Inside a quaint stone house in Mount Lebanon that was once a Capuchin friary, diapers are stacked nearly to the ceiling in one room and a former confessional holds cleaning supplies. The building continues to serve Jesus and honor the Blessed Mother as Mary’s Place, a home for women with crisis pregnancies.
Since it opened in October 2019, seven women have received support there, with four women and three babies currently in residence. They can stay through their baby’s first year.
Laquasha, whose daughter, Jasmary, was born in January, came to Mary’s Place “to find support, friendship and security for me and my baby,” she said.
Among her goals is to balance “business and fun,” with a job that allows her to take vacations.
She wants “a life where I can help my daughter be an amazing woman,” she said. “I want her to always have a safe support system, to have trust, love and support.”
The ministry grew from the friendship between Chris and Molly McMahon of Mount Lebanon and the Sisters of Life, a community dedicated to the protection of unborn children. The McMahons felt called by Bishop David Zubik’s On Mission for The Church Alive! prayer to answer the call for “selfless, energetic leaders,” and to move from philanthropy to hands-on ministry.
Their first effort failed.
Through the Sisters of Life, they hosted a young mother who wanted learn a construction trade. They were unprepared to help her overcome the legacy of a chaotic childhood.
“The poor kid fell apart,” Chris McMahon said.
Rather than giving up, the McMahons decided to create an effective ministry for women in similar situations.
“They’re in crisis mode 90 percent of the time. But they have a right to dream. They have a right to be loved and to be treated with dignity and respect,” he said.
Together with their friends, Richard and Christine Hetland, they purchased the 10-bedroom building. More than 200 people have pitched in as volunteers, from kitchen renovators to mentors.
Homes for unwed mothers began disappearing after 1973, partly due to abortions and because unmarried women no longer sought to hide pregnancy. Yet, for women without family support, a need for shelter remains.
Mary’s Place provides case management, ensuring that each woman and her baby receive assistance tailored to their needs. They have access to medical care, outside counseling and transportation, while learning parenting and life skills such as budgeting, cooking and resume writing.
“We want them to be off government assistance when they leave,” said Kelli Mainous, the executive director.
Among the two residents is a woman who does not want to use her name because she fled an abusive marriage with her baby.
“I am so thankful to be a part of Mary’s Place. It’s the family feeling. I don’t have anyone else to turn to,” she said. “My boss and the board members and the volunteers – they encourage us. Since I moved to Mary’s Place I have never felt alone. I’m very grateful to God.”
Because of the way she faced her own difficulties, Chis McMahon said, “We are so proud of her. She is a role model for motherhood.”
The most important lesson that Mary’s Place tries to instill in residents is the absolute value and dignity of every human life, starting with their own and extending to their children.
Mary’s Place is unabashedly Catholic. Volunteer priests celebrate Mass in the chapel. Residents are invited, not required, to attend. Many do and some are learning the Rosary or want their babies baptized.
To donate or volunteer, visit www.marysplacepgh.org or call 412-207-8825.