Program marks 25 years of helping women choose life

QUINCY ? When Marilyn Birnie took a homeless, pregnant woman into her Hull home 25 years ago, she had no idea God was calling her to something bigger.

“I took a girl in,” Birnie recalled. “That’s all I thought it would be.”

Today, Birnie is Executive Director of Friends of the Unborn, an organization that provides a home, education, and spiritual guidance to homeless, pregnant women ages 18 and over. Friends of the Unborn is a Christian organization and is supported by the Pro-Life and Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of Boston.

“It’s a very important ministry,” Birnie said. “It’s difficult enough to be homeless, and then to be pregnant ? it’s hard.”

“They need a place like ours where we offer them so much,” she added.

Friends of the Unborn maintains a 16-bed home in Quincy where homeless and pregnant women can live from their first trimester until their baby is one year old, according to Beverly Lacks, case manager at the home. The home is staffed by six paid employees and 50 volunteers.

In addition to a warm, comfortable bed and nutritious meals for mother and baby, Friends of the Unborn offers its residents a wide array of classes on topics such as parenting, nutrition, birthing, computers, ESL, and sexually transmitted disease and AIDS prevention. Friends also sends residents to a nearby school for pregnant and parenting girls so they can complete their high school diploma or GED.

“We encourage them to continue their education, to not be dependent on the fathers of their babies, to become rather independent, and to lean on God,” Birnie said. “They learn how to pray and how to hear the Holy Spirit.”

Babysitting is also provided, according to Birnie.

Friends of the Unborn also offers a Bible study; Mass and the Sacrament of Confession are offered monthly by Father Michael McNamara of Servants of Christ Ministries in Scituate. Birnie can recall times where there have been baptisms, first Communions, and confirmations there.

“We know the greatest healing the girls can receive is through the Lord,” Birnie said. “The Bible study really does help them to heal from the sadness that they feel. It’s a great healer to come to know the Lord and His love.”

Birnie’s inspiration came from an episode of “The PTL Club” where host and televangelist Jim Bakker spoke of a home for pregnant women in the Carolinas.

“I didn’t realize there was such a need,” Birnie recalled. “I had an extra bedroom in my home. I felt the call of God.”

She called Leslie Collins, then the director of the Pregnancy Help office of the Archdiocese of Boston, to see if she could be of assistance.

On Sept. 12, 1984, Birnie welcomed a young, unwed, pregnant, and homeless woman into her home. The woman’s mother had made an appointment for her to have an abortion that same day.

“She came in thinking she did not have a gift for anything,” Birnie said. “She really had very low self-esteem because her sister was very successful.”

Today, Birnie said, that woman is a registered nurse.

“I figured I would have one girl and that was it,” Birnie said. “I took two in, and then I ended up with six in my home.”

In 25 years, Birnie has welcomed over 2,000 women.

“God had a plan for me,” she added. “He had a plan for me and all those who donate to this ministry.”