By Sister Pat Forret
Mother’s Day brings back such loving memories of my mother—a woman of amazing spiritual faith and devotion to family. Coming from Irish heritage, she knew how to raise her nine children with seriousness or laughter, depending on what the situation required, and always with a bit of Irish lilt.
My parents were a devoted couple and, through good times and challenging times, provided their children with faith, security, discipline, hard work and love of country and the need for education.
As a child, it didn’t occur to me that there were children who didn’t know one or both of their biological parents, siblings, extended family members or a place called “home.”
In 2013, after multiple years in leadership positions, I began a search for an in-hospital baby cuddling program with which to volunteer. That’s when I became reacquainted with Gina, founder of Omaha’s Bethlehem House. With Gina’s encouragement, I started the Bethlehem House Baby Cuddling program.
Bethlehem House was formed in 2005 to serve women who were pregnant and in crisis without regard to faith or ability to pay for an incredible array of residential and aftercare services. How like Catherine McAuley’s love of and assistance to the young, poor and needy women of her day!
In recognition of Mother’s Day 2020, I’d like to introduce you to three women who volunteered their experiences of moving from life-threatening adversities to a place of survival, hope and empowerment.
Krystle, four months pregnant, was welcomed back to Bethlehem House after surviving early childhood neglect, addictions and attempts to end her life. She vividly related the evening of deepest despair that brought her to her knees and a plea to a God she never knew. It was this God encounter that returned her to Bethlehem House, a place she knew to be safe, welcoming, understanding and loving. She was so right!
Today, Krystle is two-years sober, has a full-time job, reliable transportation and a safe home with her children. Serious about attaining further education, she now has her GED and is on her way to college classes in the fall.
Without the experiences of true love and stable housing,Emily had to learn these qualities on her own. Childhood neglect resulted in unstable and abusive foster care experiences. Not surprisingly, in her attempt to find love and acceptance, she entered into an abusive relationship early in her adult years. Vowing that her children would never have to endure such abuse, she became acquainted with Bethlehem House. In her time there, she has recognized her God-given gifts, including her desire to become a nurse. In August, she will enter the College of Saint Mary’s nursing program and will live with her daughters in the Mothers Living and Learning residence hall on campus.
Emily is already looking forward to sharing her nursing skills with Bethlehem House.
Sarah suffers from mania and lived with her parents until the age of 30, when she became pregnant with her first child. Against her parent’s insistence that the baby be adopted, she was determined to keep and raise her child. This decision brought her to Bethlehem House and all the supportive and loving care it provides.
Following seven months at Bethlehem House and 14 months with the Bethlehem House Aftercare Program, Sarah is well on her way to be the woman and mother she strives to be. She can now see herself as: A loving and responsible mother to her son with her parents proud of their daughter’s progress and their total love of their precious grandson; gainfully and happily employed and living with her son in a safe and loving environment; and having concrete plans to obtain her teaching degree.
Sarah spoke these words in acknowledging all the individuals involved in her life’s turnaround:
“I ask God to bless me that I may bless others.”