By Sister Theresa Mayrand, OP
Community Outreach Director, Gianna House
The following article is included in the Spring 2020 issue of Gianna House’s newsletter.
May 18, 2020, Detroit – One year ago, Gianna House became a licensed residence for pregnant teens, and many celebrated with us at our ribbon-cutting. Ten years before, Gianna House was simply a vision in the mind and heart of Sister Diane Masson, CSSF – and what a journey of faith we have walked!
Initially there was only a dream – no building, no funding. The search for a suitable residence had a lot of ups and downs, but Gianna House at last opened in the former St. Veronica convent, whose pastor, Father Stan Pachla, became our champion.
The challenges – not the least of which was funding – seemed endless as we strove to bring the building up to code and ready for occupancy. Thanks to the diligent and creative efforts of so many, our number of donors increased, state grants were awarded, the necessary renovations were completed, our license was issued, and our faith was rewarded.
During the years it took to renovate, God was leading us to respond to needs beyond housing pregnant teens – the needs of pregnant and new mothers who were struggling to provide for their little ones. This led to the formation of our Community Outreach Program.
While it was not part of the original plan, the Outreach Program has grown into a vibrant and growing ministry that has served hundreds of women and children on the margins through classes on parenting, childbirth, personal growth, nutrition, sewing, and finance management.
Additionally, as donations of baby items began pouring in, we distributed them through an “Earn as You Learn” program. For attending classes, mothers earned “Baby Bucks” that they could use to “purchase” baby clothes, diapers, and other supplies, giving them a hand-up rather than a hand-out. Classes also afford much-needed social support.
God provides, and we have received unsolicited offers to teach classes from nurses; social workers; public health educators; lactation specialists; therapists; reading specialists; music and movement teachers; a family issues lawyer; educators from the Michigan State University Extension and CARE of Southeast Michigan; Great Start leaders; behavioral therapists; and instructors of yoga, sewing, and crocheting. Many other volunteers support the Outreach office in reception, data entry, and child care while moms are in class. How greatly blessed this faith journey has been!
During 2019 alone we had 1,136 mother visits. Mothers attended 978 classes and received more than 4,000 baby items. On average, our Outreach mothers are in their 20s and 30s and come from 21 cities throughout the tri-county area.
One of our regular attendees shared what draws her to Gianna House:
“My name is Monique and I have a beautiful daughter, Serenity, who is 15 months old. I have been attending Gianna House since the beginning of my pregnancy. … They are a support group and a family. The classes they offer here are the classes I need to be a better me and to be as good a mom as I can be. I also meet some other mothers here I can relate to. … Here we don’t judge each other no matter what. We try to build one another up.
“I can honestly say I am happy that Gianna House came into my life when it did, and I’m happy that I met the wonderful moms who come here as well. Thank you for everything that you do for us. We truly appreciate you all here.”
It has been quite a faith journey that birthed Gianna House as both a residence for pregnant teens and an outreach to mothers in need. We give thanks to our loving God for blessing us so richly.
Gianna House receives a grant from the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Ministry Trust, which gives grants to organizations in which an Adrian Dominican Sister ministers or serves on the Board. Grant recipients reflect the Mission and Vision of the Adrian Dominican Congregation.
May 13, 2020, Maywood, Illinois – The COVID-19 pandemic turned the disciplines of Lent into mandates as the coronavirus forced the entire world to practice isolation and separation and face their fears. That is one aspect of a reflection written by Sister Xiomara Méndez-Hernández, OP, a hospital chaplain at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois. She writes of the suffering that patients – whether or not they had the virus – endured while isolated in the hospital and of the fear that all of the hospital staff face. “For us, the hospital was the place where Lent was practiced every moment,” she writes, but concludes by encouraging readers to take on the hope of Easter.
Read Sister Xiomara’s reflection on life during the pandemic in the newsletter of Giving Voice, a national, peer-led association for younger women religious. Sister Xiomara serves in leadership of Giving Voice as a member of its Core Team.