Alone and pregnant?
Rosalie Hall says you don’t have to be.
Rosalie Hall describes itself as a resource and support centre, offering the single, pregnant girl almost endless help in making intelligent choices for her personal well-being.
Why do pregnant girls end up at Rosalie Hall? Many because they were betrayed by someone they trusted who told them that they loved them.
Girls who do not want to be residents in a “home” stay somewhere else and attend the programmes during the day. The choice is theirs. But there are many advantages in staying at Rosalie Hall in the latter stages of their pregnancy. The girls who are there say that they get good food (they shop for themselves and help prepare meals). They live in three separate, small, home-life groups. And the girls also get good health care, with regular medical examinations and follow-up by a qualified physician. After all, they want their baby to be in good health when he or she arrives.
Everything is confidential: there is no identifying name on the building; no one answers the phone “Rosalie Hall,” the switchboard operator just says “Reception.” No one needs to know where they are unless they tell them.
Unfortunately it is so confidential that many single girls who are pregnant have never heard of it? When peer pressure, friends and even relatives yell “abortion! abortion! abortion!” – Rosalie Hall quietly offers a new life for them and their babies.
The outside community is also almost completely unaware of the magnificent work done by Rosalie Hall for its clientele. In the 75 years that it has been in operation in Toronto (140 years in Canada), thousands of moms-to-be have been encouraged to have their babies. A small staff of Misericordia Sisters (founded in Montreal by a 50-year-old grandmother, the mother of six children) does this good work, 25 full-time social workers, five part-time and five full-time teachers. In addition, 1274 volunteers at Rosalie Hall give a total of 7,000 hours a year!
The challenge facing the Sisters today is to raise a million dollars to complete the building of desperately-needed additional accommodation for mothers and their babies. In the present jammed quarters there are from 65 to 90 mothers, or mothers-to-be, and 30 to 40 babies and toddlers at any given time. A new addition being built will be linked to the older building and many of these new rooms will be used for multiple purposes and help solve these problems.
“The complete thrust of Rosalie Hall is toward care for the mother and her child,” Margaret Zolnai, a volunteer and campaign manager for the fund-raising drive, insisted strongly in an interview recently. “The social workers clearly understand this and are in total agreement.”
Margaret, an articulate and intelligent young woman is one of five children and recalls fondly her mother back in Scotland taking in single mothers-to-be into her home to help them in their difficulties. They acted as nannies for her young brothers and sisters. Rosalie Hall, she says, offers so much more: prenatal classes to help with pregnancy and delivery, individual and group counselling and support and help with future planning and decision-making.
Especially today, said Margaret, when 95 to 98 per cent of the “day” mothers keep their babies (81 per cent of the “resident” mothers keep theirs), they need a better education. They can continue their high school education without leaving Rosalie Hall, with the help of five teachers supplied by the Metropolitan Toronto Separate School Board and the Scarborough Board of Education.
The courses from grade 9 to 12 range from English, History, Geography, Man in Society, Biology, Mathematics, Physics and Life Skills to crafts and typing. The girls are encouraged to continue their education. Rosalie Hall runs a licensed day care centre for infants of the day student moms. Those who elect to give up their babies are provided with an eight week adoption support service programme.
What I notice about Rosalie Hall was the friendly camaraderie of the mothers strolling along the halls, often in pairs, with their babies in their arms. And occasionally I would see a young father turn up for a “father support group” meeting or to visit his girlfriend. There have been two weddings involving residents that took place with the reception at Rosalie Hall with friends the brides had made there.
Babies attract a lot of attention from visitors and volunteers when they appear with their mothers in the halls. Baptismal courses oriented to single mothers are conducted on Saturdays and baptisms are frequent, with the receptions often back at Rosalie Hall where the mothers have made friends.
There are now over 80 women from five different parishes in the immediate area who have agreed to adopt one single mom and pray for her for a minimum of four years. Girls of all religious faiths and with no religious faith are all equally welcome. Many girls prefer to attend Mass Sundays at Rosalie Hall because they feel more comfortable with their peers.
It’s hard to believe that just a little over a hundred years ago Misericordia novices carrying the newborn babies to Notre Dame Church in Montreal to be baptized were publicly mocked and humiliated and the work that the Sisters were doing was belittled by some people.
The addition to the present building is sorely needed if Rosalie Hall is to continue to help single mothers. With so many others keeping their babies, a permanent drop-in centre is needed for follow-up groups and their activities. Also needed is a Drop-in-Day Care centre for the children of the mothers coming to the drop-in centres and a licensed Day Care centre for the babies and toddlers of student moms.
“We encourage the girls to have their babies so we must give them something more than our good wishes,” said Margaret. “We need more prayers, more volunteers but above all right now – we need strong financial support from the community.”
Won’t you help?
Christmas at Rosalie Hall
I dropped in on a Christmas party for the residents of Rosalie Hall recently. The girls were sitting there as pretty as Hold Renfrew models and giving me the impression that they had all just come from their hairdressers. The recently finished room in the new addition was decorated for Christmas. It has a ceiling high glass wall at the end of the room that reflected the shimmering lights on the Christmas tree, making for a joyous festive occasion. Sister Therese Bonneville, the executive director, strikingly dressed in a blue ensemble, was handing the big boxed Christmas gifts that she had individually bought and wrapped for each resident to Santa Claus.
Santa was magnificent played by one of Rosalie Hall’s high school teachers – just the right note of robust humour and concern. After they were called up by another sister, the girls would sit on his lap and he would ask them questions like: “Have you been a good girl?” and “Do your homework,” thus revealing another side to Santa’s personality. There was a kiss and a hug for everybody.
One girl broke into tears after receiving her unexpected Christmas gift and hug and a kiss. When I wondered why out loud, I was told that some of the girls had experienced no real love in their lives. And I thought how darn lucky most of us are.