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MiraVia providing a home for those in need

Jan 30, 2020 10:55AM

By Alan Hodge

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In 1969 the Rolling Stones had a hit called “Gimme Shelter”. In 2020, the MiraVia  facility for single, pregnant, college student mothers on the campus of Belmont Abbey College is doing just that.

MiraVia is located on four acres of land donated by the Benedictine monks at the Abbey. It’s situated behind dorm buildings at the end of a quiet little lane. 

Cost to construct the 10,000 sq. ft. building was over $2 million. Donations from individuals and organizations such as Knights of Columbus picked up the lion’s share of the tab. Mothers and their children are not charged to stay there.

The whole idea behind MiraVia is to provide single mothers with help getting a college education in an emotionally supportive situation. In other words, a campus based maternity residence.

“MiraVia means “Miraculous Way”. The program is the first of its kind in the nation.

The facility teaches the single moms important life lessons such as finances, child rearing, cooking, and spiritual guidance. Residents can stay for up to two years, but can opt out at any time.

Residents do their own laundry with in-house appliances. Some have outside jobs in addition to their college studies.

There are three common areas at MiraVia where residents and kids can get together. One also serves as a lunchroom with kitchen. A screened-in porch lets residents, staff, and tots commune with nature in the woods behind the building. A playground also provides fresh air for the kids.

When a mom wants to get away for some quiet time, there’s a room that’s been made into a chapel. The chairs and kneelers are simple and made of wood. The altar is from England. The crucifix is from Germany. A statue of St. Anne and baby Mary came from the Abbey Basilica and was a gift from the monks.

Executive director, Debbie Capen, talked about MiraVia, how it helps those in need of its services, and who the mothers are.

“Some mothers come here with all they need and others with just a bag,” she said. “We have served them from six states, eight schools, and even from as far away as South Africa. No woman should have to choose between pregnancy and her education.”

The residents not only benefit from the services and amenities at MiraVia, they form bonds with each other.

“It means a lot to them to live with others who are experiencing the same thing,” Capen said. 

Capen sees MiraVia as a prototype that other places can benefit from.

“We hope other colleges and communities start their own programs,” she said. “In fact, we have a woman coming from South Dakota this week to see our facility.”

There is room at MiraVia for more residents. Last year, there were 13 residents, now just six.

“We have vacancies,” Capen said. “We don’t want vacancies.”

The screening process is thorough. Candidates go through an interview process, drug screening, criminal background checks, and must be enrolled in a post high school educational program- not necessarily at Belmont Abbey. Applicant don’t need to be Catholic.

“Clients come from all faiths,” Capen said.

To find out more about MiraVia, visit www.mira-via.org or call 704-525-4673.