The Diocese of Cleveland is home to The Zechariah House, the seventh and newest Maggie’s Place location and the only home in Ohio. The other six locations are in Arizona, where Maggie’s Place was founded in 2000.
Bishop Nelson Perez celebrated Mass on Oct. 5 at St. Monica Church in Garfield Heights for the local Maggie’s Place community and residents.
Father Tom Haren, St. Monica’s pastor and a Maggie’s Place supporter, concelebrated the Mass, along with Father Mike Gurnick, chaplain of Maggie’s Place Ohio Council and pastor of St. Patrick Parish on Bridge Avenue in Cleveland, and Father Simon Kimaryo, longtime friend and confidante of The Zechariah House. Deacon Bill Fredrick of St. Joseph Byzantine Parish in Brecksville and a Zechariah House volunteer, assisted.
Others involved in the liturgy also play a role in Maggie’s Place and The Zechariah House.
The bishop told those gathered for the 6 p.m. Mass that he was offering it for Maggie’s Place, The Zechariah House, the women residents and their babies, including those yet to be born.
Maggie’s Place provides life-changing programs and services for pregnant and parenting women and their children, offering a warm and welcoming community, a safe place to live and learn and ongoing services to help them become self-sufficient.
In his homily, Bishop Perez told the congregation that Christianity is incarnational – that God entered humanity in the midst of great turmoil. “There was a lot to be afraid of,” he said.
The bishop asked the group to think about the conversation Mary must have had with Joseph when she learned she was going to have a child – and about how Joseph must have reacted.
“She told him she was having a child, but not to worry – it wasn’t his, it was by the power of the Holy Spirit. Imagine what that must have been like,” Bishop Perez said. “The angel told Joseph not to be afraid. But then they had to tell their parents,” he said.
The child she bore – Jesus – brought to completion the expression and physical manifestation of God’s love for us, the bishop said.
“God so loved the world that he sent his only son,” he said, adding that the son healed the sick, raised the dead and worked other miracles. He left us, but not before giving his life for us.
“There is no greater love than one who lays down his life for a friend,” the bishop said.
He connected these thoughts to Maggie’s Place and The Zechariah House, noting that it takes a special love to do the ministry there and to care for the pregnant women and new mothers who seek services there. “This is a palpable expression of God’s love for you,” he said, referring to the residents.
“Remember this moment. Through the love of God and those who made The Zechariah House possible, this is a form of love for you – a palpable, physical expression of God’s love for you,” he said.
Maggie’s Place has been operating for nearly 19 years in Arizona. It had a location in Parma in 2009, which closed in 2016. It took more than two years of searching and work to find a new place and prepare it for the residents.
Erin Hathaway, Ohio regional director, said the new Garfield Heights location has six residents, including one mother with a 3-week-old baby. Five other women will deliver their babies soon. She said they can remain at The Zechariah House for 9-12 months after the birth of their babies.
“They become like a family,” Hathaway said. There are staff members who live in community with the women to provide support. The residents assist with chores and cooking at the home, as well as other tasks. They also learn skills to help them be better parents and to become self-sufficient so they can provide for themselves and their babies, Hathaway added.
The house can accommodate up to 11 women. Each has her own room furnished with a bed, dresser, desk and a crib for the baby. Bathrooms include changing tables. There is a laundry room, large kitchen, a small chapel, community dining room, meeting rooms and classroom space with computers.
Hathaway said staff members include women who are MissionCorps Members and give a year of service to the program. She said the local house is looking to hire a full-time intake specialist and program family coach. Interested applicants can send their resumes, cover letter and salary requirement to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Maggie’s Place program has six pillars to help the women who come there: providing a safe and secure shelter, child development and enrichment, family coaching, serving as a family resource center, improving family relations and providing job readiness.
Andrew Frawley, president of Maggie’s Place Ohio Council, spoke about the programs, noting the organization’s relationship with St. Monica Parish is appropriate “because St. Monica never gave up on any of her children.”
Maggie’s Place consists of four homes, two apartment complexes and a thrift store in Phoenix, Arizona and The Zechariah House in Cleveland, which have served about 1,000 mothers, including more than 100 in Ohio since the first Maggie’s Place location opened in 2009.
After Mass, the bishop blessed the new facility and went on a short tour with Hathaway.
Laura Magruder, CEO of Maggie’s Place, travelled from Phoenix for the celebration.
Guests and residents enjoyed a meal prepared by St. Augustine Hunger Center in Tremont. They feasted on barbecue chicken, sausage, sauerkraut, German potato salad, pierogis, rigatoni, fruit salad and cake.
“We are deeply grateful for everyone’s generosity. Without your care, love and support, our successful relocation would never have happened,” Hathaway said.