Annie Ferguson, our marketing specialist and an award-winning Catholic writer, recently wrote Pioneering Spirit: The History of St. Benedict Catholic Church From Inception to Restoration. Here is an excerpt from the chapter about Room At The Inn. We hope you enjoy it and that you’ll be inspired to make a donation to St. Benedict to receive a copy of the book!
Making Room At The Inn
Ever true to authentic Catholic teaching, the people of St. Benedict take the right to life seriously and with compassion. One example is the memorial to the unborn installed during Monsignor Joseph Showfety’s ministry as pastor, an important spiritual work of mercy. Another is the parish’s lead role in the birth of a successful, comprehensive pro-life ministry.
With much love, St. Benedict parishioners started Room At The Inn, a maternity home for single, homeless women throughout North Carolina who are at risk for ending their pregnancies. The genesis of the home was in the St. Benedict rectory in 1993 where Albert Hodges, the parish council chair at the time, Pastor Father Conrad Kimbrough, and several parishioners discussed filling this important need in the community and worked hard to make it happen. Since its inception, the ministry’s records show that the home has served several hundred single, pregnant, homeless women, saving and transforming many lives in the process through its care that leads to lives of hope-filled independence for mothers and their children.
Like the wondrous forming of a baby in the womb, many critical developments took place before Room At The Inn would be born. The seed was first planted in the heart and mind of Hodges, who is the president and CEO of Room At The Inn. In 1990, he went to pray during a peaceful rescue mission at an abortion facility. “The good and bad were so stark,” Hodges recalled about the forces at play. “I wasn’t part of the rescue that day, but I saw it and didn’t want to be mediocre anymore.”
As a convert to the Catholic faith, Hodges found answers he was looking for in his talks with St. Benedict’s Father Kimbrough. “I met him in 1985 after a weekday Mass and Confession. I asked him questions after Mass about some confusion I was having on some Catholic doctrine, and he invited me to talk to him in his rectory,” Hodges said. “Then, we began to have regular conversations after Mass and going to lunch at the diner downtown. As a convert himself, he really helped my faith come alive and helped me integrate it more fully. He taught the Faith from an orthodox point of view. If the Church taught it, so did he. For people who approach their faith with their hearts and minds, he was always a clear voice and guide.”
This solid foundation of knowledge and spiritual support sent Hodges on a mission to protect the lives of the unborn and to support mothers facing some of life’s most difficult circumstances.
In 1990, Hodges was working with Joan Andrews, a pro-life missionary who traveled the country rescuing women from abortion clinics. Andrews was pen pals with Mother Teresa and was the face of the Catholic rescue movement. Father Kimbrough allowed Hodges to invite Andrews to speak on behalf of the rescue after Masses at St. Benedict. “She recruited a number of us to rescue with the group she was working with, the Lambs of Christ, a predominantly Catholic missionary rescue group,” Hodges said. Marianne Donadio, now Room At The Inn’s Vice President of Marketing and Development, her sister Karin, and Hodges joined them in their first rescue in December 1990.
Christopher Bell, the founder of Good Counsel Homes in New York and New Jersey had opened his administrative top floors, housed in a former convent in Hoboken, New Jersey, to Andrews’ ministry. Father Kimbrough allowed Hodges, who was also the respect life coordinator at St. Benedict, to invite Bell to speak at the Masses about Good Counsel Homes, which he and Father Benedict Groeschel had started in 1985. Bell inspired many people, including Father Kimbrough; Mary Grubbe, Donadio’s mother, who was the director of religious education at Saint Benedict; Jay Kelley, a banker; and several others to open a Catholic home in North Carolina. In November of 1992, Hodges went to New Jersey to work for Bell to learn about running this type of organization. On a trip home during December 1993, Hodges met with Father Kimbrough and others to discuss making the dream happen. When Hodges returned to New Jersey, Bell and Father Groeschel gave their blessing as well as technical and financial support.
Father Kimbrough met with Monsignor John McSweeney who was chancellor of the Diocese of Charlotte. Monsignor McSweeney gave the St. Benedict group permission to open the home as a Catholic institution in the diocese, and Hodges moved to Charlotte. Father Kimbrough had been transferred to nearby Denver, North Carolina, in May of 1994. “We began raising funds and found a house off South Boulevard in Charlotte,” Hodges said. “We were able to open on December 12, 1994, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I like good anniversaries! And Room At The Inn was born!”