisis Pregnancy Home.
Operating under the auspices of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Owensboro, and located on the campus of Holy Spirit Parish in Bowling Green, the St. Gianna team anticipates opening the home in 2024.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla was an Italian pediatrician in the 1960s who refused to have an abortion after doctors discovered a uterine tumor during her pregnancy with her fourth child. She delivered a healthy baby and died several days later. She was canonized in 2004.
Monroe, who will work with fellow volunteer Katharyn Byrne to screen prospective residents, said “there are so many people who are excited about this. It’s definitely a need for the area.”
“I’ve never been involved with something that is so obviously God-sanctioned,” Monroe added, saying the process has been infused with prayer since the beginning.
Byrne said the future St. Gianna Crisis Pregnancy Home will be in a house that had previously been used as a rental property.
“It was such a blessing not to have to buy a house” in the current housing market, said Byrne.
She said almost all renovations in the main part of the house are completed. Now, they are working on an addition that will serve a twofold purpose as a classroom space and as an area for communal meals for residents.
“We want them to learn family-style eating,” said Byrne of the future moms who will live at St. Gianna’s.
That is just one aspect of the overall goal of St. Gianna’s, which is “not just to house them for their pregnancy – but to help them learn how to care for their families,” said Byrne.
To this purpose, they plan to let the moms reside at the home for up to eight months after the birth of their baby. They hope this extensive period of time will provide the women with healthy lifestyle habits and structures they can continue after graduating from St. Gianna’s.
“Every woman who comes will be assigned a one-on-one mentor to help her figure out her life goals,” Byrne added.
The house has four bedrooms, and one will be designated for one of the two “house mothers” they plan to hire to care for and oversee the home. (Having two house mothers who can share responsibilities will ensure that someone will be at the house with residents 24/7.)
St. Gianna’s will be able to house up to six moms; the three double-occupancy bedrooms will have space for two residents each.
Byrne said they had “over 40 people come to our meeting for volunteers, and even more have signed up since then. Everyone has different skills to offer.”
She and Monroe said people have approached them about volunteering their time to teach financial literacy, exercises classes, nutrition, simple sewing skills, how to use WIC, Theology of the Body classes, and more. Others have offered to do house maintenance and lawn care for the home.
Monroe said they are in conversation with a local Baptist church, which is interested in partnering with them and helping St. Gianna’s with resources. St. Teresa Ministries, a local community-assistance nonprofit, also looks forward to helping.
Right now, St. Gianna’s primary need is monetary donations so they can purchase what future residents will need on a case-by-case basis. Donations will also help pay the salaries of the house mothers, who will be classified as diocesan employees; all other roles are volunteer.
“Later, as women are graduating, we will announce their specific needs” and be open to those items being donated, said Byrne.
She said the home will be open to anyone, even if they are not Catholic or Christian, but St. Gianna’s will encourage the women to consider making spirituality a part of their lives so they can grow in body, mind, and spirit.
Down the road, Byrne said they would like to add a deck to the house so that when the weather is nice, “women can go outside and pray or meditate or rock their baby.”
They would also like to establish a raised garden for residents who are interested in learning gardening skills.
Monroe said that her entire adult life, she has felt the mentality of many people has been, “please don’t have an abortion… but good luck to you.”
Byrne agreed: “The whole idea is that we as Catholics say, ‘Don’t have an abortion, don’t have an abortion,’ but we want to actually do something more for these women in crisis.”
Now, they can be involved with something that will truly save lives – of babies, and moms as well.
To learn more, visit www.stgiannacph.org.
Originally printed in the November 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.