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Room at the Inn: A Haven for Pregnant College Students



Regina Magazine - published on 12/05/14 - updated on 06/08/17

MiraVia saves lives as it takes in young mothers and their babies.

“You didn’t take away from my future. You gave me a new one. I love you, Mommy.” – A new mother’s note to her daughter

What is the truly Catholic response to a scared, pregnant girl? Here’s what happened when two determined ladies – a biologist and a woman who suffered through an abortion at university – teamed up with the monks at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina to do something really revolutionary: create a home for pregnant college students and their babies.

In 20 years, MiraVia has taken in 485 moms and babies; since 2004, they have served more than 7000 mothers through their outreach classes. In this hopeful interview, Jeannie Wray and Debbie Capen sat down with Regina Magazine to tell the remarkable story of how they have worked to make ‘room at the inn’ that may well serve as a model for Catholic efforts in the future.     

How did you learn about MiraVia?

Debbie: At MiraVia’s annual banquet one year they announced their plans to open the nation’s first on-campus maternity and aftercare residence for college students. I wanted to leap out of my seat with excitement because I had been carrying around the tragic secret of an abortion when I was a sophomore in college. I thought, “Oh my goodness, they get it!  They understand that women like me exist!” 

What is your job today?

Jeannie: Debbie is the Assistant Director and I am the Executive Director now, but I was actually hired to be the Development Director. My primary charge was to raise the funds to build the new College-based Maternity and After-care Residential Facility adjacent to the campus of Belmont Abbey College. Now, eight years later, we raised the funds, and the dream of a place built specifically for pregnant college students is a reality.

What drew you to work there?

Debbie: I called MiraVia to ask how I could help, and they asked me to share my abortion testimony in the video that would be shown at the fund-raising banquet. It was surreal to sit in a room of 1,000 people (including dozens of friends and colleagues) and watch myself on a giant screen as I told my deepest secret.  Little did I know that God had even bigger plans and that I would eventually work at MiraVia. 

Jeannie: Quite honestly, I came to work here because I sincerely felt that the Lord expected this of me and I wanted to be of service to Him. When I joined the staff of MiraVia I suddenly came face-to-face with the old adage that “God does not call the equipped, He equips the called.”

You see, I had spent 26 years working in the museum field so had lots of experience with how non-profits work. Helping with fundraisers and writing grants were a big part of my job in my latter years there. But I was educated as a biologist and really had no idea why I had to learn those kinds of skills.

Now of course it’s obvious…so that I could help young women like those I encountered when I was in college. I saw so many who quit school to have their babies and others who chose to terminate their pregnancies. They all suffered and I knew there had to be another answer. When I heard about MiraVia’s college-based residence, I knew that this was the answer and I wanted to be a part of it. It was what He was asking me to do.

What’s it been like to take on this enormous challenge? 

Jeannie: There are so many wonderful moments when a project like this comes to life. Debbie and I happened to be at the site when the bulldozer arrived and cleared the first trees. As those trees cracked and broke and yielded to that monstrous machine, I knew for sure that the residence would become a reality and that college students would no longer be cracked and broken down and have to yield to the pressures of choosing their dreams over the lives of their children.

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