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November 18 - December 1, 2012

A home for moms, babies

Mary Zeien hands baby Lewis to Brandy Perez as Shania Jones works on jewelry on Oct. 29. Residents make jewelry to help raise funds to support themselves and their children at the Well of Mercy. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Keaundra Jones and Kierra Figueroa work on jewelry together. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Some of the jewlery the women make to sell that they use to earn money for themselves. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

By Alicja Pozywio

STAFF WRITER

After years of planning and reviewing the options, the Well of Mercy, a Father Michael J. McGivney Center of Hope and Healing, opened in August at 6339 N. Fairfield Ave.

This transitional home for single mothers is meant to provide shelter, education, emotional support and spiritual guidance during pregnancy and the first years of their children’s lives.

“We are trying to build a home with a really structured program, but at the same time maintain a family atmosphere,” said Theresa Pietruszynski, president of Father Michael J. McGivney Center of Hope and Healing.

Pietruszynski was inspired to take action after confronting an inspirational, challenging and provocative idea: “Putting up monuments for the unborn is a beautiful gesture but something more should be done for the women who actually choose life.”

Pietruszynski believes that the Holy Spirit tapped her and the small group of friends that helped make the center a reality when they met Mary Zeien, who started helping women in a rented facility a year and a half earlier.

With financial help from the Knights of Columbus, they leased the three-story former convent at St. Timothy Parish, which is owned by the Jewish Federation.

Eight women now live at the Well of Mercy.

“They come from a variety of situations including domestic violence, homelessness or families wanting them to abort the babies. They find themselves quite desperate and afraid,” said Zeien, the center’s executive director.

Each woman asked for help and were referred to the Well of Mercy.

“The important part is that each woman is aware of the program and that it is a commitment to find out how God used them and that he loves them,” said Zeien.

The women can stay at the home for up to five years during which they are encouraged to obtain their GEDs, work on a college degree or take classes to prepare for being selfsufficient in the future. She must be at leat 18 and at least three months pregnant. Criteria include also not having other children in custody, being drug and alcohol free for a period of time or not be fleeing a current domestic violence situation.

“They don’t have to be Catholic but need to be connected to a spiritual faith base “said Zeien.

The weekly routine includes participating on Sunday in a Mass or other faith-based service, meeting with a therapist, making a commitment to exercise at least three times per week and partaking in a group intervention meeting. The women take turns taking care of the home and preparing daily meals. In addition, each woman is assigned to a project at the home that she has ownership over.

“We make bread together, we sell it and that is how they earn their spending money,” said Zeien.

They also own a boutique in the neighborhood.

The Chicago center is the first of six Centers of Hope and Healing to be established.

“We would like to have a house like that in each diocese in the State of Illinois,” said Pietruszynski. Before that can happen, the first center needs to get more help. “The biggest need we have is finding babysitters while the women are taking GED classes or being at college or looking for a job,” said Pietruszynski.

Among the initiatives supporting the Hope and Healing center are baby bottle campaigns, candy sales, coin canisters and monthly pledges.

Zeien, who holds a counseling degree and at age 18 found herself pregnant with no options, quit her previous job for Well of Mercy, where she committed to work with no salary.

“I get to see people healed, I get to see miracles happen, I get to extend my heart and love every day,” she said.

For information visit www.mcgivneycenter.com.