39 years of age—and their babies have found a new life there. The first baby, born in 2004, was named Geianna (a variant spelling)—after St. Gianna.
Infused with love
Because of the Christian love that permeates the home, many residents have converted to Catholicism or returned to their respective faiths. Mary Pat and Fr. Joseph Christensen, the home’s spiritual director and founder of the Franciscans of Mary Immaculate in Warsaw, are godparents to dozens of moms and their children. Fr. Joseph even escorted one former resident-turned-happy bride down the aisle!
Geianna, the first baby born at Saint Gianna’s Maternity Home, is baptized in the home’s Visitation Chapel
“Many of our moms don’t know what a normal family is,” says Fr. Joseph. “They have been mistreated or violated by the men in their lives. We want to help them grow in dignity and self-respect and in the love that matters most—the love of God.”
Whether it’s making pizza or watching movies or jumping with kids on a trampoline, Fr. Joseph models both Christ’s love and the wholesome love of a parental father. He is also fiercely protective of residents and will grill moms who want to reunite with boyfriends (the baby’s father in most cases): “Has he sent you $5? Written a letter? I want to meet him.”
There are no faith requirements for residents, but attendance at Sunday Mass in the home’s Visitation Chapel is mandatory, as are the nightly prayers of thanksgiving for the many hundreds of benefactors who fund the nonprofit apostolate, which has an annual operating budget of $450,000. “Everything is free for the residents,” says Mary Pat. “In gratitude, we ask God to bless those who bless us.”
One doubting mom told Mary Pat, “You people don’t separate your faith from your everyday life!”
She is right. Faith is the home’s guiding light.
Finding a new path
Many residents have suffered unfathomable crises, even abandonment. “They need time to heal and to understand God’s plans for them and their preborn child,” says Mary Pat, adding that about one-fourth of the mothers place their babies for adoption.
A resident places her newborn in the arms of the adoptive mother
While every baby born there is a miracle, miracles are also happening in the women’s lives. For example, when Jourdan discovered she was pregnant, she thought abortion was her only option. “I had been using drugs and not making the best choices,” she admits. “I had already given a baby up for adoption, and I didn’t want to go through that again.”
Jourdan began the two-day abortion pill regimen at a Minneapolis clinic. On the second day, she had a change of heart and didn’t take the second pill to complete the abortion. Instead, she went to Saint Gianna’s. “I was scared my baby would have complications,” Jourdan says. Everyone at the home prayed, and six months later little Nora arrived—perfect in every way.
Another miracle can be found in Jessica, who was a homeless drug addict living in Texas when she found herself with child. Having grown up in the foster care system and with nowhere to go, she moved to Fargo to stay with a friend. When that didn’t work out, she sought refuge in a homeless shelter but was told she could stay for just a couple of days. Destitute, Jessica—now 25 weeks pregnant and one month sober—googled “homes for pregnant women” and found Saint Gianna’s. It became her home, and the people became her family.
Jessica reset her life and today works as a certified peer support coordinator for a substance abuse disorder treatment facility. Her daughter, Sophia, is six years old and has “strong values,” Jessica says proudly.