by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — It rested on Lois Pfeifer’s dining room table for weeks.
“It” was an article (“Number of abortions in Kansas reaches highest point in more than two decades”) from the July 28 issue of The Leaven.
Every day, Pfeifer, a member of Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish in Topeka, walked past that table. She kept thinking about the overall increase in abortions (57%) and in abortions performed on women from other states (117%). But what truly bothered her was increase in abortions for minor girls (48%).
In prayer, Pfeifer told the Lord she felt helpless to do anything. One day, though, that changed.
“I was in adoration praying about this, and it hit me that if I were to die tonight and came face-to-face with my Lord, I just didn’t want to say that I was afraid. I wanted to say I tried,” she said.
One Sunday, a bulletin insert caught her attention. Insight Women’s Center (IWC) in Lawrence was opening a home for single pregnant women and their children. As one of the state’s 50-plus pregnancy resource centers, IWC offers free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and parenting classes, among other services.
Known as Selah (a word which means “sacred pause”) Home, its vision was, according to promotional materials, “birthed out of the growing need in our community for safe, permanent housing for single women and their children” and would provide “a safe, Christ-centered residence where pregnant women and their children can grow physically, spiritually and emotionally on a hope-filled journey towards healing and independence.”
Inspired, Pfeifer called IWC for more information.
On Sept. 11, she and her husband John hosted a dinner at their home for 30 to 40 friends. During the evening, Bridgit Smith, executive director of IWC, and Catelin Curnes, house director, shared their hopes and dreams for Selah Home.
Having served as IWC’s executive director for 10 years, Smith said she’s seen the need for homes for unwed mothers and their children. It’s no longer teenagers, she said. IWC is seeing many women who are homeless or vulnerable to homelessness.
About 18 months ago, IWC’s board agreed to “expand the ministry” to include opening such a home and included it in the long-range plan.
“We just didn’t dream it would go as fast as it has,” Smith said.
Last November, IWC’s housing committee met with Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, explaining the need. Later, IWC received seed money in the form of an archdiocesan grant.
It didn’t take them long. The archbishop blessed the home on Aug. 31. Just four days later, the home welcomed its first two clients, and according to Curnes, has already received more than a dozen calls from other women or their advocates in Lawrence and Topeka.
Services provided at the home include — among others — a safe and loving home, nutritional meals, loving support and supervision of house parents (24/7), spiritual guidance, professional counseling, individually tailored care plans, transportation and referral to other support programs and agencies.
Curnes said the goals, among others, are to help the women “reestablish their self-esteem and value in God’s eyes as well as their own, receive quality health care for themselves and their child, learn everyday skills and get on their feet financially.”
Both clients (who prefer to remain anonymous) said the home has blessed them.
“This house is giving me the opportunity to break the cycle when it comes to postpartum depression and my addiction,” said one mother. “I am no longer alone, and for that I am grateful. Now I’m not fighting just to live, I feel like I am alive!”
“Having the Selah staff here to remind me to put God first,” said the second mother, “has brought peace throughout my storm.”
House mother Cindy Young, a full-time volunteer along with her husband, said she’s already watched the mothers grow by leaps and bounds.
“The biggest challenge has been getting them to trust us and believe we really care for them, and to help them let go of fears of being judged and rejected,” she said. “I love watching them let down their guard and begin to trust us as we love, support and build a meaningful relationship with them. It has been amazing seeing them confide in us.”
Stories like these, said those who attended the evening, illustrate why archdiocesan Catholics should support Selah Home.
Christ the King, Topeka, parishioner Annie Lackey said although she’d prayed for the unborn, she’d not previously attended any pro-life gathering, but was now glad she had.
“I was overwhelmed with the effort the organization and these people have put forth in regard to having a home for unwed mothers,” she said. “I was highly impressed.”
Her husband Rich Lackey agreed.
“I really see the need for it to blossom,” he said. “People need to stay involved and support it.”
Perhaps it was Karen Lewis, another Christ the King parishioner, who summarized the trio’s feelings best about all of those involved with Selah Home.
“Their hearts are in it,” she said, “and I hope they succeed.”
For more information about Selah Home, or to volunteer or donate, call (785) 764-6651 or go online to: facebook.com/selahhomelawrence.