Pat Shea, the founder of Momma’s House, shared her experiences working with young, single mothers and the importance of helping those in need in Marillac Terrace on Oct. 3.
Momma’s House is an organization that helps pregnant teen mothers between the ages of 17 and 21 find an alternative route to abortion. The organization was founded by Shea on Long Island in the late 1980s. At the moment Momma’s House has three different locations, Malverne, Brookville and Glen Cove.
“I started Momma’s House because I used to have the girls living in my own house for many years,” Shea said. After one of the girls left and abandoned her child, Shea decided that she needed to start a program that showed these young girls the way.
Shea comes to St. John’s every year to motivate students to volunteer with charitable services. “Too often we only live in an isolated world, with people of the same goals and motivations. It is good for college students to come out and see that there are people struggling to survive,” Shea said. “It also allows the girls to see that people do care. These girls enjoy the same things anyone else does but it is much harder for them to achieve their goal.”
The program requires these women to go to school or to find a job and maintain a savings account to insure a stable lifestyle for them and their children in the future. They must also attend counseling and parenting workshops. “The girls have a very early curfew, so that they can spend time with their babies,” Shea explained.
The women are allowed to stay for a maximum of two years with two children up to the age of four. “It gives them somewhere else to go when there is nowhere else to go,” Shea said. “Time and time again women have come to me saying if they knew [Momma’s House] existed they would not have aborted their child.”
Those who attended the lecture were impressed. “It is extremely interesting and compelling. You appreciate that people are helping other people the way she [Shea] is,” freshman Therese Wycklendt, an education major said. “It shows her love of work and makes you want to go out and do something.”
“It supports some of the unwed mothers who have made the courageous decision to raise their children,” Campus Minister Pat Tracy said.
Momma’s House is not a daycare service – the mothers must be willing to take care of and spend time with their child.
“It was for mothers wanting to change their lives, go to school, etc. We want girls that are ready to be mothers and who want to parent because it is a huge commitment,” Shea said.
Nina Petraro, the treasurer for Students For Life feels Momma’s House is a great program. “It gives the girls the option to choose life. It provides them with the care they need after their pregnancy. Their is an emphasis on the after because many people feel that those who are pro-life only think about not having an abortion and do not give enough care to the after. Pat Shea is promoting the after and it is an extremely important service.”
At the moment, Momma’s House is trying to raise money to buy a transitional house with three separate apartments. The new facility would better prepare the mothers for independence with less interaction from Momma’s House.
“I think it’s a great program that brings our people to see how real society works. It is an experience anyone and everyone can benefit from,” Vildana Hasi, a senior legal studies major, said.